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The Art of Book Covers

For me, the relaxation of summer is married to reading. Throughout the winter, I curate a list of books people have mentioned or that I’ve stared at longingly on the shelves of a bookstore, but have no time to read. Now, sans classes, with a full-time job and the need for a bedtime, I dive into my book list. I’ve quit the Kindle cold turkey and now I’ve noticed what’s been missing: the book covers. I wouldn’t say the Kindle is killing print books, but it may just be killing the illustrators and designers of book covers. If not killing, then seriously maiming . Take a look of  some of the best work, old and new, that you’ve missed skipping to the meat of the book.

In 2014, these two artists, Sunra Thompson and Patricia Storace, were celebrated among 50 others by The Casual Optimist in the 50 Covers for 2014 article. Both artists use a title not as text on top of art, but part of the piece while capturing the theme of the book.

All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews; design by Sunra Thompson (McSweeney’s / November 2014)


The Book of Heaven by Patricia Storace; design by Linda Huang (Pantheon / February 2014)


With a few overlapping titles, including the Patricia Storace cover, Buzzfeed’s 32 Of The Most Beautiful Book Covers of 2014, has cover-designers Charlotte Strick (illustration by Patrick Leger) and Paul Sahre on their list. These covers play with time and space in their juxtaposition of panels to form a story atop a novel.

Nobody Is Ever Missing by Catherine Lacey Design by Charlotte Strick, illustration by Patrick Leger. FSG Originals


Design by Paul Sahre.


In 2011, Flavorwire took a look at the historically notable book covers in The 20 Most Iconic Book Covers Ever. While the obvious titles are represented such as Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, and J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, some are surprisingly beautiful. Perhaps we’ve been numbed to their artistic allure because their covers are iconic, but these artists should be counted among the best: Francis Cugat and Joe Pernaciaro.

The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1925


Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury, 1953. Designed by Joe Pernaciaro

I’m not saying let’s all go home and throw out our Kindles in protest, but I would be sad to see book cover art influences dwindle. Yeah, we’re not supposed to judge a book by it’s cover, but we do. And readers yearn for a cover that aptly describes the pages beneath. I might add that my bookshelf, fitted with old cloth texts and bright edgy covers, has never looked better.

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Comments (2)

  1. Stephanie
    July 1, 2015 at 12:58 pm

    What a good post! I fell in love with art mostly through looking at art books and illustrated books. I still love the iconic covers of many childrens books: The Little Engine That Could; Arthur Rackham’s Alice in Wonderland; all the Tasha Tudor illustrated books. I’m blessed to have an old copy with book cover of Cross Creek, one of my favorite reads. Yes, a house without books always seems lacking to me.

  2. Henry Jennings
    July 22, 2015 at 9:43 am

    Beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

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