The Best Book Covers of 2012, As Chosen by Our Favorite Book Cover Designers

Peter Mendelsund

Men in Space, designed by John Gall

John Gall for Tom McCarthy’s Men in Space (Vintage Books). John Gall is a master of many types of design: he makes many of his amazing jackets by hand, and is an accomplished collagist… but, for me, his true genius is on display in the type-on-a-photo school of design as seen above. He does a beautiful job here of representing the disoriented anomie of McCarthy’s writing. And his design scheme works brilliantly cross-platform! (Increasingly important)

NW, designed by Darren Haggar

Simple, simple, simple. Confident, and beautiful. What more needs be said? NW by Zadie Smith, designed by Darren Haggar, art director at Penguin Press with Tal Goretsky, art director of Scribner’s. Publisher is also to be congratulated here on allowing less to be more.

Watergate, designed by Paul Sahre

Paul Sahre, my number one favorite living book designer, gets at the heart of the matter here with this sinister, ingenuous cover for Thomas Mallon’s Watergate. This jacket takes beautiful advantage of the drama inherent in book jackets wrapping on top of, and hiding, the books themselves. On the jacket is a phone receiver, beautifully stylized and die cut, and on the book, the metallic silver bug. (Full disclosure: this book was designed for Pantheon Books, which is one of the houses I also art direct. I thought about not including Paul’s jacket on this list for this reason, but it’s too damned good to leave out.)

Nineteen Eighty-Four, designed by David Pearson

Technically, this one is 2013, but it’s to be printed, JUST OVER THE LINE, in the first week of 2013. So screw it: David Pearson’s magnificently cheeky 1984, for Penguin UK. The abstract beauty of redaction. Black foil covering the title and author name. This is the 1984 I want on my shelf forever.

Hawthorn & Child, designed by Tom Darracott

While we are in Britain: Really impressed by this cover by Tom Darracott for Hawthorn & Child, for Granta Books. It is simply so bizarre and compelling. What the hell does it mean? What even is it? Who cares!