Judge a book by its cover 1

Most bibliophiles have their own sub-fetish within their love of books. Some people like the smell, others the sound a spine makes when you crack it for the first time. For me, it has always been book covers. I would be lured by the cover alone, winking coquettishly at me from across the bookstore. That was how I found Murakami. I remember seeing the woman on the cover of the UK edition of Sputnik Sweetheart published by Vintage. It was thrilling, erotic and perfectly captured the other worldly nature of the story itself. Below are five covers I particularly found engaging.

The Bell Jar

The Bell Jar has been in print for years, and in that time many publishers have released versions, with numerous covers. The one that stands out to me is the 1966 cover by Shirley Tucker . Nothing quite sums up the feeling despair, and the idea of falling down a well like the concentric circles. It reflects both the author and content beautifully.

American Psycho

I remember seeing this cover on my friend’s book shelf. He left it at the end of a row, and it was the first image you saw when you entered his room. It might be because I read it as a teenager, but there is something about the book’s cover that haunts me to this day.

Originally the cover was to be designed by artist George Corsillo, but when he read the book, he found it so repellent that he refused the commission. Instead Marshall Arisman was chosen, and his image is visceral, smug and oozes the cocaine charm of the 80s.

Clockwork Orange

I chose this cover because I remember seeing it as I grew up. In the UK, the film based on this book, was withdrawn from cinemas, and immediately that attracted me to it. If you can’t see the film, you can read the book!

Like the American Psycho cover, the lead protagonist is presented to us. But instead of the sanguine American Psycho that oozes its themes, this iconic cover puts barriers between us and the book. The name, the image, all presented in a stark and graphic way. You want to understand what all this in congruence means. David Pelham designed this in a single night after his original design was rejected by the publishers.

The Road

This is the cover of my copy of The Road by Cormac McCarthy. I love this book in its entirety. Yet this cover probably had more of an impact on how I read a book than any other. The world the man and the boy travel through, in my minds eye, looks like those ghost trees. The world they exist in doesn’t look like some sort of Walking Dead dystopia. Instead it is this ashen world, where nothing exists but dead trees and monsters.

The Book of Dead Philosophers

I think I like this one because it feels so meta. Everything feels very consciously decided on. I like that it is a book, on the cover of a book. I like that it is a book about dead philosopher’s and it is photographed as if it is those philosophers tomb. It also doesn’t feel high brow, it feels a bit tongue in cheek, which matches the tone inside the book. I love designer John Gall’s other covers too, well worth a look.


Which book covers have stuck with you over the years? What cover art improved your reading experience? Share them with us.

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