Top Ten Tuesday: Redesigning Book Covers

The Broke and the Bookish, a brilliant book blog, 
hosts a weekly top ten list meme.

I like this meme because I like lists. I like this meme because it reminds me of the Top 5 lists from High Fidelity (by Nick Hornby as a book, starring John Cusak as a movie). And I like this meme because it causes me to think long and hard about book-related topics. So here goes:

Top Ten Book Covers I Wish I Could Redesign

1. First and foremost, one of my favorite books of all time: A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton-Porter. 

Let’s take a look at some of the horrendous covers this book has been saddled with over time (to the left & right):


Now let’s take a look at the cover I redesigned for it in a class in grad school (thanks to the incomparable Sandy Littell for her design and technical expertise/assistance!):

 Wouldn’t you pick up a book with a beautiful cover like that?!? (Click to enlarge.)

This one is actually my favorite book of all time: Scarlett by Alexandra Ripley. This is the only book cover this book has ever had, and while I’m impressed it was originally a NYTimes bestseller (when it was first published in 1991), the book would definitely have benefited from a cover redesign when it was re-released in 2010.

Honestly, other than those two, I don’t have many covers I would redesign. Instead, I’ll bring up other cover thoughts to make it to my 10 books.

3. Biggest personal disappointment with a series repackaging: Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, illustrated by Keith Thompson. Love the original cover with the steampunk gears and the raised, embossed feel of the cover; dislike the rebranding with the character’s face on the front.

4. If it’s a book for a woman, it must have pink on the cover. I think that’s a not-so-subtle industry motto. Here’s the biggest example: Knock Yourself Up: A Tell-All Guide to Becoming a Single Mom by Louise Sloan. As a potential single mother by choice, I was really inspired by this book, and appreciate the stories, advice, and down-to-earth approach to an incredibly difficult life choice. However, did the cover have to be bright, freaking, hot pink? I understand most men would not be drawn to this book in the first place, but much like there isn’t one type of motherhood for women, why does there need to be this stereotypical gendered pink cover? If you’re going to publish a thought-provoking book about choosing single motherhood, why not continue that outside-the-box thinking with a well-designed, original, cover? Humph.

Now I will switch to discussing some book covers I absolutely adore.

First, a mini-ode to Penguin Group.

5. Penguin Inks. Penguin really does have one of the best design departments in the industry, in my humble opinion, warring closely with Chronicle Books in San Francisco. Their Penguin Inks series is inspired – hire tattoo artists and artists who create tattoo-like art to redesign selected paperback fiction covers. Click here to read more about the collection at the Penguin Ink website.

6. Penguin Classics: Couture Classics. Another genius idea to jazz up the classics to reach a wider audience. What teenager could resist this Wuthering Heights? All the covers are designed by Cuban-born artist and fashion designer Ruben Toledo. To read more about him, go here and here. To see the entire collection, click here.

7. Penguin Classics: Hardcover Classics.
The talented Coralie Bickford-Smith, senior cover designer at Penguin, is the creator of the gorgeous patterned linen cloth covers in the hardcover classics series. Forget the matching red leather spines, imagine a whole set of these on your bookshelf. Read more about the series here.

8. As I mentioned Chronicle earlier, it would be remiss of me not to highlight some of their books. A recent favorite of mine is Prisoners in the Palace by Michaela MacColl. Though I’ve seen it in person, I’ve yet to get my hands on a copy to read, so I can’t speak to the writing yet (though I suspect it’s great). Normally I’m not one of those “Ooh, shiny!” types of people, but the Andy Warhol-esque pop art cover completely grabbed me. Unfortunately, I’m having trouble uploading a picture, so click on the title to take you to the Chronicle webpage.

I think I’ll stop there, as I haven’t completely followed today’s “assignment” anyway. Enjoy.

8 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday: Redesigning Book Covers

  1. Wow. This is my new favorite website. I am so so so happy to have stumbled upon this!(Would have made this comment a few minutes ago, but got lost drooling over your book porn…)

  2. Yea, the whole "It's for women, so make it PINK!" thing is a pretty big theme these days. Nice addition to your list. 🙂

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