That ‘Zing’ in a Book Cover

Here comes the last post on the ‘Book Cover’ series for the A2Z challenge. I didn’t wish to write about just another book cover so here goes this post exploring some of my favourite book covers.

The little zing on the book cover holds the enthusiasm of the reader and lures them to the cash counter. They say never judge a book by its cover but who doesn’t. Undoubtedly, the attractiveness of the cover piques your interest in a book and sometimes sends it to a nosedive as well. The only exception may be the Classics. But I also falter there, looking at some of the most divine covers of the Classics; I simply cannot resist the temptation to buy.

On another note – Do you have a fetish for collecting Classics that form part of a certain book cover design series? I do but it has ended in such a soup. I have half the Classics in Collins black and white cover and the other half of the shelf in beige of the Penguin Classics. And, then Penguin decided to come up with bands-of-colour edition, similar to the white peeping through orange standard covers from its past. In a stroke, they just did away with my idea of understanding a book by its cover.

Nevertheless, before the world decides to go without book covers or exist in standardized book covers, let me talk about some of the most appealing book covers.

The first section has to be the Classics and their iconic imagery. George Orwell’s ‘1984’ is a cult and who wouldn’t agree that the first thing this title invokes is the image of the ‘eye’ in our minds. The ‘eye’ stood for Big Brother’s omniscient presence in the dystopian world. Every book cover edition has tried to incorporate this imagery.

‘The Great Gatsby’ by F.Scott Fitzgerald published in 1925 had the Spanish artist Francis Cugat’s iconic painting of a disembodied face floating above the lights of New York. In the book, they are the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg that are blue and gigantic—high on a billboard. They look out of no face, but, instead, from a pair of enormous yellow spectacles which pass over a nonexistent nose. The eyes metaphorically represent God watching and judging the society as they move across the moral wasteland.

Strangely, Fitzgerald actually saw the cover art before his manuscript was finished. The art apparently had a big influence on Fitzgerald. In a correspondence with his editor, Maxwell Perkins, Fitzgerald wrote, “For Christs sake don’t give anyone that jacket you’re saving for me. I’ve written it into the book.”

In the original dust jacket of ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ by J.D.Salinger published in 1951, illustrator E. Michael Mitchell depicted the book’s last scene with an angry, red carousel horse.

‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee was published in 1960 and featured the now iconic dying tree on the cover.

Lighthouses are inspiring, literally, and metaphorically as on the cover of the first edition of ‘To the Lighthouse’ by Virginia Woolf published in 1927. Virginia Woolf wrote this story inspired by Godrevy Lighthouse in St Ives at Cornwall, where she holidayed as a child with her family. Virginia Woolf’s sister Vanessa Bell designed the covers for her books. Bell chose to visualize the lighthouse, a symbolic object within the novel on the cover of the book. The pillar of the lighthouse stands at the center of the design, rising from swirling waves below.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë was published in 1847 under her pseudonym ‘Ellis Bell’. Emily Brontë’s name didn’t appear in the first edition and she died in 1848 just a year after it was published, at the age of 30. The first edition didn’t carry any picture and the later editions have tried to capture the old world charm and give the hostile eerie atmosphere that persists throughout the book.

Let’s talk about the Film Adaptation Covers. The film adaptation book covers are aimed at increasing sales. But, it seems dicey to me. Like ‘The Great Gatsby’ cover changed to the movie cast on the cover, sidelining the iconic work in a jiffy. These covers make me wonder if Leo Tolstoy could foresee Keira Knightley while writing ‘Anna Karenina’. Or, Emily Bronte imagining Tom Hardy to squeeze in to become the ‘dark and evil’ Heathcliff of ‘Wuthering Heights’.  

Of course, there are also those books of which I get to know after watching the film adaptations like ‘P.S. I Love You’, ‘The Fault in Our Stars’, etc. I came to know of ‘The Help’ after I saw the movie. ‘The Help’ written by Kathryn Stockett published in 2009 is about the lives of the African Americans working in the white households during the 1960s. When I looked at the first edition of the book cover of ‘The Help’, I adored it. The symbolism of birds worked beautifully. But, I am also not complaining of the cover of my copy, it is a photograph by Marion Post Wolcott Library of Congress FSA collection that I mistook for a scene from the film adaptation.

Now comes the unique book cover of ‘A House Unlocked’ by Penelope Lively. I picked this book from a book sale for the charm its cover held. There is the picture of a house in the wood engraving by Harry Brockway on the cover. There is absolutely no colour except black, bronze and silver, yet it is so appealing. A House Unlocked is an autobiographical book published in 2001. Penelope Lively writes about the house where she grew up linking it with some of the major world events. The wood engraving pictures also find a place inside the book, in between various sections.

Now coming to one of my favourite books. I was rather keen on reading ‘Moon Tiger’ by Penelope Lively as it had won the Booker Prize in 1987. But, looking at the first edition cover that depicts Egypt in an aesthetically unappealing painting, I wouldn’t have dared to buy it.  

Bringing the post to an end, there are covers where minimalist designs and iconic imagery have worked well. While there are other designs where a lot of other elements have come together to leave a mark.  

Certainly, the visual imagery on the cover is important for the book.

I am really thankful to you for reading the posts through this #A2Z challenge. Hope you would have enjoyed these posts!

21 thoughts on “That ‘Zing’ in a Book Cover

  1. Nice summarisation post. It was nice to know of the backstory behind the Gatsby book cover.

    Like you, I too feel that the large majority of post-film adaptation book covers take the soul of the book away, even though commercially the step makes sense.

    Belated congratulations on finishing the challenge.
    Best wishes for your next endeavours.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Book covers are important. Blog post titles are important. If you are promoting your blog posts, the promotion line is important. Some of my posts of this A to Z series attracted good audience. Some did not. I think Zing makes the difference. How much energy you are putting into the promotion.

    Congratulations for successful A to Z Blogging.

    This time I hope, Industrial engineering will be more familiar to A to Z bloggers.
    What is Industrial Engineering? What is its Practice in Top Global Manufacturing Companies? 26 articles

    What industrial engineers do? They continuously strive to reduce the cost of items that people love to use and thus increase its affordability to more and more people.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Loved this post so so much.❤❤
    Yes, covers plays a very important role while selecting a book.
    And you are right about cover of 1984. Whenever I hear its name, the eye made on its cover always comes to my mind.
    The Help is also in my shelf.
    Loved the cover of this last book you shared. Will check it out.
    And congratulations on completion of A to Z challenge. It was so wonderful to read your posts.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. They say not to judge a book by its cover. But you have judged covers by their books. I loved your theme and thanks to you, my TBR list increased at an alarming rate. I really enjoyed this series and you’ll be pleased to know that I have resumed reading again! 🙂 Thank you so much for this series. And congratulations on making it till the end. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. You speak my language today…. that of a designer :).

    Congratulations on the successful completion of the A to Z Challenge. I may have missed a few but I thoroughly enjoyed your series. I hope you are planning an ebook.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Really! It was so delightful to have you visit my blog and leave such wonderful words of appreciation.
      No, didn’t plan for an ebook…probably next year! Thank you so much for the support through this challenge!!


  6. Had an interesting journey with you in this series. It was nice to know the thoughts behind book covers and about books. A summary was a nice way to end the series. Will look forward to more from you. Wishing you all the best.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I had never given much thought on selection of books based on book covers but reading your posts made me rethink and I realised how I had sometimes rejected books because of their book covers. Actually the packaging does matter. Thank you for this wonderful pov. Congratulations on successfully completing A to Z and on being a great co traveller.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, these are mostly the subconscious works of our brain in judging a book by its cover. Thank you so much for visiting my blog and leaving words of appreciation through this challenge.


  8. Congratulations on successfully completing the A to Z Challenge.
    I didn’t read much of your series but this post was a delight to read- a glimpse into your personality and preferences through your favoured book covers.
    Unwittingly, the cover of a book does leave a huge impression on its readers.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. The attractiveness of the cover piques our interest in the book! I completely agree. These are some amazing books and collections you have listed here. Classics are forever. And as you rightly pointed out, their covers have a different feel altogether.

    I have so loved your posts in this series. The lovely book covers and their interesting introduction was superb. I have so many TBR books on my already long list now. Thank you Ninu for such insightful posts and your constant support through the challenge. It has been a pleasure having known you over the couple of blog challenges now. Looking forward to many more interactions.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am so thankful to you Jyoti for the continued support you showed through this challenge. I have loved your blog posts too and hope we continue our interactions in the future.


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