Look, I’m no design expert. But I’ve talked to enough designers to know one thing: it’s hard to create a cover for a bad book. And, knowing good books from bad, it just happens that I come across a variety of excellent cover designs in a given year. Here are the best of the best from 2014.
Karate Chop, Dorthe Nors (design by Carol Hayes)
Text: karate chopped.
The Intervals of Cinema, Jacques Rancière (design by Jessica Svendsen)
Screen captures, interval’d.
A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing, Eimear McBride (design by W. H. Chong)
On of the best novels of 2014 gets one of the best covers of 2014. And this design is part one of what I’ll call “shape creature” — a design you’ll see on the next two covers.
Your Face in Mine, Jess Row (design by Oliver Munday)
Shape creature #2.
The Book of Heaven, Patricia Storace (design by Linda Huang)
Shape creature #3.
The Big Green Tent by Ludmila Ulitskaya (design by Devin Washburn)
A big green tent made of text and shapes for The Big Green Tent.
The Iceland, Sakutaro Hagiwara (design by Office of Paul Sahre)
This Japanese modernist master had more than one great design in 2014 (see NYRB Classics), but this was his best.
A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall, Will Chancellor (design by Richard Ljoenes)
A great debut novel receives a stellar cover. The text conveys the “height” evoked by the title.
Euphoria, Lily King (design by Chin Yee Lai)
Another great cover for a great book. The excess of texture and color suits the title.
Leaving the Sea, Ben Marcus (design by Peter Mendelsund)
This cover syncs with the cover of Marcus’ The Flame Alphabet, by the same designer.
On Such a Full Sea, Chang-Rae Lee (design by Helen Yentus)
A cover that satisfies the first order definition of surrealism: put two things together that don’t belong — the sea and a head of hair.
Silence Once Begun, Jesse Ball (design by Peter Mendelsund)
One of my favorites of 2014, this cover breathes life into two boring designs: the strike-thru and the “a novel” tag.
Wittgenstein Jr., Lars Iyers (design by Christopher Brian King)
A funny-serious novel gets a funny-weird cover. Wittgenstein will give you a hug?
Belzhar, Meg Wolitzer (design by Kristin Smith)
This is sort of a 21st century Walker Evans layout with but letters pasted over it. It works beautifully.
Forever by Judy Blume (design by Lizzy Bromley)
Why does a Judy Blume reissue have one of the more adult covers of 2014? It suggests that many designers need to cool it with the illustrations. [But this is the SEX one! – Judy Blume Ed.]
Into the Grey, Celine Kiernan (design by Matt Roeser)
It accidentally looks like a spy novel cover. And it hits its stride as a loose-enough pun. (Grey matter.)
Broken Monsters, Lauren Beukes (design by Keith Hayes)
While the other covers for this book are truly terrible, this one would make an okay album cover, which is saying a lot.
The Corpse Exhibition by Hassan Blasim (design by Jason Ramirez)
White on black on black. There wasn’t enough of this in 2014.
Never Love a Gambler, Keith Ridgway (design by Rachel Adam)
I’ve never seen dice rendered this way. Widely celebrated as one of the best designs of 2014, and it should be.
The Trace, Forrest Gander (design by New Directions)
I can’t figure out exactly who designed this unbelievably suggestive cover, which melds gunshot bodies and a border landscape with aplomb, but as soon as I do I’ll update this list.
Can’t and Won’t, Lydia Davis (design by Charlotte Strick)
Book design in 2014 was largely about new shape formations and approaches to minimalism, but sometimes the old stuff works.
All Our Names, Dinaw Mengestu (design by Isabel Urbina Peña)
A suggestive approach to strike-thru that would easily make me look inside this book.
The Book of Strange New Things, Michel Faber (art direction and design Rafi Romaya; illustration Yehrin Tong)
An act of golden, calligraphic decadence, even the advanced copies of Faber’s book were beautiful. They settled on this pointillist tear drop.
The Author and Me, Eric Chevillard (design by Dalkey Archive)
Again, I’m not sure exactly who designed this, but it’s simple, funny, and it chimes with the tone of the book, which is one of the most hilarious novels I’ve ever read.
Citizen, Claudia Rankine (design by John Lucas)
My book of the year. A hood torn from its body: perhaps the single metonymic image most evocative of American suffering in 2014.