25 Best Book Covers for Your Inspiration

„When we read a story, we inhabit it. The covers of the book are like a roof and four walls. What is to happen next will take place within the four walls of the story. And this is possible because the story’s voice makes everything its own.” – John Berger

We’ve all heard and said the phrase „don’t judge a book by its covers” a thousand times too many by now. Sure, it’s a noble ideal when it comes to people, but when it comes to books, as it turns out, not only is it not completely impossible to accomplish, but it’s also not desirable to act in this way.

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In fact, the best books are those that have the best covers. And you can tell what kind of book it is just by looking at its cover. As it turns out, most books that are serious and deal with serious issues have stern, austere kind of cover. Fantasy novels have different covers from science-fiction and from 19th century classics. It’s just the way books are made.

And, more often than not, you’ll find that a book whose cover looks terrible (and not because it’s been mishandled, but because it was just poorly designed) isn’t all that great either.

The book cover – that most underrated of arts! It is truly the sign of a great artist to come up with a cover that is not only visually appealing, but timeless and that sums up the essence of the book in one image, while keeping in mind the conventions of the genre. As it turns out, while an image is worth a thousand words, a thousand words isn’t a lot if you’re trying to describe the essence of a book, no matter how long or short the book itself may be.

As a designer, this is your job. A job that most readers of the book will just take for granted and won’t stop to appreciate unless it’s truly outstanding or just really really bad. Either way, just doing a good job tends to go unnoticed by the readers of the book, who are, obviously, way more interested in the contents of said book than in the cover.

Nevertheless, while it’s a thankless job, so much of design is. From desktop publishing to product design, these things tend to be forgotten by the end user. But that’s alright, because other designers will be the first to look at them. Also, doing these things well is a reward in itself, as you know how important it is that a book have a good cover.

Now, since we’ve established how important the book cover is, we can move on to the main focus of this article, which is the fact that we’ve gone ahead and selected our favorite 25 book covers we ran into in 2013, broken them down into categories and taken a look at what makes them so good and so appealing, so you don’t have to.

We’ve done this because, while most people will just tell you to get your design inspiration from anywhere you can (and as many different places as possible, for that matter), we believe that the most important place to get inspiration is what other people in the medium are doing. Was it not the post-structuralist Jacques Derrida who taught us that everything is, ultimately, meta-text?

Just sit back and scroll down in order to see our top picks in order to be prepared when designing your own book covers in the year 2014!

Geometric Covers

Geometry is always an excellent option in design. Done well, a geometric design can be spectacular, all the while not being too crowded or too aired out. With geometric book designs, you can’t go wrong, whether the book is modern fiction, science fiction or post-nietzschean philosophy.

1. Exile & The Kingdom by Albert Camus


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2. Uncommon Sense: Economic Insights, from Marriage to Terrorism by Gary S. Becker & Richard A. Posner


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3. The Humbling by Philip Roth


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4. Epilogue by Anne Roiphe


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5. The Future of an Illusion by Sigmund Freud


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6. Eon by Greag Bear


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7.  The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus


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8. Century Rain by Alastair Reynolds


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Typographic Covers

It should come as no surprise that one of the most important schools of book cover design has always been one that places much emphasis on typography. After all, the written word is the one thing all books have in common, and typography is, much like calligraphy, the art of the written word, not necessarily in content, but above all, in its visual aspect. The following few covers are incredible designs based solely on typography.

1. From Square One by Dean Olsher


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2. Eight Weeks of Bruce by Maya Contreras


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3. Man Alone With Himself by Friederich Nietzsche


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4. The American Civil War by John Keegan


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5. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer


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6. Then We Came To The End by Joshua Ferris


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7. Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer


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8. Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection by John T. Cacioppo & William Patrick


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Photo-based Book Covers

This brings us to perhaps the most common type of book cover, the photography-based one. Don’t be fooled though! The fact that it’s extremely popular doesn’t mean it’s also extremely easy to get right. In fact, the photo cover is one of those things that take a lot of thought and practice in order to get right. So, without further ado, here are some of our favorite photographic book covers!

1. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls


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2. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway


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3. The Devil in the Details by Jennifer Traig


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4. The Lotus Eaters  by Tatjana Soli


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Illustrated Covers

While we love the photographic book cover, there is much to be said for the illustrated one. For one thing, it can much easier capture the books’ essence than its photographic counterpart and, for another, it can generate absolutely jaw-dropping effects when pulled off well. Here, we’ll show you what we mean!

1. The Chess Machine by Robert Löhr


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2. Raising the Perfect Child through Guild and Manipulation by Elizabeth Beckwith


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3. Hunger by Knut Hamsun


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4. Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple


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5. Junky by William S. Burroughs


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So that pretty much wraps up our look into the book cover, why it’s awesome and our list into our favorite 25 book covers that we’ve seen last year. What are your favorite book covers? What do you think makes a great cover? Don’t hesitate to let us know by leaving us a message in the comments section below!

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