Judging Books by Their Covers

I know it’s pretty ironic, but I feel like most of us when looking for new books to read on the library pretty much just go off the cover and the description on the back to decide whether it’s worth reading or not. Something that is completely understandable.

For the most part, I don’t really care about book covers themselves because once I buy a book, I’m not really thinking about the cover at all. But, over the years I have come across a lot of cool and amazing covers and also a lot of real shit ones.

So, I thought it would be fun to go over some of the books that I own and just talk about some of the ones I find worth talking about.

For this post, I won’t be focusing exclusively on just the covers themselves, but I will talk about the whole design of the book. As in: It’s shape, it’s patterns and -of course- it’s cover

Also, keep in mind that I’m going to be talking about the versions of the books that I own. So, my version of a certain book might differ greatly from the version that you have.

I figure I would start off with a really damn good design in the form of 1984.

It’s simplicity at its best. The color pallet used just screams totalitarian government, which is augmented when you realize that the seemingly random circles are actually an eyeball when you look at it from the side. Like they’re watching you.

Heck, there’s even an eye on the back of the book, so if you open it, it looks like there’s a person watching you. Just like big brother in the book.

In the front eye you see the title of the book alongside the author’s name. And in the back, you get the three phrases most used by the government of Oceania.

“War is peace.” “Freedom is slavery.” “Ignorance is strength.”

The whole book gives you just enough information for you to be curious, but also doesn’t give too much away. Even the size of the pages and letters fit the overall book and makes for an extremely comfortable read. It’s a damn good design.

The only real downside is the weird dust wrapper, I’ve always hated these things, they’re so annoying. It feels weird to hold it with it on, and without it, the book has no cover and it’s just black all over.

I do get that it is kind of necessary for these kinds of books, but it would be better if they just made it part of the book instead of something you can take off. Then it wouldn’t slide off all the time.

But even so, it’s still a damn good design and one of the best ones I’ve come across. 8/10.

And now we go from an old classic to the virus that is a James Patterson book. Seriously, every time I go to a bookstore there’s at least fifteen books from this guy.

Even when I go to like a pharmacy or something, for some reason, even though they don’t sell books, there just happen to be some James Patterson books laying around.

But whatever, let’s talk about the design.

This is a weird one to say the least. The front cover is okay, I guess. It both perfectly represents what the book is about, while at the same time being extremely misleading.

Going off the presumably naked woman in the cover and the fact that the book is called: “the quickie” you’d think that the story would feature a lot of erotica. Heck, even in the ad were I first heard of this book said that the erotica “isn’t limited to the cover” which is complete bullshit.

There’s only one sex scene in the whole book which barely even lasts a paragraph and it’s some of the most mild shit I’ve ever read.

Though, to be fair, the whole story is a consequence of a quickie that happens in the beginning. And the logo of the book definitely lets you know that this isn’t exactly your average erotica.

The red gives off this feeling of danger while the large and sharp letters give off the same vibe.

This leads me to my next problem. Why is the book so big? Seriously, why do publishers make books that are so damn big? Big books are the definition of a pain in the ass. It feels like you’re holding a goddamn behemoth, making it difficult to find a good reading position.

Like, when I’m waiting in the subway and want something to read, I want to reach to my backpack and take out a book not my goddamn PlayStation 5!

Okay, I get that if you have like, graphs, or images and shit, then it makes sense to make a big book so that it all fits. But for novels!? There’s no reason!

I’ve had people tell me that the big letters make it easier for people who are hard of sight to read, but in that case, you just make a normal sized book with big letters. You don’t take the whole damn book and give it a super mushroom!

But okay, back to the design.

Usually when you see the back of a book, you expect to see some useful information to give you a better idea of what the book is about. But in the case of the Quickie, it’s just a picture of the author’s face. I mean, don’t get me wrong he’s a good looking guy, but when I see the back of the book I don’t really wanna see James Patterson.

It just feels like he’s stroking his ego with this back cover. It doesn’t do anything other than annoy you over not getting more information about the book.

Overall, The Quickie is really just kind of a mess. It gets its job done in portraying the mood and overall style of the book with the colors used and its logo. But it all just feels frustrating with its misleading use of erotica, lack of immediate information, and its size. 4/10.

Now we go from a disappointing design to a nearly perfect one. This here is my copy of a Spanish translation of “That Art of War” by Sun Tzu.

This one immediately sticks out to me with its beautiful cover art. The Chinese style snake circling around the title gives off the ancient vibe of the book. The white goes so well with the red and black, the colors used gives a sense of serenity, yet the snake gives it a small sense of danger.

The cover also doesn’t add any unnecessary information, just the title, the name of the author, the name of the illustrator and the studio that illustrated it. Making the cover feel less cluttered, which makes sense, The Art of War is a classic, there’s not much you can say about it that people don’t already know.

The back of the book talks about two different topics in two different paragraphs. The first is a description of the studio that illustrated and made the design of the book. While the other is a description of the book itself and the influence it has had on the world as a whole.

It’s very concise and easy to read. Even if the letters are a bit to small for the back of a book.

But let me tell you, it feels so damn nice to feel and hold this book. The hardcover was superbly well made, and the size of the book is also perfect. See, this is how you make a book with big letters.

But that’s not all, this is one of the few books I’ve had that has a built in bookmark. Which is extremely convenient and makes it easy to pick off where I left off.

I also wanna mention that the illustrations added into this version of the book are beautiful and make the whole book really easy to read while also really making you feel like you’re a war general on the battlefield.

And this is without even talking about how good it looks on a shelf.

Overall, the cover is great, the back does the job, the book feels amazing to hold, the new art and bookmark is great. This is probably the best designed book that I own and is nearly flawless. 10/10.

And now we go from one of the best designed books that I own to my copy of Dune.

I was honestly going to tear down on this book design but now that I actually see it up close again, it’s not as bad as I remembered it being, it’s still pretty shit though.

I wanna mention before I keep going that Dune is the only book on this list that I haven’t actually read yet. So, consider this a sort of blind opinion that might change in the future after I read the book.

The immediate element of the cover that makes me grind my gears is the rectangle in the middle. Why is it off-center? Why is it a rectangle? Why is it that it’s focused on the color brown when the rest of the design has this cool black, white, and blue aesthetic? Why does it look like it was stickered in by a three year old?

Seriously, this cover makes no sense to me. Cause outside of the rectangle, it has a decent aesthetic going for it, specifically in the colors. The thing is this thing feels like a draft or base drawing that they would later build upon. It’s extremely simplistic yet lacks any depth like 1984.

You could have easily put some sort of drawing or picture in between “Frank Herbert” and “Dune”, put the title in the center and you have at least a passable cover in your hands.

But instead, they decide to add this dumbass rectangle. I believe it’s supposed to be a desert, but it only looks like that if you look at it sideways, otherwise, it just looks like contemporary art.

It pretty much ruins what is otherwise a decent cover.

Because, otherwise, the book is actually somewhat okay. Yeah, the cover sucks and we’re dealing with another big-ass book, but the back looks pretty good.

We get a decently framed photo of Frank Herbert as well as some review quotes for the book. Heck, the rectangle is even used decently in the back as well.

And even while holding the book, the dust wrapper, actually feels pretty nice to hold in comparison to 1984. And even gives you more information on the book itself inside.

To me, this is really just more frustrating than anything. You have an otherwise decent book design that was ruined by the god-awful decision to not only have this weird ass rectangle, but to also have it plastered all around the exterior of the book. And while it’s used okay in the back and side, it still feels lazy and it’s not even placed well in the cover (Which is the most important part).

Maybe I’ll change my opinion after I’ve actually read the book, but for now, just like The Quickie, this one is also just frustrating to me. 4/10.

Now, I realize that the type of book that The Art of War is, while almost perfect, isn’t exactly the most economically viable.

But that’s where we have these kinds of books. The classic laminated novel.

I look at this book and right off the bat I’m loving the design and cover of the book. The laminated cover is extremely satisfying to feel. And with its small size, it feels great to hold and get lost in a classic novel.

The front cover is great, giving you a pretty good idea of what the book is about. A post-apocalyptic adventure about a lone wanderer. The destructive imagery gives off an eerie vibe, yet the open area contrasts with that, giving the whole cover an air of freedom and exploration.

The color palette is simple yet impactful. I love the and the contrast of the blue, green, and yellow. It makes the whole thing feel distinct and unique.

On the back of the book, you can read a brief description of what the book is about. A bit of a traditional and maybe even safe choice, but it does the job.

You also get to read a few quotes from reviews of the book. Giving you a sense of assurance when you pick up the book, feeling like you’re in good hands.

It still lacks a bit behind the near masterpiece that is the design of The Art of War. But it’s still one of the best designs for modern novels. A cover that gives off the vibe of the book perfectly, the right size with a laminated cover, and a few review quotes to make you feel like you’re really reading something great. Probably one of the best designs I’ve come across. 9/10

I really hope you found my brief deep dive into book design entertaining. And also, if there are any books you find noteworthy then please be sure to tell me about them in the comments below.

Also, if you’re interested the books discussed in this post were:

1984 by George Orwell

The Quickie by James Patterson

The Art of War by Sun Tzu

Dune by Frank Herbert

The Postman by David Brin

If you’re interested in any of these then make sure to look them up on Amazon or your local bookstore.

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