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  • Jeff Somers 6:00 pm on 2018/07/16 Permalink
    Tags: , , , Cover Stories, , looking sharp, ,   

    The 10 Best Book Covers of All Time 

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    We’d open this post with the obligatory joke about judging books by their covers—but we all do judge books by their covers. For better or worse, it’s our first impression of the author’s work—and a great cover will make us pick up a book as fast as a poor one will make us put it aside.

    That pressure to stand out inspires a lot of creativity among publishers, and every year, some truly amazing covers are designed. Yet only a few truly penetrate into pop culture to become iconic—perpetually recognizable, often imitated. Here are 10 of the best book covers of all time.

    Beowulf, translated by Seamus Heaney

    Whether you’re interested in a thousand-year old poem written in Old English or Seamus Heaney’s crisp, brilliant translation of what may be the oldest poem in something considered English, chances are you at least stopped to pick up this book when you saw the cover. The intensity of the image conveys horror, violence, and strangeness effortlessly, with the end result being that somewhat more people are familiar with this strange epic poem than before this cover hit the shelves.

    The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
    May this cover never to retired. Created by Spanish artist Francis Cugat for the book’s initial printing, it pretty much is the book now, visually-speaking. Its success stems from its haunting, haunted nature, its surrealism, and the way it captures the mood of the book: the sad, weary eyes floating insubstantially over what could be an overheated, decadent party.

    The Godfather, by Mario Puzo
    Simple and stark, this cover, created by S. Neil Fujita, conveys the rotten power Puzo examines, even as it intrigues the potential reader. It could just as easily be the cover to a horror novel—which isn’t actually that far off the mark, if you think about it. There aren’t too many book covers that create what’s essentially a brand logo, but that’s just what this one did.

    A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess
    Not so much the cover of the edition featured here, which is quite nice, but this one, designed by David Pelham in 1972 to coincide with the film release. Supposedly banged out in a single evening, its use of bright, primary colors was startling at the time, hinting at the hallucinogenic nightmare within, and the use of a cog for an eye punned on the title, referenced the iconic film, and conveyed the sense of society being broken all at once. It’s brilliant on a level no other cover has quite been able to surpass.

    The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas
    Brilliant covers don’t have to be old; the cover to Thomas’ recent breakout novel, designed by artist Debra Cartwright, uses negative space in a bold, powerful way. Lead character Starr is depicted faithfully based on her description from the book—simultaneously fierce and terrified —and yet she is obscured by her message, which is somehow perfect. Like the subject matter of the story, this cover demands you look.

    Look Who’s Back, by Timur Vermes
    Speaking of negative space, is there a more brilliant use of it in publishing history? We submit that there is not.

    A Million Little Pieces, by James Frey
    We’re not here to rehabilitate Frey or his memoir-that-was-really-fiction. We’re here to praise the cover, and designer Rodrigo Corral. Whatever your opinion of the dark tale of addiction and the poor decisions behind it, the cover conveys chaos, confusion, helplessness—all the things that Frey either did or didn’t deal with in the course of his life. Its use of color is brilliant, and the wrongness of a hand covered in rainbow sprinkles clues you in to the nature of the story.

    The Stranger, by Albert Camus
    If your head spins a little when looking at Helen Yentus’ cover for Camus’ most famous book, you’re in the right headspace to start reading this disturbing, challenging story. The stark lines converging on the diffuse, cloud-like title creates a head-ache inducing optical illusion. Once you see it, you’ll never forget it; once you read the book, you’ll forever associate it nwith this powerful cover.

    The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
    Nothing against Elizabeth Moss, but the classic cover from the 1985 American paperback, which is still used for many versions of Margaret Atwood’s dark future vision, is the definition of iconic. The overwhelming wall, the apparently hopeless and random motion of the handmaids, and their iconic red costumes—these elements combine into one of the most evocative book covers ever.

    Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
    Brave New World has had a lot of covers in its time. A lot. But this one, designed by Gregg Kulick for the modern classics series, is stunning. Similar in some ways to the Camus cover above, it combines the absurd and frightening tone of the story with a simple, bold approach that draws the eye and holds it tortuously. You try to figure out what you’re looking at, even as the sneaking suspicion that you don’t want to know creeps up on you.

    What’s your pick for the best cover ever?

    The post The 10 Best Book Covers of All Time appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Melissa Albert 5:15 pm on 2016/11/17 Permalink
    Tags: assassin's creed, Cover Stories, ,   

    The Story Behind the Cover of Assassin’s Creed: Heresy 

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    Assassin’s Creed: Heresy, adapted from the beloved fictional world that started as a video game and has since expanded into comic books, film, and more, hit shelves this week. The team behind the new book, about a templar who digs dangerously deep into the history of both his family and the rift between Templars and Assassins, share the story of its cover.

    The Assassin’s Creed® universe has always been cloaked in mystery. The hidden war between the Assassin Brotherhood and the Templar Order has spanned multiple types of media: video games, comic books, novels, animated shorts, and, in theaters December 21, the Assassin’s Creed movie. Each iteration brings new layers of depth and richness to the franchise’s lore for fans and newcomers to enjoy.

    Assassin’s Creed: Heresy, from New York Times bestselling author Christie Golden, is the latest addition to the family. The novel explores the adventures of Simon Hathaway, newly initiated member of the Templar Inner Sanctum, as he explores the memories of his ancestor Gabriel Laxart, a traveling companion of Joan of Arc. As head of Historical Research at Abstergo Industries, he hopes to discover information about the legendary Sword of Eden, rumored to have been wielded by Joan herself. However, Simon slowly uncovers secrets from the past that could dangerously impact both his own present and that of the entire Templar order.

    This book features a protagonist brand new to the franchise and is Ubisoft’s first foray into in-house publishing, so we wanted to create a book cover that stood out. Faceout Studio created a cover that caught our eye. Here’s what Jeff Miller, Art Director at Faceout, had to say about the design:

    The approved cover design for Heresy came together as one of my first initial concepts. One of the objectives for the cover was to show a dichotomy of past and present—an integral part of the story that is core to the identity of Assassin’s Creed. I thought about several ways of communicating this “split” on the cover—showing two characters in full, showing two characters in their respective settings, and also showing each character in more obscure ways.

    After image researching, I was inspired by a few different stock portraits that I found and decided to move forward with. These portraits were lit in ways that really played up a sense of drama. There was a similarity that tied the two characters together, but they were lighted on completely different backdrops—Joan of Arc on black, and Simon Hathaway on white. It made for a nice contrast that caught your eye. Now the trick was bringing everything together.

    I wanted to feature the title and the Assassin’s Creed branding in such a way that it didn’t interfere with the characters, but played a key part as the focal point. I also wanted to bring in some more depth to the cover. This was solved by adding unique code, textures, and patterns that provided more context to the story with Simon’s interest in experiencing history through accessing the memory of his ancestor Gabriel, and Gabriel’s relationship with Joan of Arc. It also kept your eye active, and made the cover much more dynamic, with lots of details to keep the viewer interested. I also wanted to stay true to the branded colors of Assassin’s Creed. So pops of red with dark blues and shades of gray allowed for certain elements to stand out. The basic layout stayed intact throughout the design process, but a custom photoshoot was in order to more accurately portray each character on the cover. I teamed up with an amazing photographer, Brandon Hill, by having him reshoot both characters with the same dramatic lighting, same backdrops, but with little details changed for better representation. The end result is the final cover for Assassin’s Creed: Heresy, and I couldn’t be more excited.

    Not only does this cover convey the contrast between Simon and Joan’s story wonderfully, but it also features a fresh new look that hadn’t been seen before in the brand. After the photoshoot, all that was left to do was add little details to the composition to refine it. Although the story is mainly seen through the point of view of the Templars in the present day, Joan’s epic adventure features the Assassins. Hence, it was important to us that both the Templar cross and the Assassin crest be represented on the cover.

    Aymar Azaïzia, director of content for the Assassin’s Creed brand, as a nod to the curious nature of fans, suggested we add Easter eggs into the cover’s design by inserting hidden messages and coordinates within the code lines. The team then dug through Assassin’s Creed: Heresy’s story and the larger Assassin’s Creed universe for interesting nuggets of information to include.

    We decided to go with the concept that the code lines on the cover were the same as the ones the Animus outputs while Simon is using it. The first thing that came to mind was including GPS coordinates of important locations mentioned in the novel, as if the machine were trying to find where to begin its simulation. We then included encoded text in the “Loading Memories…” lines. We don’t want to spoil the fun, so we’ll leave it to readers to discover which parts of the text are encrypted, and what kind of key they’ll need to translate it into something more legible. Finally, amidst those lines of code, we hid a URL that directs to an image central to the plot of the story. With all these elements in place, we knew we would have a cover that does justice to the Assassin’s Creed universe and pleases newcomers and veterans of the franchise alike.

    Assassin’s Creed: Heresy is available now.

    The post The Story Behind the Cover of Assassin’s Creed: Heresy appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Ester Bloom 3:00 pm on 2015/06/04 Permalink
    Tags: , Cover Stories, coverflips, , ,   

    #CoverFlip Revisited: A Progress Report 

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    In 2013, author and critic Maureen Johnson raised a searing point about the publishing industry: regardless of content, it tends to package books by men differently from books by women. Male authors are more likely to warrant strong fonts, bold colors, and imagery that commands Take me seriously. Novels by female authors, by contrast, are more likely to be dolled up, made to look frivolous in italics and pastels.

    Literary fiction by women is, in other words, too often packaged in a lazy, reductive way that diminishes its impact.

    Johnson’s call to arms in response to her discovery, hashtagged #CoverFlip, became a pop cultural phenomenon, as people raced to mock up, for example, what Freedom would look like if it bore the name Jane Franzen instead of Jonathan.


    At roughly the same time, photojournalist and author Deborah Copaken spoke out in the Nation about the sexism she experienced trying to publish her first book, a memoir about being a photojournalist in war zones:

    Random House changes the book’s title to Shutterbabe, which a friend came up with. I beg for Shuttergirl instead, to reclaim at least “girl,” as Lena Dunham would so expertly do years later. Or what about Develop Stop Fix? Anything besides a title with the word “babe” in it.

    I’m told I have no say in the matter. The cover that the publisher designs has a naked cartoon torso against a pink background with a camera covering the genitalia. I tell them it’s usually my eye behind the camera, not my vagina. I fight—hard—to change the cover. Thankfully, I win this one, agreeing to shoot the cover photo myself, gratis. When my publicist tries to pitch the book to NPR’s Terry Gross, a producer tells him that Terry likes the “Shutter” part of the title but not the “babe” part.

    Now that the year is 2015, I’m wondering, what has changed? Anything? Did people in publishing get the message and are highbrow books by women books treated with more respect? To my surprise, I think the answer might be yes.

    Consider this screenshot from the Barnes & Noble website, which helpfully juxtaposes novels by prize-winning authors of both genders, including Anthony Doerr’s All The Light We Cannot SeeToni Morrison’s God Help The Childand Kate Atkinson’s A God In Ruins.

    Screenshot 2015-05-20 14.21.12

    There’s no appreciable visual difference, to my eye, between the Doerr on the left and the Morrison and Atkinson in the middle. All offer strong fonts, bold colors, and eye-catching design, the kind that says, Don’t mess with me unless it’s to give me a medal.

    The new Vivian Gornick memoir has the words “woman” and “city” in the title, and yet there are no martini glasses or high-heeled shoes to be found on that stark and appropriate-looking cover.


    Consider, too, Buzzfeed’s list of 2014’s best books by women. One or two of the covers may trade in stereotypical colors and images. For the most part, though, they are dressed to impress, packaged to look strong rather than pretty.

    One-time bookseller Michele Filgate generally agrees with this assessment:

    We have seen some great covers for women writers over the past couple of years. The Goldfinch, Dear Thief, and Nobody Is Ever Missing are three that come to mind. But we still have a long way to go.

    She also offers a radical corrective: “This is going to sound sacrilegious, but part of me wishes we could do away with cover art. It would solve a lot of problems. Practically speaking, however, I know that’s not a good idea.”

    Assuming we retain the tradition of cover art, some will continue to draw on lazy stereotypes and clip-art shorthand. And, of course, prestige fiction and memoir by women has often, though definitely not always, been given more consideration than the average lady-book. Still, just as H is for HawkP is for Progress. Let’s give publishers a P and keep on moving in what is mostly the right direction.

    Shop All New Releases
  • Melissa Walker 4:30 pm on 2014/12/12 Permalink
    Tags: , Cover Stories, , hello i love you, katie stout, ,   

    Exclusive Cover Reveal: Katie Stout’s Hello, I Love You 

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    Katie Stout's Hello I Love YouKatie Stout’s Hello, I Love You is the story of Grace Wilde, a girl looking for refuge from her rich and troubled family, who are titans in the music industry. At boarding school in Korea, as far away as she can imagine going, she hopes for a new beginning. But her roommate’s twin brother, Jason, is a K-Pop superstar, and soon she realizes she has feelings for him. Grace struggles against his pull, but when she gets to know him, he may just help her to love music in a new way.

    How to capture all that on a cover? The St. Martin’s art team used character photos plus illustrated elements—and debut author Stout loves the result. Here she is to share her response to the cover:

    Hello, I Love You is my first novel, so I think it’s safe to say that I definitely stressed about what the cover would look like. I’m not visually creative in the slightest, so I really had no concept of what I wanted it to look like, but I worried all the same.

    “However, as soon as I saw it, I knew it was perfect.

    “I was travelling in Africa when my editor sent it to me. Because the internet is incredibly slow in most parts of southern Africa, I had to go to two places to find wifi with enough bandwidth to download the image. It took what felt like an eternity, the picture slowly downloading from top to bottom. As it appeared and I could see more of it, my excitement grew—until it was finally downloaded completely, and I literally cried in the middle of a café in Namibia. It was surreal to see my name on a cover that really captures the feel of the story, and if I’m being honest, I’m still not tired of looking at it.

    “One of my favourite aspects of the cover is that both of my main characters are featured. I especially love that my Asian male character is pictured. It was really important to me that the book reflected the setting and culture of Korea, and I’m so pleased to see him there. I love that when potential readers are scanning the shelves, they’ll see a person of colour on the cover.

    “I’m so happy with this cover and am very grateful to the wonderful team at St. Martin’s for giving me a wonderful ‘face’ to present to the world as my debut!”

    Hello, I Love You is available for pre-order now.

  • Dahlia Adler 4:25 pm on 2014/12/02 Permalink
    Tags: , Cover Stories, , ,   

    Exclusive Cover Reveal: Delicate Monsters, by Stephanie Kuehn 

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    Stephanie Kuehn's Delicate MonstersThis is such an exciting book for me to help reveal, because I’m a huge fan of Kuehn’s first two books—the Morris Award–winning (absolutely deservedly so) Charm & Strange and this year’s soul-shattering Complicit—and her upcoming release is one of my most anticipated of 2015. I love psychological thrillers, I love sibling stories, I love gritty darkness, and more than anything, I absolutely love the way Kuehn writes all three. I also think this is a beautiful cover. Here’s Stephanie Kuehn herself to tell you why she agrees.

    Delicate Monsters is my third book, and I suppose it’s similar to the others in that the narrative is dark and psychologically layered and deals with truths that no one ever wants to own. But it’s also different. This book is less about the self and more about relationships. It’s about the fine line between love and cruelty, and how sometimes it’s hard to tell the two apart.

    Or how sometimes we don’t want to.

    When it came to the cover design, I didn’t have any preconceived ideas. That’s a good thing. I’m not a very visual person. But I did hope the tone of the book could be conveyed, a bit of the sweet and the sorrow. Fortunately, I knew early on that the wonderfully talented Kerri Resnick—the artist who designed the covers for my first two books—would be working on Delicate Monsters. That meant my book was in good hands, and when I saw the cover, I knew it was perfect.

    The bird is symbolic, of course, but I love the image contained within it. This is the story of a girl who leads and the boys who follow, and that’s what I see. The fact that the two figures are separated captures that dynamic. It captures a bit of sadness, too. Longing isn’t love, and love can’t exist in the absence of kindness, but these are lessons usually learned the hard way.

    The one element I find really special is the treatment of the title font and the smudged edges. There’s a brief, very brief, mention in the book about a charcoal drawing that one of the characters drew as a young child. It’s a small moment, but an important one, and I am so pleased that Kerri not only picked up on it, but was able to incorporate it into the design in such a meaningful way.

    I could not be happier with this cover. I’m so grateful to Kerri and everyone at St. Martin’s Griffin who get this book and who have worked to bring Delicate Monsters alive.

    Delicate Monsters is out June 9, and is available for pre-order now.

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