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Cool New Poetry Book Covers

posted June 10, 2010

Posted by Anne Healey in book design poetry

What is it with poetry book covers? They’re so often boring or ugly. I think a major reason for the ugly ones is simply that small presses can’t afford to hire a proper designer. And there’s an understandable concern about overinterpreting the poetry itself. Also, there’s a general idea that the cover must be staid in order to convey the seriousness of the book’s contents. But so many poetry books seem to be saying glumly, “Oh, don’t mind me, I’m poetry. You’re probably not going to like me unless you already know me. I don’t blame you. I’m kind of boring.”

Come on, poetry books! Don’t be so modest. You’re too beautiful to sit around in that frumpy old bathrobe. Here are a few looks you could try on!

book cover for Shot by Christine Hume Book cover for The Crow's Vow by Susan Briscoe

Fancy Beasts, by Alex Lemon book cover Book cover for Wait: Poems by C.K. Williams

Book cover for The Plot Genie by Gillian Conoley Book cover for Lucifer at the Starlite: Poems by Kim Addonizio

Christine Hume, Shot; Counterpath Press, 2009

Susan Briscoe, The Crow’s Vow; Signal, 2010

Alex Lemon, Fancy Beasts; Milkweed Editions, 2010; Cover and interior design by Christian Fuenfhausen

C.K. Williams, Wait; Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010

Gillian Conoley, The Plot Genie; Omnidawn Publishing, 2009

Kim Addonizio, Lucifer at the Starlite; W.W. Norton & Company, 2009

Crimes of the Art

posted April 26, 2010

Posted by Anne Healey in book design

Norwegian artist Gardar Eide Einarsson’s new show at Team Gallery in New York consists of a series of large black-and-white paintings based on appropriated images. One source image, it turns out, is a book design by Peter Mendelsund, a fact that did not go unnoticed by Mendelsund himself. He wrote about it on his blog Jacket Mechanical, pointing out that the image is not, as the gallery’s statement says, in the public domain. 

Mendelsund’s not alone. Last year Einarsson showed a set of similar paintings that appropriate Camus book covers designed by Helen Yentus

Einarsson 2009

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Why NOT Judge a Book by Its Cover?

posted November 17, 2009

Posted by Mariko Fujinaka in Bookselling book design books publishing

From an early age we are warned not to judge a book by its cover, but now that I am an adult, I question this advice. Why can’t we judge a book by the cover? Isn’t that why new books are displayed face out, to capture one’s attention? Why are book designers and illustrators paid good money to create attractive covers if they don’t matter? Now there are certain books I will buy no matter what the cover is, but with undiscovered authors when I am wandering aimlessly through a bookstore? Something needs to catch my eye, and an ugly or boring cover isn’t going to do it.

So let’s conduct a little experiment here. Following are four covers for the same book, Chinua Achebe’s seminal Things Fall Apart.


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Feedbooks Shows Free E-books Can Have Nice Covers

posted October 19, 2009

Posted by Anne Healey in E-books book design

I started reading books on my iPod Touch a couple of months ago. One of the first things I downloaded (for Stanza) was a free version of The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, which I’d never read before. That started me on a Wells kick, so I downloaded Tales of Space and Time. I also enjoyed that a lot. But the book cover used (from Project Gutenberg) was so ugly (below, left) it kind of bummed me out every time I caught a glimpse of it! But I figured that was just what you get with free books.

I discovered recently, however, that Feedbooks (one of the 13 collections offered on Stanza) generally chooses more attractive covers for their public-domain books. Below on the right is the cover that Feedbooks uses for the same work. Much easier on the eyes, in my opinion. I think it’s the cover for the first American edition, but I’m not positive.


IMG_0011_2      IMG_0059


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Faber Poetry Typographical Covers

posted September 25, 2009

Posted by Anne Healey in book design


Oswald woodssassoon2lairdlarkingreenlawheaney beowulfde la maremackinnon-jc


I love these Faber and Faber Poetry books, designed by Justus Oehler of Pentagram. This series uses color so beautifully, setting up the rule of three colors (one for the background, one for the title, and one for the author) and then playing with the way the colors complement or contrast with each other. The color combinations vary from vibrant contrasts—like lavender and yellow on greenish blue—to three shades of purple. The size of the text depends on what fits on the page. So Lachlan Mackinnon is never going to have big text, but Alice Oswald can. They also have a tactile feel, being printed on textured, uncoated paper.

And then they break the rule slightly for this one, befitting the wonderfully weird title:




I was collecting some images of these myself and admiring the way they look next to each other, and then I discovered that Faber Books has put together a Flickr set of them! Check it out.

This is also a clever tie-in: get a Faber Poetry poem-a-week widget for your blog or Facebook profile here: I just added it to my Facebook profile.



And there’s yet another tie-in: mugs and playing cards. For when you need to buy a gift for the poetry reader in your life, I guess. You could buy them an actual book, but who knows what they already own, right? Or perhaps you’re looking for a present for someone who is generally literary but might be bummed out if you just gave them a book. It’s too bad they had to pick the three most recognizable names (Eliot, Plath, Heaney—the fourth was clearly chosen because it mentions cocoa). I might have actually bought a mug that said “Ooga-Booga” or “Hare Soup.” I would definitely wear a T-shirt bearing the title “Tyrannosaurus Rex Versus the Corduroy Kid.”

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