Nathan Bransford, Author

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

What Is Your Favorite Book Cover?

Today I am encouraging everyone everywhere to please judge books by their covers. (They won't mind, trust me.)

So now, you tell me: what is your favorite book cover of all time? Also, once you've picked your fave, you might answer the subquestion: how much does the cover matter? Have you ever picked up and read a book based on the cover alone?

Also, if you haven't already, check out The Book Design Review, a blog that discusses covers and picks out some of the coolest. I thoroughly enjoy it.

My favorite cover? My friend K.L. Going's THE LIBERATION OF GABRIEL KING, which is also one of those cases where the book is even better than the awesome cover. I will also confess to reading some books because a great cover caught my eye.

What's your favorite?


Brian said...

The US hardcover for CLAY by David Almond. Perfectly evokes the book's inner creepy.

D said...

Dermaphoria, by Craig Clevenger

Liz said...

Difficult not to love a good cover. If I haven't heard of the author before, the cover determines whether or not I read the jacket or back cover blurb.

I'm partial to the current trend where covers show bodies but no faces. Everyone from Philippa Gregory to Kim Harrison has these types of covers.

I don't like covers without people on them.

My favorite cover of all time? I don't know if I can single one out, but the Little House series does pop in my head.

C.J. said...

The Francis Cugat cover of The Great Gatsby -- striking, classy, simple (but fits the layers of the story)

I have to say that even though it's technically not a cover, the title page illustration of Fear and Loathing in LV with Duke and Gonzo looking straight ahead in the car fits the story so perfectly that it must be mentioned.

The only book I can remember reading based on the cover alone is Still Life with Woodpecker.

jjdebenedictis said...

I really like the covers of most of Tad Williams books.

And yes, I do pick up books that have gorgeous covers. This has unfortunately led me to pick up quite a few novels put out by Luna Books, who seem to consistently publish stuff I don't like.

Obviously, I need to break myself of this "Ooh! Shiny!" impulse.


Gerri said...

TBH, I almost never pay attention to the cover art. Heresy, I know. But I've rarely found covers to match the stories, and even if they do, I don't visualize things like the covers do. For me, insides are more important than outsides.

That being said, I hate books that only have quotes on the back. I want a teaser, darnit!

Art is cool, but not the point. *shrug*

Katie Alender said...

I'm cheating... I can't pick just one. And these are only based on what I own, not fantastic books that draw me to them in the bookstore but don't make it home.
The Handmaid's Tale
Life of Pi
This Boy's Life
Promise Not to Tell
It's Kind of a Funny tory

Katie Alender said...

Uh, that would actually be "It's Kind of a Funny Story", not "Tory". Not, in fact, a novel about British politics, but a very smart and funny piece of YA fiction by Ned Vizzini.

Scott said...

I can't really think of a favorite cover. I don't think I've ever bought a book based on the cover, but I've probably picked up books in the store because the cover was interesting. I know I've chosen not to buy a book because of the cover. For example, say I want to buy a book about Vikings. If the cover shows big red-headed muscle men in fur clothing with horned helmets, I won't bother looking inside before I toss the thing down.

Therese Walsh said...

This is a hard one. I don't think I have a fave cover, but I did recently purchase a book JUST because of a cool cover:

Mr. Thundermug by Cornelius Medvei.

Very funny, and worth a trip to Amazon just so you can peek at it.

Anonymous said...

Shana Abe's the Dream Thief -- and I especially liked the page designs in the inside of her (hardback) book.


takoda said...

"A Fine Balance" by Rohinton Mistry. The simple drawing on the cover has layers of meaning, once you finish reading the book.

This wasn't part of your question, but my least favorite was from "Love in the Present Tense" Although I loved the book, I felt the cover portrayed the characters as being too light-skinned. I felt that was to appeal to a wider market, but I didn't like it.


Miri said...

Hmm. That's a tough one. Probably a draw between The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke and Lirael by Garth Nix. The Thief Lord is very mysterious and gives a good feel for the book, and it's also very attractive. Lirael's just pretty. And dark. And altogether representative of the book. And factually correct. You gotta love that.

I'm not sure if I've ever bought a book based on the cover, but I know I first picked up Nine Days a Queen by Ann Rinaldi because the cover caught my eye. I'd say that in general, having a great cover isn't as important as not having a bad one.

Gabor said...

Fortunately, there are many great cover designers out there. If I had to pick one, I guess I would vote for one of my long time favs: Dave McKean, and to single out a current favourite cover from amongst his many great works, I'd stick with the one he did for Jonathan Carroll's The Heidelberg Cylinder, a book that I don't have, unfortunately, but would definitely give a try to because of its magnificent cover.

And with that I guess I answered the other part of the question as well. Yes, I think covers are very important - in an ideal case they give a true visual summary of the book they're designer for, raising hopes and expectations that get fulfilled while reading.

(As an aside, I must note that I do not really like fiction covers that show near photorealistic human faces, "portraits" of the books' heroes: they take away from the freedom of my imagination as a reader and that's not an effect I as an author would wish to subject my readers to.)

Reid said...

I'm not a covers guy, I guess. I'm more attracted by a title that sticks in your head and makes you need to slide that book out to find out more. Even when I do check out a book, I'm more interested in the rundown than the cover. I guess at some level I read a book as the artistic creation of the author, and I don't want an artist's rendering to get in the way of that.

With bookstore space tight, you don't see the majority of covers anyway. I'm looking for a title that might tip me off to a quirky story I'd be interested in reading. I hope my novel, "The Great Texas Trailer Park Escape," at least grabs fans of offbeat stuff to pick it up and check out the blurb. You've got to get someone's attention before you can sell them.

Anonymous said...

No contest--The Hardy Boys circa 1962

Crystal Jordan said...

I have to say my favorite is The Darker Side of Pleasure by Eden Bradley. It reminds me of a Pre-Raphaelite painting.

A Paperback Writer said...

The most intriguing cover I can recall that most matched the plot itself is the American hardback cover for Cornelia Funke's Inkheart. I had disliked Thief Lord and vowed not to read another of her books, but the cover of Inkheart got my attention, and I began reading. And I loved the book.
Other book covers I love include the 70s paperbacks of the Lord of the Rings which feature Tolkien's own artwork and the Mary GrandPré Harry Potter covers, which are very fascinating. oh yes, and I love the hardback cover of E. Kostova's The Historian.
Yes, I've picked up many books because of their covers; it's rather a magpie instinct. I also get mad when a good story is given an ugly cover.

Heidi the Hick said...

My latest favourite is FRAGILE THINGS by Neil Gaiman. It's so beautiful and disturbing. Just like the inside of the book. The whole package is gorgeous.

Previous favourite (close runner up!) THE LADIES OF GRACE ADIEU by Susannah Clarke. I love it all, the texture, font, art nouveau illustrations, everything.

Yes I have picked up a book because of its cover. That's right---I judge books by their covers! I even decided to not send a manuscript to a publisher because all of their covers looked cheesy.

I'm a visual person, and there are no second impressions.

But having said that it's the words inside that make me keep picking up the book after I'm done marvelling at the cover.

(Nathan...your example looks great and sounds like a very good read. My To Be Read List is one book longer now!)

Tom Burchfield said...

Good choice, Nathan. It looks like a really creepy book. Is it?

A couple I like: The cover for "The Wine-Dark Sea: A Collection" by Robert Aickman (Intro by Peter Straub) and the cover for the Jonathan Cape British edition of Straub's "Ghost Story" which brought out the more hallucinatory elements of that book.

Anonymous said...

I agree with an earlier poster - I don't like covers with photorealistic portraits/people on them. I like simple modern fonts for titles and images that don't totally give away the plot or attempt to fill in what a character looks like.

Overall a cover should look clean and give away nothing but the mood of the novel. If the cover evokes an emotion in me, I'm much more likely to open the book.

alternatefish said...

oohhh, Lirael.

The white-on-black Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is one of the more striking and memorable covers I've ever seen.

Overall, though, I'd have to go with Total Chaos and Chourmo by Jean-Claude Izzo, tho I'm a bit disappointed in the trilogy's finale, Solera. Not only are the covers pretty and striking, they are so obviously from the same series that I recognized Chourmo from across a crowded room.

Dan Leo said...

I dunno, there's just something about that old paperback cover of "Catcher in the Rye", with just the title and the author's name. But then I think all the resonance of that cover comes from what's behind the cover.

Don said...

I've always been fond of the Paul Hogarth illustrations on the orange-spined Penguin paperbacks of Graham Greene's work. Of recent stuff, I find the cover of The Memory Keeper's Daughter to be a bit haunting.

I've never bought a book because of its cover, but I have bought a few CDs that way.

Spartezda said...

Any Patricia McKillip book with a Kinuko Y. Craft cover--they're such rich, lush, fairy-tale images that perfectly capture the flavor of the books' prose. Every time I walk by SONG FOR THE BASILISK, I stop and simply stare at the cover for a bit before continuing whatever I was doing.

The very first Lois McMaster Bujold book I read (she's now one of my favorite authors) was picked up based on its cover: Paladin of Souls. The US hardcover edition has such painting feel, as if it were a classic I'd see hanging in a museum somewhere.

On the other hand, the UK cover of the very same book is absolutely horrible--the Pillsbury Nazgul cover, I think the author called it.

A bad cover can definitely keep me from picking up a book, because if I cringe at the cover I tend to assume I'll cringe at what's inside, even though I know that's not fair. A classy or gorgeous cover will draw me to a book and persuade me to take a look at the jacket copy or back, even if the title doesn't really catch me.

Michele Lee said...

I am a fan of real simple covers. I love the cover they chose for Read By Dawn volume One and for Temple: Incarnations

I like images that mean something before you even read the story, then take on a new level when it connects to the story.

AmyB said...

I'm not very visual, I guess. I can't even remember the covers of most books. I can remember a few, but only because I read those books over and over again, and there was nothing exceptional about their covers. I can certainly be attracted to a book because it has a nice looking cover, but once I've read the book, the cover is forgotten and only the story is remembered (if it was any good).

Dave said...

Nicholas Basbanes "A Gentle Madness" is my idea of a great cover - lush, embossed, and elegant.

MelodyO said...

This is probably silly, but my favourite cover is still the paperback edition of 'SALEM'S LOT, which I had when I was about 14. It was entirely black and had no words on it, just the embossed silhouette of a girl's head with one red drop of blood at the corner of her mouth. To this day, the thought of that cover sends a thrill of fear up my spine.

Adrienne said...

I never paid much attention to covers when I was little. And now, I am obsessed with them.

I'd have to say the cover for "The Vesuvius Club" was what got me to basically buy this book I had never heard of before. I kept noticing it in the bookstore, and finally had to pick it up.

It's wild, and I so think would make a great movie!

Ben said...

I'm not sure of the edition, but the cover of Nabakov's Lolita from a few years ago is one of my favorites. It is a simple photo of a young girl's legs from the knee down, with white socks and patent leather shoes. There is a sense of awkwardness mingled with allure in the almost knock-kneed pose that perfectly captures the tone of the book.

Eric said...

Gravity's Rainbow, what with its nifty blueprint photograph: Gerat W-4 (Three View) Aircraft Model V2, 1944.

J M McDermott said...

this cover for a yukio mishima book really struck me. i read the book because of the cover. fortunately, it was also an interesting book.

still, ask me tomorrow, and you'll get a new answer.

A Paperback Writer said...

I thought of this blog post today when I was in the bookstore, trying to get my mother (the Queen of Vacillation) to choose something with the gift certificate I'd bought her (for Mother's Day of 2006, mind you). Every time I pulled a book of the shelf, and handed it to her backside up so she could read the blurb, she turned it over, looked at the cover, and asked me if I thought she'd like it. I kept saying, "Mom! Geez, read the blurb and see if you'd like it!" But she wanted to see the cover every single time.
Now, the two books she finally chose to buy (thank heaven!) were not based on the covers, but on subject matter (bio of Twain) and author (uh, I can't recall right now, but the author of The Other Boylen Girl), so I guess the covers didn't sell the books, but they were obviously important to my mom.

Determinist said...

I'm a sucker for good art, and I love Michael Whelan. My favorite is his cover for "The Integral Trees" by Larry Niven.

Robin S. said...

Two of my favorite covers-

The paperback edition of Ian Mcewan's Atonement,

and the southern Gothic garden cover of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

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