Judging books by their covers
February 3, 2004 6:40 AM   Subscribe

What are your favorite book jacket or cover designs? What do you look for when you judge a book by its cover? I'm doing a design favor for a friend and need some inspiration. It's a word-heavy, non-fiction book targeted at the more brainy types. Any classic, timeless cover that makes you caress its spine every time you see the volume?
posted by TurkeyMustard to Media & Arts (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The Great Gatsby
posted by grumblebee at 6:57 AM on February 3, 2004

I love John Lahr's (theater critic for The New Yorker) covers. Specifically, the covers for "Prick Up Your Ears" and "Show and Tell." If I ever write a book, I want his cover designer to design mine.
posted by adrober at 6:58 AM on February 3, 2004

I love:


This Iain Banks cover although the real one has a white border of around an inch on it. Much prettier.

I also quite like the Everyman's series of covers, but they're a bit plain.

When I'm choosing a book by its cover I like a strong image or no image at all, a very small amount of words -- I hate six quotes, three subheads and a banner -- and appropriate use of italics.

This means I hate most US covers. I struggle to make it out of a UK bookshop with my wallet intact, but I can happily browse for hours in a Borders in the US without building up a big pile of "must buys".

Oh, you asked for non-fiction. Well, unsurprisingly, I like this and this.

-- His post was wonderful, really stunning -- New York Times
-- He made up all the quotes -- The Herald
-- Sgt Serenity is a Tim -- A hun.

posted by bonaldi at 7:06 AM on February 3, 2004

The weblog Mastication is normal has run a few sets of thought-provoking and very entertaining reviews of the covers of current books: 1, 2, 3.

Looks like he's shutting the site down soon, though, so read 'em while you can...
posted by staggernation at 7:12 AM on February 3, 2004

Anything by Chip Kidd. A good sign that his books stand out? They become iconic (see his Jurrasic Park cover).
posted by ColdChef at 7:48 AM on February 3, 2004

cker's Collected Works (great poetry, too, if you like modern American poetry).

The Catastrophist.
posted by languagehat at 8:22 AM on February 3, 2004

Oh, and a couple of beautiful reference books:

The Encyclopedia of World History

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language

(scroll down; I couldn't find a simple cover shot)
posted by languagehat at 8:29 AM on February 3, 2004

Chip Kidd is the master.
posted by Grod at 8:32 AM on February 3, 2004

yup--Chip Kidd without a doubt. Also take a walk thru a bookstore and see what catches your eye and why.
posted by amberglow at 8:37 AM on February 3, 2004

You might be interested in this guy who seems to review book covers once a month.
posted by callmejay at 8:42 AM on February 3, 2004

Great book on the topic. And... for Chip Kidd fans.
posted by dobbs at 9:40 AM on February 3, 2004

I love the look and weight of Christopher's Alexander's A Pattern Language.
posted by Succa at 10:28 AM on February 3, 2004

This Iain Banks cover

That's nice enough, but I prefer the old one, complete with motorcycle tracks pressed into the cover.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:29 AM on February 3, 2004

Wow, I don't like any of the covers featured on the cover of that Alan Powers book (dobbs's "great book"). Different strokes.
posted by languagehat at 11:29 AM on February 3, 2004

Oops, don't know how I missed staggernation's comment. Ignore my link.
posted by callmejay at 1:11 PM on February 3, 2004

Not even Gatsby, languagehat?
posted by Songdog at 3:38 PM on February 3, 2004

*enlarges image, squints*
Nah, not crazy about Gatsby, but now that I look more closely I do see a couple I like, notably Beside the Seaside and George Mackie. Well, also Catch-22, but that may be sentimental attachment to the book itself, which I love dearly and read in that edition.

Other nice covers: The Lover, by Duras; The Diary of Samuel Pepys.
posted by languagehat at 4:50 PM on February 3, 2004

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