Friday, 6 January 2012

Top Five Book Covers

I'm judging books by their covers, because that's just the kind of rebel I am.

Note: It has come to my attention that this post is really quite pretentious. Maybe just ignore the words and concentrate on the pretty pictures.

1. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

I love this cover because it's become an icon in it's own right; there's no way you can see that bowler hat and the cog-eye without thinking of lactose-obsessed, Beethoven aficionado, psychopath Alex and his band of droogs. I fell in love with this book, and I think the cover reflects the tone perfectly. It's a novel which features gang rape, pedophilia, homicide and brainwashing, and the bold, block colours on the front illustrate these booming, intense themes; but the fact it is so bright and vivid, where it could easily be dark and brooding, shows that the book also has a sense of humour and fun - it's a book which doesn't take itself too seriously. The pop art feel is also reminiscent of the era - the sixties - of which novels such as A Clockwork Orange were a quintessential part.

2. Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer

Jonathan Safran Foer seems to have a knack for book covers but there is something about this one in particular that really gets to me. There are no pictures. Instead, the words snake round the edges of the book, completely filling up the cover as if trying to break out of it. On the back of the book, there's no blurb - just a mirror image of the front cover, upside down - the claim that "Everything is Illuminated" becomes less of a title, and more an unrelenting promise about the novel itself. The book sprirals from one narrative to the next, linking individual stories together in order to provide one resounding message - the very same that is scrawled, almost frantically, on it's front cover.

3. Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges

There's something very "Being John Malkovich" about this, and if you have read Borges, you'll know that this surreal cover perfectly illustrates the stories he creates. "Labyrinths" explores alternate universes, the differing perceptions of time, the nature of dreams and crises of identity. The identical men suggest that the labyrinth Borges is most focused on is that of the human brain; and that, despite the fact people may differ in terms of dreams, everyone is inexorably fascinated with the nature of our their realities. Oh God, I really am pretentious today. I'll dumb it down for the next one.

4. The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

Nice one right? I really like how Niffenegger makes a story about a forty year old man travelling back in time to make his five year old wife fall in love with him, seem absolutely fine and not pervy or weird at all. The cover illustrates the same thing. It's immediately intriguing and, once you finish the book, really quite heartbreaking as it both reflects the start and the end of the story. I hoped that the film would strike the same kind of chord, but due to to a shite script writer and some unfortunate casting, it was not to be.

5. The Trial by Franz Kafka

A cover that I maybe don't fully understand, but I think it reflects the content of The Trial so perfectly for that reason; it's quite a complex narrative, full of twists an turns, some of which are pretty inexplicable. It also seems appropriate that the man on the cover is blindfolded; throughout the novel, the protagonist K is completely bewildered by the events that surround him. A bit like the strange contraption that is wrapped round the head of the front-cover man; part torture device, part bird costume, it dehumanises him and makes him entirely vulnerable, prime themes featured in The Trial.

Alas, this blog is limited to "Five Easy Steps", but here are a few others that I'm very fond of:


  1. I love that Lord of the Rings illustrated cover, same on on my copy. Think its by John Howe, not certain tho. I wonder where Gandalf is going to, or where is he comming from? Such mystery.

  2. An excellent set, there. Personally Jurassic Park is my favourite – what you don't see is the back cover, which has an illustration of Mr Arnold's dismembered arm.