Judging Books by Covers

Books are meant to be read, and not just displayed for their good looks. But I’ve got to admit, when going book shopping, I look at the covers. Call me shallow, but after the author, a book’s cover design is the major factor in my purchase decisions.

In a roomful of books, the only way to not be overwhelmed by the sheer number of options is to breathe in the smell of paper and ink, go into a new age-y state of consciousness, and let the books call out to me. And how else can they call out except visually—using the language of colors, photography, typography, illustration, layout.


I like colors. I’m a kid like that. It’s no wonder then that I own a lot of children’s books, most of them acquired long after my official “childhood” has ended.

Cover illustration by Beth Parrocha-Doctolero

Photography and Illustration

I’m also a sucker for stunning images. Take this cover of George Orwell’s 1984. I was attracted by the dark circle nestled in the fuzzy blue one, against that expanse of white—up until I realized that it was an eye, and then it was ominously creepy, but still stunning.

That eye is creepy.


An awesome title would be a waste if it can’t be seen from a few meters away. The creative use of typography can capitalize on a word such as Swerve or Blindness, and make the book all the more grab-able.

Cover design by Adam Laszczuk

Here are a few other striking book covers I found around the web.

Image from the author's website

Cover design by Samantha Wall

Design by Lucy Ruth Cummins, photography by James Porto

A zombified portrait by William Beechley makes for a quirky, irreverent cover for a quirky, irreverent book. Cover design by Bridgeman Art Library, Ltd., and Doogie Horner.

Cover art by W.H. Chong

Cover design by Jon Gray

One Response to Judging Books by Covers

  1. Midori Tanaka says:

    I’m with you – I love cover art! McSweeney’s Publishing are champions of bringing beauty and creativity to all the works they publish.

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