Covers I like and dislike

I completely disagree with ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’. That book cover was created to make you want to read that book. If that cover puts you off reading the book then it’s doing a bad job.

I agree that just because the cover is good or bad, doesn’t mean the story will be the same but with the amount of books in the world, I pick books up at the library if I think they look interesting. Pretty covers make me more likely to read the book, ugly covers make me less likely to read it.

I compiled two lists of covers that I like and don’t so I can compare the features that I think make good and bad covers.

10 covers I love


Book: Rebel of the Sands
Author: Alwyn Hamilton
Read Status: To be read
Why I like it: The colour scheme works beautifully. The mix of blues and golds is really nice and represents the desert really well with the gold being the sand and the blue being the sky. The swirling pattern around the edge really draws you in to the title and author’s name. The night sky over the city and person riding the horse is such a typical image when showing the desert but with the rest of the imagery on the cover I think it works beautifully. I love both types used. The words ‘rebel’ and ‘sand’ vary in point size, beautifully encircling ‘of the’. The gold colouring ties in beautifully to the pattern around the edge too. The type for the author’s name is a beautiful slightly serif font that stands out from the rest of the cover. I think this works wonderfully as it shows the author is not part of this world and is obviously apart from it. I think the use of full caps for both works well too because of how eye-catching it is.


Book: The Night Circus
Author: Erin Morgenstern
Read Status: Read
Why I like it: I picked up this book on a whim because I thought the cover was really nice. The man and woman passing each other in the night works so perfectly with the story, especially how they’re both surrounded by birds and stars. The slight hints of red on the cover are placed so perfectly. The girl’s scarf connecting the two figures is another nod to the plot of the book which I love. The title type reminds me of the type they would use on a poster for a circus which is why I think it fits so well. Everything about this cover is alluring and intriguing and fits perfectly with the amazing story inside.


Book: Perfume: The story of a murderer
Author: Patrick Suskind
Read Status: Read
Why I like it: The swirling intricacy of the cover illustration is a huge contributing factor as to why I love this cover. Every element of it relates to a plot point or theme in the book. The roses are all to do with how sweet they smell and capturing scent. The fact that they’re white is to do with the innocence of the girls’ Grenouille kills. The fruit is for the girl who drives Grenouille to find how to capture human scent. The skull is to do with the deaths and it being masked by the flower shows how Grenouille holds their scent over their life in terms of importance. The scissors are representative of the girls’ hair being cut. The ribbon could have several connotations. It could relate to blood or life because it is red and flowing and about to be cut by the scissors. It could also be a comment on how perfume is always dressed up and wrapped in a bow and in a pretty bottle. This cover is one of the best I have seen at showing what is in the book whilst not giving away the plot to first time readers.


Book: The Wrath and the Dawn
Author: Renee Ahdieh
Read Status: To be read
Why I like it: The red is a really nice bold tone which grabs your attention right away. The shape of the cutouts in the red are reminiscent of the shape of windows in a stereotypical palace of a Caliph. The girl seen through these holes gives you a idea of the main character without showing you her fully, allowing the reader to create their own picture of her in their head whilst still showing the importance of the character on the cover. The depth of field in this cover is what I really love about it, It makes me think there’s more to this book, its story, its characters, than meets the eye and really makes me want to read it.

Book: A series of unfortunate events
Author: Lemony Snicket
Read Status: Read multiple times
Why I like it: Brett Helquist’s illustrations are one of the things that will always remind me of my childhood. His creepy style works so well with Snicket’s writing. The UK covers of this series are beautifully eerie and black which reflects the mood of the series really well. The ghostly trees and thorns on the black background and spines add to this effect. I really love how the spine colour matches the title colour as well. I think they all just fit so wonderfully together as a series and the cover illustrations show the children’s journey throughout in a great way.

Book: The Inheritance Cycle
Author: Christopher Paolini
Read Status: Read
Why I like it: Each book in this series introduces a different dragon. Eragon is all about Eragon’s relationship to Saphira (The blue dragon). Eldest is all about rivalry between siblings and dragon riders, introducing Thorn (The red dragon). Brisingr is all about Eragon’s training, his mentor and his mentor’s dragon Glaedr (the gold dragon). And Inheritance is about fighting for the future of the dragon riders and the world the series is set in, ending with the birth of Firnin (the green dragon). John Jude Palencar manages to put across the personality of each dragon with his illustration style beautifully. Saphira is kind and loving, Thorn is menacing, Glaedr is wise and Firnin is a symbol of hope. I think each dragon sets the tone of each book before you’ve even started it which is why these covers are among my favourites.

A Darker Shade final for Irene

Book: A Darker Shade of Magic
Author: V.E.Schwab
Read Status: To be read
Why I like it: I saw this cover, not knowing anything about the book and immediately wanted to read it. Will Staehle’s cover is designed so beautifully, I just want a copy. A huge part of this book is that the protagonist jumps between different versions of London called Grey London, Red London and a few others. This cover perfectly illustrates that with several of its features. Firstly and most obviously, the illustrated character on the front is doing just that. Secondly, the author’s name and the title alternate colour on each word to further show this jumping between. The white background makes it look like the character is in the blank space between worlds. The colour scheme is bold and from what I know of the plot, fits really well. I love everything about this cover, it looks like a simple idea but it’s executed brilliantly.

Book: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
Author: Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith
Read Status: Read
Why I like it: This cover, as well as the book, is a parody of the original. It shows Elizabeth Bennett on the cover, as the original does, but following the twist on this classic, she is a zombie. Although I find the cover it’s imitating boring and dull, I really love this one because it plays on the original’s dullness and uses that to make the fact that there are zombies in this book not a big deal. It really makes you look twice at the cover because the concept sounds so ridiculous and the change is subtle enough that you could mistake it for the original. But then you read the book and realise how perfectly zombies fit into the world that Austen wrote and this cover shows that although it sounds ridiculous, it really isn’t.


Book: The Luxe series
Author: Anna Godberson
Read Status: Read
Why I like it: This series is set in 1899 Manhattan and is all about a group of fictional socialites that live there. The whole thing is about gossip and materialistic excess and I think the covers illustrate that really well. The huge flowing dresses and the cursive, gold type scream of this in a way that made me want to dive straight into this world. Each book also has the girl who is a huge focus in each one on the cover. Normally having a photo of a person on the cover on a book is a massive turn-off to me liking that cover because so many have been done awfully and have been irrelevant to the book. These covers however are an exception to this because they reflect the theme of each book, the girls on the front are accurate to their in-book description and the cover is composed in a way that means the girl herself isn’t the most important thing on it. The carefully thought out design of these covers makes them an exception to my dislike of covers with photos of people on.


Book: The city of Ember
Author: Jeanne DuPrau
Read Status: Read
Why I like it: The simplicity of this cover is one of the best things about it. This book is full of secrets and this cover gives none of them away, creating intrigue and excitement. The light bulb with the city’s name as the filament is perfect. The entire city is underground, without light bulbs, it’s completely in darkness and it can’t function at all. Without it’s filament, a light bulb can’t work. This cover perfectly shows the city’s utter dependence on light bulbs. This light bulb, like Ember, is the only thing lighting the darkness. I think this simple cover works beautifully and looking at it, I just see the question: What happens to an underground city when the lights go out?

These are just 10 of the many book covers that I love. Upon reflecting on why I like these book covers, the most common theme, especially among the ones I’ve read, is that they are relevant to the story and tie into what the book is saying.

10 covers I dislike


Book: Skulduggery Pleasant
Author: Derek Landy
Read Status: To be read
Why I dislike it: I absolutely cannot stand this cover. The type just irks me so, so much. The different weight of the letters, the kerning, the wobbly baseline, the different point sizes, everything about it just seems messy and I just don’t want to look at it. This series is one of my close friend’s favourites but I have been so put off reading it by the covers. They project the book as childish and cheesy which has turned me off to the series almost entirely. The only thing that has kept it on my to be read list is the plot description given to me by my friend.


Book: Gone
Author: Michael Grant
Read Status: Not to be read
Why I dislike it: I know almost nothing about this book, mainly because the cover never made me want to pick it up. I just find this cover doesn’t tell me anything about the story or make me want to read it. Where as the simplicity of The City of Ember’s cover makes me intrigued, this one just makes me shrug. It didn’t ever look like an interesting read so whenever I saw it on a shelf, I’d just glaze over.


Book: Goosebumps
Author: R.L.Stine
Read Status: Read some
Why I dislike it: It’s a universally acknowledged truth that the goosebumps’ covers are as cheesy as they come. I have a soft spot for cheesy horror, so that element worked in it’s favour here but I still think they’re really ugly.  The wobbly, dripping type and the clichéd illustrations make it hard to take these books seriously. I think R.L.Stine is a really good horror writer and the plots of these books were very compelling. Although I don’t like these covers, they are so ingrained in my childhood that I couldn’t imagine anything else in their place.

Book: Cat Royal series
Author: Julia Golding
Read Status: Read multiple times
Why I dislike it: The original covers for this series were absolutely gorgeous, but unfortunately, just before the last book came out, they went through two cover changes. The fact that they went from beautiful illustrations of the setting for each book with beautiful typography for the titles to these is really annoying. I first read this series when the second book was coming out in 2006 so I’d had the idea of what the protagonist, Cat, looked like in my head for 3 years when these covers came out. The main reason I hate photos of faces on covers is because it completely stops me from imagining the character in my head, especially if the photo doesn’t match the description that well. This is one of my favourite series but I will always use this cover change as an example of cover changes that were awful.


Book: The merciless
Author: Danielle Vega
Read Status: Not to be read
Why I dislike it: The colour of this book is the thing I find really off-putting about it. It’s so violently pink. I also think that the colour of the type and the logo doesn’t work well with the pink either. The colour is just to vibrant for me and makes me want to turn away because of how pink it is. This is mostly down to personal preference but I just don’t like this cover and pink is not my thing.

Book: Vampire Academy series
Author: Richelle Mead
Read Status: Read multiple times
Why I dislike it: This series has gone through 3 cover changes and I don’t like any of them. I love the series itself and Richelle Mead’s writing draws me in so much but the covers represent the compelling story really badly. The first, uses a photo of a face, which I have mentioned is a book cover pet peeve of mine, however this one looks nothing like the description of the main character, not to mention it’s a different girl on every cover representing the same character and says nothing for the plot except that the protagonist is a girl who goes to private school. The second set of covers is even less relevant to the series. The illustrations on the front have not relation to the plot at all and the blood dripping from the top corner is completely unnecessary especially as blood isn’t a big deal in the series. The third set of the covers is the most preferable but it still keeps those photos of the girls as a ghostly background. None of these covers say anything about the main themes of this book which are love, duty and friendship.


Book: Beautiful Creatures
Author: Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl
Read Status: Not to be read
Why I dislike it: There’s something about the title type that I really don’t like. I find it quite difficult and confusing to read. It’s also a very ambiguous cover. With a negative of a forest and swirly type, I would guess that it’s some kind of paranormal romance but it seems very run-of-the-mill and like there’s nothing that really sets this book apart from the vast amount of YA paranormal romance in the world. This book seems like it would be full of tired clichés and it doesn’t appeal to me.


Book: Outlander
Author: Diana Gabaldon
Read Status: To be read
Why I dislike it: The blue and the orange together is something I’m not a fan of. I think they clash and look quite garish. Although I haven’t read Outlander, I know a bit about the story and it sounds really interesting but this cover doesn’t entice me to read it at all. It just looks like a medieval historical romance and there’s nothing to hint at the science fiction element of it. I find this really disappointing because I think if more people could glance at the cover and realise it had science fiction elements, it would be more popular.


Book: The mortal instruments series
Author: Cassandra Clare
Read Status: Read City of bones, the rest to be read
Why I dislike it: This is another series where they put their main characters on the cover and gave me preconceptions of what they’re like. Other than that, I think the covers look fine, I like the type for the titles apart from the ‘of’ being underlined, that I don’t quite get.


Book: Divergent series
Author: Veronica Roth
Read Status: Divergent and Allegiant read
Why I dislike it: Although I like the covers for this series for the most part, the thing that puts me off about them is the symbols. I can’t see any relevance to the book. Although they are very aesthetically pleasing, they don’t tell me much about the series. There’s a skyline of Tris’s Chicago which is, of course, relevant but it comes second to the massive symbols on the cover. I find them very misleading and would have liked them to tell me more about the world or faction system.

Looking at the elements of book covers I don’t like has helped me think about what to avoid when making my books. Photos of people, badly used typography and dull or irrelevant imagery are three of the things most likely to make me dislike a cover.

 I think that researching these covers has made me think about cover design in a lot more detail and the conclusions I have drawn about what makes me like or dislike a cover will inform my work going forward.


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