A Good Cover Is Hard to Find

Otherwise titled, “Hanna Decides to Participate in a Top Ten Tuesday Meme Four Months Too Late.” Thanks to Delia Battie for the idea.

Am I the only one who has lately noticed the utter lack of attractive/intriguing book covers? Many of the book covers I run across these days are either completely boring, unbearably cheesy, or simply too plain to remember. Below are some of my most treasured pet peeves relating to book covers and some of my suggestions for how they can be remedied.

Copyright laws being what they are, I’m afraid I can’t include pictures of the books in question, so bear with me in clicking on the links.

Things I Hate in a Book Cover

1. Novel Covers that Use a Photo of a Real Person

Perhaps this shouldn’t bother me as much as it does, but I’ve always tried to avoid books whose covers feature real people. And oddly enough, I don’t exactly know why. Maybe because the pictures are so touched-up that the people look like some type of weird android? I don’t know, but I shudder to see photographs of actual people on the covers of books about fictional people. I know why publishers do this: because it’s easier to snap a picture of somebody than it is to hire an artist to draw/paint a picture. Pure laziness, I suspect, is behind this trend and our eyes are worse off for it.

2. Back-of-the-Head Pictures

Seriously, what the heck is this?

3. When the Author’s Name Is Written in Bigger Font than the Title

I’m looking at you, Bill O’Reilly! Of course, well known authors do that because people likely won’t remember the title of Lee Child’s newest book, but they will remember Lee Child’s name when they see it. Even still, it bothers me to see an author display his name so prominently. It makes me think that he wants himself to be the center of attention instead of his book. And if there’s one thing I hate, it’s a self-centered author. I have my favorite authors just like everybody else, but when I read a book, I don’t want to be constantly reminded of the person who wrote it: I want to appreciate the book on its own, thank you very much.

What I Love in a Book Cover

1. An Object that Somehow Means Something in the Story

Take for example the cover of the first edition of To Kill a Mockingbird. That cover features a painting of a tree, with the title and above it and the author’s name below it. If you’ve read TKM, you know that this fits the story perfectly because some of the most important scenes in the book take place under a tree. Also, mockingbirds, robins, and the other types of “innocent” birds alluded to in the book live in trees, making the image even more fitting!

2. A Picture that Suggests an Earlier Event

I’m thinking specifically of this edition of C. S. Lewis’s A Grief Observed. The book deals with Lewis’s reaction to his wife’s illness and death, so by showing a vase of wilted roses (and roses symbolize love!), you get the idea of a scene that takes place after a funeral, just as this book was written after Mrs. Lewis’s death. I find that intriguing: it gives you an idea of what the book is about without being too obvious.

3. Classical Art

Because you will never find a better cover artist than Gustave Doré.

4. A Picture that Confuses You

Think the new edition of Fahrenheit 451The cover features a book that is also a book of matches! The thing that is going to destroy it is inside of it! It’s unexpected, but in a good way, which is why I like it.

What about you? What are your favorite and least favorite covers?

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