Friday, December 30, 2011

Judging a Book By Its Cover

I'm a sucker for a good book design. When done right, a good cover not only gives you a good indication of what the book is about, but emphasizes it's major themes in a subtle way. My favorite example of this point is the huge ampersand in the cover of Thomas Pynchon's Mason & Dixon.Not only did the esoteric design of the ampersand reinforce the antiquated prose stylings of the text, but it also drew attention to the fact that the book was about borders, the line between the "and" and the "or", and also about the relationship between Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon.

I mention this because I've been reading through my backlog of Harpers magazines lately and wanted to share what I thought were some excellent covers. To the left we have some very simple, modern designs from the University of Texas Press. Nice and clean, if perhaps a touch too sterile for my tastes, although I love the understated design of Killer on the Road. More interesting to me are the quirky designs of the DalKey Archive Press books on the right. They remind me of the incredible film poster design work coming out of Poland in their expressiveness. The purple forest and shrinking text of The Faster I Walk, The Smaller I Am is my favorite of this batch, although the daunting image for Isle of the Dead is also very impressive - it looks like the above ground cousin of Michael Mazur's illustrations for Pinsky's translation of The Inferno.

Not that it's of great importance, but I bet that the collection of the UoT Press books must look good together on the bookshelf, which the DalKey books probably don't look like they're of a piece. Not that it's all that important, but I do love how all of my Vintage editions of Philip K. Dick books look on the shelf together.

I haven't read any of these books, so I can't speak about how accurate they are in their representation of the stories behind the artwork, but I thought they were too good looking not to share.

Any good looking book covers you've seen recently? (Other than 1Q84, of course.)

Related Posts:
Gilded Covers
1Q84: Hardcover
Book Shelves
Book Shelves Part II

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