As the old saying goes, you can’t judge a book by its cover. In reality, we all judge books by their covers and it’s not always a bad thing. In the past, publishers concerned themselves more with the binding and fabrics for covers rather than cover art. Times have definitely changed and cover art is now an art form all its own. While walking the aisles or perusing displays at your local Bookmans, one might think that every section is the art section. There are breathtaking examples all around our stores of ingenious, skilled, dramatic and evocative covers that run the gamut of mediums. No one style can claim the title of “Best Cover Art.” We see brilliant covers done with painting, photography, graphics, collage and mixed media. It would be a waste to not take these wonderful covers into consideration when deciding upon your newest read. The covers are well thought out and are often a collaboration between the artist and the writer. That collaboration gives the potential reader a fairly accurate idea of what to expect from the pages inside. Today, we take a look at some classic covers that consistently drive readers to purchase the book – sight seen.
Being a theater and art history major, I feel compelled to take the judgement of book covers to another level. I must admit to being guilty of not only judging a book by its cover but of choosing a book largely based on the cover art. Vintage science fiction titles happen to be my personal Achilles heel. One of my all-time favorites is A Plague of Pythons by Frederik Pohl. Pohl has many wonderful covers, but this one is classic ’60s era science fiction artwork. The perspective is raked and in the foreground we see the skull of a possibly male humanoid with tears welling up in his distraught eyes as he leads a long line of his fellows to an unknown fate. My childhood was filled with these classics of sci-fi. The creativity and boldness of their imagery still stuns and delights me. Some other notables in this field include L.Sprague de Camp, Arthur C. Clarke, Lin Carter, James Blish, Marion Zimmer Bradley, A. Bertram Chandler, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Ray Bradbury, Leigh Brackett and John Brunner to name just a few. A great runner-up to Pohl is Andre Norton’s Lord of Thunder. This book features a grape colored cover with a fierce, snarling cat creature emerging from a swirling circular vortex that is chasing down a futuristic spaceship with a shaman levitating atop who is brandishing a lighting bolt accompanied by an eagle. (Go ahead and picture that!)
When it comes to the general fiction genre, we love Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Kundera brilliantly chose to use imagery made famous by surrealist artist Rene Magritte for his most well known work. The floating bowler is an iconic image and the aesthetic translates wonderfully to Kundera’s writing which is lyrical, melancholy and poetically poignant. On the other end of the emotional spectrum is Tom Holt’s Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Sausages which is aptly sub-titled, A Comedy of Transdimensional Tomfoolery. Holt’s cover art is simple enough, featuring only a large pig, two chickens and a plunger. But it is certainly eye catching. One almost laughs just looking at the cover.
Lastly we feel we must give an honorable mention to the one and only Lewis Carroll. Alice and Wonderland has inspired countless artists of all genres to re-imagine Carroll’s cockeyed world and we are all eternally grateful. We wouldn’t be completely honest if we did not admit to purchasing multiple copies of Alice in Wonderland just for the latest artwork!
So don’t feel ashamed to choose a title just because you appreciate the cover. After all, much time and creativity is put into designing the perfect cover art. Go ahead and pick up the first book that catches your eye, for there is an entire world to experience within a book’s pages. Be sure to stop in to admire all the lovely cover art at your local Bookmans. Who knows, you might even find a few books that would look even better on your shelves at home.
*Bookmans is your store to explore. We can’t guarantee stock, so if you are interested in one of the titles mentioned, please give us a call and we’ll check our orange shelves for you.
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