Being a bookseller means looking at hundreds (maybe even thousands) of book covers over the course of the year and, when you’ve been a bookseller as long as I have (which is almost twelve years now), you’re bound to develop opinions and tastes when it comes to book covers. So I started a Pinterest board to collect some of the covers that I thought were most successful. At time of writing I’ve shared my thoughts on almost 150 different book covers. So, I thought it would be fun to compile a couple of top ten lists; one from Pinterest interactions and one of my own favorites. So, to give this a super click-baity title, here are: The Ten Best Book Covers of All Time!!!!
These are the top ten pins with the most repins and favorites. The number one might surprise you.
10. A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea
8. From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant
6. Joseph Anton
My Own Top 10
And now, here are my own, opinion-based, data-ignoring, idiosyncratic top 10 covers of all time. (There will be some overlap because folks on Pinterest have good taste.)
Is there anything more fun than looking through different covers of classic books? No, there is not. This one is particularly brilliant as The Master & Margarita is essentially 2 books.
Silhouette! Bear! Tea Pot! If you could turn something up to "Eleven" with subtlety, this is how you'd do it. Design & illustration by Roberto de Vicq de Cumptich
8. End of the World in Breslau
How do you say "super dark Eastern European noir" with just a simple image and three colors? This. This is how you do that.
There's always something...off about Kelly Link's stories, and that's what makes them so compelling. For a moment you feel like you recognize the world you're in and then that recognition is destroyed. This cover perfectly captures that compelling "offness."
This has been one of my favorite covers since it first came out. Beautiful, narrative, & intriguing. Almost want a poster of this cover. Illustration by Jillian Tamaki, design by Chad Beckerman
Non-fiction covers are supposed to give a solid sense of the topic of the book, without giving away the whole story. The brilliance of this cover is it makes you hear those four notes & then wonder what there is to know about them. Designed by Peter Mendelsund
If there were a prize for best new cover for a really old book, this Wealth of Nations cover would win. Beautiful woodcut plus the "invisible hand of the market" conveys the grandeur & core of the book. Design by Emily Mahon, woodblock by Ray Morimura
This cover rules. Yes. That is all. That is how much it rules.
2. The Trace
This is one helluva cover. Direct and eye-catching, while being evocative of a landscape and mysterious all at the same time. And the sunset spilling as blood over the boot! Just brilliant. Perhaps my favorite cover of the year.
I realize that I am something of a Ulysses fanboy and also something of a Peter Mendelsund fanboy, but still, this an absolutely perfect cover. Because it is just text across a solid Irish-sea-green contorted to highlight the word “yes,” it basically is able to summarize one of the most important, most complex, and most expansive novels of the twentieth century.