Judge These Books by Their Covers

Even before I could make sense of the words, my mom or dad was reading to me. In the intervening years, I’ve certainly not slowed down. One eternal fact about me is that I love to read.

One of my favorite things about books (aside from what the words are in the books) is a well made design. There is something about holding a book with an invocation cover that seems to increase the power of the book itself. Below are my top five favorite books (as of right now and subject to change) and favorite book covers.

1) 1984 by George Orwell

I’ve read 1984 at least five times since I first came to it in high school. There have been countless words spilled about the nature of the book’s prophecy of government surveillance, so I won’t rehash those points. I will say that 1984 is one of the most complete books that I’ve ever read.


There are a lot of great covers that have been used throughout the years, but I love how the text works on this one. The uniform nature of the state sponsored slogans works in great contrast to the handwritten and panicked nature of the blasphemy on the back.

2) The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale ranks up there in respect to my all time favorite books. I read this first early on in high school and have thought about it in some respect or another from then on. Atwood is one of those rare writers that can tap into some serious depths of the human condition and still write an amazing and accessible book.


I like this particular cover for the overall feeling of solitude and captivity it creates, two themes that are constant throughout the book. It evokes a feeling of loneliness and dread, yet remains strangely aloof all at the same time.

3) Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Vonnegut introduced me to metafiction, and, perhaps more importantly, introduced me to what really good metafiction can accomplish. Like all great books, Slaughterhouse Five is hardly about what it is about. The story of Billy Pilgrim’s journey through time and space is only the beginning as Vonnegut struggles to tell the story that he had for so long been unable to approach.


I love that this cover is a bit complex as well. I like how the city doubles as an army helmet and that the words are a bit disjointed on the bombs. I especially like how the Jr. is way out of place at the top.

4) A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories by Flannery O’Connor

Flannery O’Conner is two important things: an amazing short story writer, and a Georgia native. The Southern tradition for good writing is pretty stacked, so having one of the greats from my home state is pretty awesome.


I love that this cover hits so much of what makes O’Connor O’Connor. From the somewhat traditional long dress to the peacock feathers, it all works. Bonus points for the fact that her shirt design is the same as the feathers.

5) New Selected Poems by Edwin Morgan

It’s in Morgan’s poems that I find the best of what poetry can be. At times heartfelt and lovely and at others irreverent, Morgan does a wonderful job of capturing what it is to be Scottish. The trick that he pulls off so well is to have his readers feel as a part of his world as he is.

Edwin Morgan

The illustration, a “droll Caricature” of Scotland, was somewhat common in the late 1700s when it was published. It is clearly an unflattering look at the country and was certainly meant to insinuate certain things about Scotland. Morgan was constantly working against type, first as a Scottish poet and second as a gay man at a time when homosexuality was still illegal in Britain. The illustration, in that sense, shows how far we’ve come while still rooting the poems in who we still are.

Bonus!! 6) Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon

Inherent Vice is a bit of a cheat, as I haven’t actually finished it so can’t call it a favorite just yet. However, about halfway through and I can say that Pynchon’s tale of a drugged out PI at the tail end of the 60s is certainly worth while.


What I love about the cover is how evocative it is of time and place. The tacky neon, the beat up surf car, and the sunset over the water seems to encapsulate lot of the book’s vibe.

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