Eight Great Books You Can Judge By Their Covers

Ransom Riggs' Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Never judge a book by its cover…unless it’s a really, really good cover. In which case, definitely pick it up. Maybe take it home with you, after you buy it a nice drink. Even if the interior doesn’t match the drapes, the experience won’t be a wash: that typography is spectacular, and the illustration svelte. The allure of a good cover crosses genres—already this summer, we’ve seen the gorgeous and evocative treatment of Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and, in the nonfiction aisle, the smiling veneer of Mark Leibovich’s Washington-skewering This Town: Two Parties and a Funeral—Plus Plenty of Valet Parking!—in America’s Gilded Capital. And over with the crimes, the newly unmasked Robert Gailbraith, aka J.K. Rowling, best-seller, The Cuckoo’s Callingtrumpets a striking and unusual design. Here are but a few of the covers that have slapped me in the face, forcing me to pick them up off the shelves—and why I’m glad that I did.

Sacré Bleu: A Comedy d’Art, by Christopher Moore. With another author in another time, this outlandish cover might not work. But we’re talking about a book by Christopher “Audacious Premise” Moore, and this story, set immediately after Vincent Van Gogh’s death, features Henri Toulouse-Lautrec and that femme fatale, the color blue. Oui, oui, the shoe fits.

The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. On three separate occasions I found myself staring back at The Shadow of the Wind, in its place on a table of recently released books. I was always intrigued and on the verge of picking it up…and finally, on my fourth encounter with this ominous, gothic cover, I caved and took it home. Let me tell you: Beauty may be skin deep, but the this tale of intrigue and unabashed book-porn was as compelling as its casing.

The Brief History of the Dead, by Kevin Brockmeier. It’s easy to love a book cover that doubles as an optical illusion, but in this case the design fits perfectly with Brockmeier’s story of the place and people suspended between life and death.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs. Few books rely on image as heavily as Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, which incorporates a series of creepily intriguing black-and-white photos into its plot. It’s also a scientific fact that children in old-timey photos are very nearly as heebie-jeebie-inducing as the Shining twins.

Alice I Have Been, by Melanie Benjamin. Benjamin’s portrait of the story behind Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is at times heart-rending, but always fascinating. It’s a story of childhood and one well-suited to the somewhat playful half-and-half cover.

Tunneling to the Center of the Earth, by Kevin Wilson. Wilson’s short stories brim with characters who “do not fit correctly in the spaces available to them.” From a Scrabble factory to the struggles of a rent-a-grandma participant, Wilson dissects these oddballs to see what makes them tick. The book’s simple cover, with its elegantly deployed white space, perfectly fits its contents.

Eating the Dinosaur, by Chuck Klosterman. To be honest, any book with a dinosaur on the cover is doing something right. The only real way to describe the design here is to say it’s, well, Klosterman-y. This is a good thing.

Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline. This book’s other, Space Invaders-themed cover is also brilliant and apropos, but this version’s artful depiction of the Stacks—the sky-high trailer park our protagonist seeks to escape—sets the scene for this geeky, game-ophile opus beautifully.

Have you ever bought a book because of its cover?

  • Spark Letts

    Yes, that is how I chose the book “The Faerie Path” by Frewin Jones. and it was a good read too. ;)

  • http://www.goodreads.com/joeleoj Joel Cunningham

    Love Minus Eighty by Will McIntosh has a wonderful cover that you really have to see in person. A thing piece of tissue paper forms half of a two-piece cover that fits the book’s theme of people being cryogenically frozen perfectly.

  • jessica Lincoln
  • Ashley Elizabeth Suaird

    That’s how I found my love of Historical Fiction … I saved up the money to buy Philippa Gregory’s The Queen’s Fool b/c the cover was SO intruiging to me … ^_^ been in love w/ her books ever since!!!

  • engarde

    Yes, in fact, I have purchased books solely for their covers! I have to say that as much as I applaud you for writing an article where you celebrate books with great covers and interiors, it’s too bad that you fail to mention the wonderful artists who created them.

  • Odysseus

    Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

  • RuthAnn Singer Schmidt

    Yes, of course, over and over and over again! I remember choosing Little Golden Books because of their covers!! Sometimes I think it is certain authors that have more ‘attractive’ covers; other times I think it has to do with the mood I’m in when I’m book shopping; one thing for certain – I always manage to buy the ones that catch my eye at least twice!

  • Melanie Rollins Whetten

    Beside the Burning Sea by John Shors – Fabulous cover and even better book!

  • jburke

    I know I have done this also and been pleasantly surprised – one was
    Whistling In the Dark
    by
    Lesley Kagen and it was great!!

    • Lorene Greynolds Conklin

      One of my all time favorites!

  • Amanda

    That’s why I want the complete barnes and noble leatherbound classics!

  • Mandy Eve-Barnett

    Just finished Miss Peregrine – fabulous story. Intrigued me all the way through.

  • KAMGlou

    I love Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children…I was hoping that there would another book…i just couldn’t book it down…

  • KAMGlou

    The Shadow of the Wind …I have gotten my hands on almost every book that Carlos Ruiz Zafon has written..I read the Wind every year since I purchased it in 2010…one of the best books ever…hmm, due to read it again this September.

  • Tess

    I have to disagree on Alice I Have Been…I bought a copy cheap at a sidewalk sale, then tried reading it. Took me a month to finish, I finally got through it towards the end of a ten-hour train ride…