Friday, October 13, 2006

Book Covers

50 Books has a wonderful post on old book covers and a link to a photoset on flickr with some amazing cover art from old Penguin novels. I have to admit I was blown away by the bold, striking, slightly psychedelic cover art - it was a feast for the eyes.

Do you find that contemporary books are doing a good job with the cover art? Also, I would also like to know, is cover art important to you, after all they do tell us never to judge a book by its cover, and finally, would you be willing to send me the link to your favorite book cover and tell me why you like it so much?

Some sites on the web dedicated to book covers:


Kate S. said...

An uninspired book cover won't put me off a book that I'm already interested in. But a really good cover might prompt me to pick up a book I've never heard of before. Of course, if the content doesn't live up to the cover, I'll still leave it behind in the bookstore. But a good cover gives it a fighting chance.

I do have tremendous nostalgia about book covers. In collecting old favourites, I often go to great lengths to get the same edition that I first read. This is particularly true of childhood favourites.

I'm off to do some digging to come up with some examples to link to...

jenclair said...

I operate much the same way as Kate. A cover (or a title) can cause me to pick up a book, but doesn't guarantee that I'll take it home. There are so many lovely covers, I'll have to think about a favorite.

Lotus Reads said...

Hello, Kate!

I'm a sucker for nicely-designed book covers, not that I would reject a book because its cover failed to entice me, but I would go hunting until I find an edition that is aesthetically pleasing (particularly if I plan on buying the book). Recently, the cover art of the Jonathan Safran Foer novels caught my eye - apparently HPis using that same designer for their new ad campaign.

Hello, Jenclair

Yes, I've seen some tantalizing cover art recently, particularly in the historical fiction genre.

Ally Bean said...

These sites with book covers are fascinating to me. I've not seen them before. I like graphics and how they relate to the books is like a fun mystery to me. Neat-o.

Les said...

I'll join Kate and Jenclair in saying an attractive cover will get my attention and quite possibly convince me to purchase the book, but I have been burned several times when doing just this and need to be a little more discriminating. Hmmm, I feel a couple of lists (possibly with just the cover art) coming on. Favorite covers and books that didn't live up to the cover art. Thanks for the blog fodder. ;)

Rosemary Esehagu said...

Book covers are like names. Some names are interesting and are likely to prompt a more in depth introduction, like, "You have an interesting or beautiful name. What does it mean? Where is its origin? Why were you named so?" Other names are not interesting or are just ordinary, which is fine. If I think the person (i.e. book) might be interesting, I'll engage him or her in a discussion.

I, however, have an aversion to cheap-looking covers, because they tend to provoke a negative response (e.g. slight dizziness or irritation) in me.

In general, a book's title has more power over me than a book's cover. The combination of book title and book cover, if positive, has an even greater influence on my decision to consider a book's content.

Two questions have come into my mind. Can we tell from a book’s cover (or cover and title combo) whether the narrative voice or the main character is going to be male or female? Let’s exclude covers with a person (as in one person) in it. If so, could that predict the kinds of people (males vs. females) who are likely to be initially attracted to or turned of by the book?

booklogged said...

I love creative and interesting book covers. Certain covers can definitely grab your attention. Like the one you have for this post. Even before I started to read, I saw that picture and was intrigued. The title would not have captured my attention at all, but I would like to know what that particular picture has to do with the title.

I wrote down some of my favorites, but let's start with a couple I find a bit repulsive. Those are the book covers with close-ups of lips, teeth, gums, saliva: Talk, Talk; Maneater, Sellevision.

On the site you linked to I liked the covers for Blink, The Fate of Africa, The Geographer's Library and several, several others.

A few personal favorites (this is book covers, only, not necessarily the book itself): Gentlemen and Players, Time Traveller's Wife, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Observations, The Other Boelyn Girl, Thirteenth Tale, and Tales of Desperaeux.

Picking a favorite book cover was as hard a choosing a favorite book or a favorite food or a favorite color. Impossible, but it was fun looking at the covers and thinking about the ones I liked and the ones I hated. Sorry my comment is endlessly long.

Foodie's Hope said...

Book covers should be attractive to get your attention if the author is just starting out!!
But as a reader, if you are familiar with the author and style of his/her writing,it doesn't really matter!

As a foodie and a voracious reader , I always flip the pages and read a little abt what's familiar to me,if I like what I read ,buy it and add it to my 6th book shelf!:D:D

Yes!!I am legally blind too ie if you take away my glasses, one of the perks of being a nerd and a book worm!:))

Bookfool said...

I just wrote a big old post and lost the whole thing, somehow. Sigh. I do recall saying I agree with Kate, Jenclair and Les. And, I know that solid black or white bookcovers with no picture are the kiss of death for a book, from my years with a boss who'd spent many years selling books; people hate boring book covers.

I think they've improved in recent years, although I still seem to gravitate toward British covers over the American ones when I'm looking online. And, I do love older book covers, like the classic covers of Catcher in the Rye and Fahrenheit 451. I like the fact that they've been brought back. To me, older covers evoke the concept of a time when books were cherished, valuable possessions and an author could make an excellent living writing short stories or serials.

Bookfool said...

Oh, yes! I remember what I said! I added that I'm very irritated by covers that are misleading - you see more of those, lately. I once purchased a book that, judging from both the cover (I remember it had a photograph of a goldfish and was kind of cutesy) and the blurb, I thought would be a lighthearted book in the chick-lit vein. It turned out to be a very serious, in fact depressing, book about a divorce. Ugh. And, there are far too many cartoonish covers, in my humble opinion. Art work should definitely reflect the tone of a book but often does not, these days.

Angela in Europe said...

I am the world's worst for picking books because I like the covers. Sometimes I read some really horrible books because I am intrigued by the cover. It is all part of the marketing ploy and I am ashamed to say it works on me. One of my favorite recent cover is for the book Indecision by B. Kunkel I just love the cover and it represents the book really well.

Lotus Reads said...

Hi, Ally!

There are some really gorgeous book cover around today. Writers and publishers have realized that a chunk of the appeal of a book lies in its visual presentation. I would have to say atleast 1 in every 5 books I buy has to do with how the cover appeals to me. Yes, I am shallow that way! :)))

Hi, Rosemary

Thank you for your very thoughtful response. You're right, the whole purpose of the cover design and title is to evoke a curiosity in the reader, but I will admit that long titles or titles that make no sense to me whatsoever is quite putting off. Also, sometimes, I have overlooked a really good read because neither the title nor the cover grabbed me, for instance, "The Book of Salt" by Monique Truang is a truly wonderful tale and worth reading, but would anyone guess that from the title? :)

You've posed a very interesting question, Rosemary. You asked:
"Can we tell from a book’s cover (or cover and title combo) whether the narrative voice or the main character is going to be male or female? Let’s exclude covers with a person (as in one person) in it.

I don't know - in some cases I may be able to, but most times, it's seeing a picture on the cover or reading a blurb that gives the narrator's gender away. Also, it would be interesting to see stats on how cover designs influence male and females differently. Interesting!

Lotus Reads said...


A photo-essay on cover art is a wonderful idea - it will help us appreciate and talk about covers we have loved, in depth. And yes, there is also plenty to say about misleading cover art...can't wait for you to do this!

Hi, booklooged!

Glad you liked the cover image I showcased for this post - I love so many it was very hard to settle for just one. Like Les suggested, it would be fun to work on a whole list of cover art!

Ewwww, yes, I, too, hate ones of body parts up close, they're so repulsive!

I don't like covers with grey, dull, wintery scenes. Guess because winter's not my favorite time of year, those covers make me feel all sad and gloomy. They're very melancholic, atleast to me.

Also, I am not partial to those books where they use stills from the book's movie on the cover. There is no legitimate reason for me not to like them, I just don't like looking at film stars on literary material! :)

Thanks for listing your favorites, booklogged - I, too, love the Jonathan Safran Foer covers and "The Other Boleyn Girl" as well as "Thirteenth Tale" were so nicely done, I could spend a long time enjoying them.

Hello, Foodie's Hope!

Thank you so much for visiting! Yes, you make perfect sense - if a reader is familiar with a writer's work, there is no real reason for the cover to influence them. Guess I'm wondering if having a pleasing cover adds to the pleasure of the read? Or does it not matter at all? Very often as I read, I find myself running my hands over the book taking joy in its texture, the quality of its pages, marvelling at the cover design....I wouldn't miss it if it wasn't there, but it truly adds a lot of pleasure to an already good read. Ya know?

hi, bookfool!

Yes, just like in fashion, I guess bookcovers have their trends, too. I remember, in the 70's, the psychedelic look was all the rage (very much like the books featured in the flickr photoset demonstrate). If they tried that kaleidoscope effect today, readers will probably get all dizzy! :)

I don't visit a whole lot and as a result I am probably missing out on the cover art of the UK editions - I must bookmark the site and take a look.

Finally, like you say, art work should definitely reflect the tone of a book, but often it does not and it can be a very frustrating experience for a reader. For instance,you know those books with photographs on the cover? Is it just me, or do they really give the impression that because they are photographs, the book might be a memoir or atleast based on a true story? I feel duped when I find out it's just fiction! :)

Hi, Angela!

Don't worry, you're not alone. I do that, too! And for me it's not just about the cover - I also love a beautiful font, great quality pages etc. I took a look at Benjamin Kunkel's "Indecision" - I love the way those thumbprints are each given a face and different expressions - smart! Also, the author is pretty nice-looking too! ;)

Susan in Italy said...

Have to say, I the thing that thrills me the most about books is when I get great things second-hand. It's like a game. It's one of my favorite shopping experiences, so if the used copy of A Handmaid's Tale happens to be graphically beautiful, then that's the icing on the cake.

Lotus Reads said...

Oh, I know, Susan, the thrill of a bargain, it's incomparable! :)

I remember "The Handmaid's Tale" so well - I am sure Margaret Atwood couldn't have forseen the Taliban and all that they would put women through and yet, she seemed to have a sense (for lack of a better word) of what might come. Amazing writer!

beenzzz said...

Yeh, I think cover art is very important since it draws the attention of the consumer. It's eye candy!

Lotus Reads said...

Hi, beenzzz!

Welcome! Do you have a favorite cover?

Bookfool said...

I do think photograph-covers can be misleading, but it partly depends on the title and the blurb. Sometimes blurbs are poorly written and you really don't know what a book is about till you read. And, even a title can confuse the issue. is fun to visit for a change of pace. I'll sometimes look up a title and then hop from one to another page, just looking at similar books or recommended titles and enjoying the different cover art. I don't do that as often as I used to, though.

Lotus, what are you currently reading? I don't see mention of the mini-chunkster you told me you're reading. I like your new profile photo! :)

Lotus Reads said...

hi, bookfool!

It's Andrea Levy's "Small Island". I should have a review up on Tuesday or even Monday evening.

Glad you like the profile photo - change is good, no? :)

Amelia said...

Hi Lotus,

I think there are many books published with fantastic covers. I hate to admit it, but cover art is rather important to me. When perusing through books, I tend to pick up books whose covers I find aesthetically pleasing. On top of this, I like a book that feels good in my hands. I also have a thing about the way a book smells. I swear some books smell deliciously clean with a trace of vanilla and chocolate!! But I digress...

It's hard for me to pinpoint my favorite cover as my mind goes blank. It's like when the doctor checks my heartbeat and tell me to breathe - then I seriously forget how to breathe like a normal person! :) Two that come to mind are The Ice Queen by Alice Hoffman (paperback edition) and Mrs. Kimble by Jennifer Haigh (paperback edition). I also like the Modern Library paperback editions - they feel nice and plenty of them, like The Red and The Black, are lovely.

Lotus Reads said...

Hello, Amelia!

Thanks for the comment! I think buying books based on the attractiveness of the cover art is more common than we orginally believed. Most of us are very visual people I'm sure and for a book to win our approval it must please us visually in some way.

'The Ice Queen', is this the one with the butterfly sitting on a woman's bare shoulder? That's a truly delicate and sensual cover I thought.

ohhh, and I know what you mean about the smell of a book - it has a fragrance about it that is better than any perfume, one sniff is all it takes and you're smitten! :)

I love an all-round beautiful book - two that come to mind immediately are "Caramba!" by Nina Marie Martinez which I recently had the opportunity to mooch off Danielle and 'The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer: My Life at Rose Red' (not a great read, but one of the loveliest books I've ever held!)

Luin On said...

I agree that book cover art is important, add me to the superficial list.....I will often buy a book just on its cover alone. I have a preference for 80's Puffin children books...a lot of them were painted and very pleasing to the eye. I am not a fan of modern children book covers at all.....too gaudy, flashy , no nuance or subtlety.

Lotus Reads said...

You're so right about modern children book covers - most unappealing! Knowing how much I depend on a cover to interest me in a book, if I were a child today, I wouldn't be reading at all!

Thanks for stopping by!

jannie said...

absolutely love these posts - have just ended ended up here completely by chance while searching for the edition of the handmaid's tale that I stupidly loaned and of course never got back - have trawled the net but haven't found any images of the edition I miss (like kate s. said above, it's v. impt to find the one you originally read) - does anyone remember who published the edition that has two or three large and clearly defined red & white handmaids coming directly out of the cover - one of them dead centre)- these v. large figures take up the whole cover, ie they're not the tiny ones captive inside the wall that are most commonly found, nor the ethereal, floaty red cape single person version...does this ring any bells?

BTW I must have a thing about red & white covers - one that rescues the sorry state of children's book covers is the wonderful OLIVIA - Ian Falconer's superbly sassy piglet - just fabulous!