My apologies for invoking one of the oldest cliches in the book, but: they say you can’t judge a book by its cover. We all know, however, that it’s a lot easier to do so, which is why so much money goes into the design of cover art. While we’ve already provided our lists of the best books of the year, let’s celebrate the best cover designs, as well. After all, these covers played a major part in what we chose to pick up this year.
Winger, Andrew Smith
One glimpse at the poor roughed-up young man on Smith’s novel tells you everything you need to know about Winger: it’s going to be an unapologetic take on teenage life. Luckily for us, Winger was also pretty damn funny and inventive.
Tampa, Alissa Nutting
You can’t tell from a .JPG, but Nutting’s controversial, provocative novel about pedophelia boasted a fuzzy dust jacket, putting the reader ill at ease long before they cracked the first page.
The Astronaut Wives Club, Lily Koppel
Nostalgia sells, and we saw a lot of memory-baiting book covers this year, but Koppel’s look at the women who watched from home as their husbands ventured into space gives insight into the families affected by the missions, and the cover highlights the women’s essential roles in space exploration.
The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt
Was The Goldfinch the most Instagrammed book cover of the year? Possibly. That illustrated tear looks like the real thing when you put it through the Valencia filter.
The Dinner, Herman Koch
The title and the cover of this book say it all: something terrible will be served on the table in Herman Koch’s international bestseller.
Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Perish, David Rakoff
Rakoff’s final book (and first novel) was written entirely in verse, and its cover is equally beautiful, heartbreaking, and poetic.
The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P., Adelle Waldman
Waldman’s debut novel features a lovely cover that incites the mentality of classic comedies of manners in the vein of Jane Austen, while being still incredibly modern and, dare I say it, very Brooklyn.
In the House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods, Matt Bell
A blunt, colorful design will always grab a reader’s eye, and Bell’s novel and its mythical, mystical themes perfectly compliment its hauntingly stark cover art.
Monsters: The 1985 Chicago Bears and the Wild Heart of Football, Rich Cohen
There was much more to the 1985 Chicago Bears than “The Super Bowl Shuffle,” and Cohen’s book about the Monsters of the Midway has a glorious cover that only teases to some of those titanic accomplishments.
Little Known Facts, Christine Sneed
Sneed’s debut novel is a multi-layered story featuring, at its center, a George Clooney-type A-list actor. The cover offers a gorgeous shot of the Hollywood Hills, offering a familiar look of Los Angeles and the familiar sense that all that glitters isn’t gold.
September Girls, Bennett Madison
Madison’s coming-of-age novel is a modern fairy tale, and you’d definitely get that sense from the lovely, dreamy cover art.
Night Terrors: Sex, Puberty, and Other Alarming Things, Ashley Cardiff
Cardiff’s hilarious collection of personal essay received a charmingly brash cover art. It’s as clever and off-putting as most of the stories between the covers.
The US version may have gone for the standard glossy celebrity memoir cover, but the UK version caused quite a stir when Moz’s autobiography was published as a Penguin Classic. But aesthetically, could it be any other way?
The Interestings, Meg Wolitzer
A simple, eye-catching design is sometimes enough to make a great book stand out on a shelf.
The Stud Book, Monica Drake
I can’t imagine what this one could be about, can you?