Beauty (in book covers) is in the eye of the beholder

After I wrote yesterday’s post about the importance of the cover when I’m buying books, I thought I’d share some of my favourite covers from the tbr shelves. I didn’t necessarily buy these books because of the cover art – if I want to read a book, I will, no matter what the cover looks like. But, I don’t deny that a beautiful cover design might tempt me to buy a duplicate copy of a book I already own or buy a book that hadn’t really appealed to me until a new edition is published.
So, here you can see Nature’s Engraver by Jenny Uglow (Faber), Florence Nightingale by Mark Bostridge (Penguin) & Thou Art The Man by Mary Elizabeth Braddon (Valancourt Books).

Cousin Phillis & other stories by Elizabeth Gaskell, The Masterpiece by Emile Zola & Redgauntlet by Sir Walter Scott (all OUP).

Original Letters from India by Eliza Fay & Mary Olivier : a Life by May Sinclair (both New York Review Books).

You Never Know : an autobiography by Claire Lorrimer (Pen Press Publishers), Ashenden by Somerset Maugham (Vintage Classics) & A Girl In Winter by Philip Larkin (Faber).

Village Affairs & News From Thrush Green by Miss Read (both Houghton Mifflin US).

The Complete Short Stories by Saki (Penguin), A Time in Rome by Elizabeth Bowen (Vintage Classics) & Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman (Penguin).

The Pre-Raphaelites at Home by Pamela Todd (Watson Guptill) & The Scots Kitchen by F Marian McNeill (Birlinn).

An Infamous Army by Georgette Heyer (Sourcebooks), Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart (Chicago Review Press) & Mary, Queen of Scots : Truth or Lies by Rosalind K Marshall (Saint Andrew Press).

A mixture of small & large publishers, fiction & non-fiction, hardbacks & paperbacks. But, I think they’re all lovely & I only wish I had time to read all of them right now. Then again, that’s what tbr shelves are for!

17 thoughts on “Beauty (in book covers) is in the eye of the beholder

  1. I have a weakness for great book covers, too. There was an interesting comment from Daisy Goodwin recently who said that with the rise of the Kindle and other electronic media the marketing associated with book covers will be invalid. I wonder how this will develop.


  2. Book covers can be amazingly tempting, your samples would certainly tempt me! Most of my Miss Read books are orange covered Penguins with sweet little drawings but I do like the two you have.


  3. I wonder about e-books & covers too, Nicola. The cover of an e-book is irrelevant really once you start reading because you can't see it easily. But then, if you don't have a cover to attract you, how do you know you want the book unless you've heard of it, read a review etc. Diane, I'll have to look up Europa, I don't know them. NYRB books are very classy, aren't they? Rose, with the demise of Borders & A&R here, there'll be even less chance for us to browse in bookstores & be tempted. There's no bookshop in the shopping centre near my library now, only department stores & the ABC shop.


  4. I love the NYRB Classics! I've been thisclose to buying The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearn by Brian Moore, simply because of the cover. Of course I could check out a different edition from the library for free, but that wouldn't be nearly as much fun, would it?

    And don't get me started on my other new obsession, the Overlook hardcovers of P. G. Wodehouse. There are 75 and I want them ALL.


  5. The cover on that Larkin draws me in and I much prefer the cover on your Saki. My edition of The Complete Saki features him wearing a hat and I can't quite decide if it makes him look silly or spooky!


  6. All beautiful covers, Lyn. I am very fond of a beautiful cover. I have to say that it influences me to, at least, pick up a book in a bookstore. Although mostly I go by the author name.

    An ugly or badly designed cover always makes me think that the publisher is not overfond of the book to begin with.


  7. Daisy Goodwin's novel, The Last Duchess, was a class act of a cover – I loved it almost as much as I loved the book. I even chose a painting of a woman in a silk dress of the period to use as marker, but then I am obsessive about having a 'suitable' marker for whichever book I'm reading (I don't carry that so far as to slap a slice of toast in Nigel Slater's memoir, Toast!)
    Back with Penguins, I loved the early novels of Alexandra Raife, The Larach and Grianan, which like Katie Fforde's early novels, were painterly interiors, rooms you wanted to visit and often featuring chairs close to firesides, chairs you wanted to curl up in.
    By the way, in your choice of covers there was one almost headless woman on the Heyer, ha, har!
    Margaret P


  8. Karen, I love the Wodehouse hardbacks too but I've been snapping up some of the Arrow paperbacks from a remainders bookseller here so I'm very happy to be getting those for 30% of the original price. Darlene, shall I confess that I only bought this new Penguin Classics Saki once they changed the cover? The previous cover had a horrible mask-like face on it on a horrible green background. I couldn't never quite bring myself to buy it. This new cover is so much more elegant. Yvette, a lovely cover will definitely make me pick up a book in bookshop or library. Galant, guilty as charged about the Heyer (almost) headless woman! I didn't even notice it. I also try to choose an appropriate bookmark for the books I'm reading. I have a lot of Persephone bookmarks (they send extra ones with the Quarterly) & they often suit whatever it is I'm reading.


  9. Love those Maugham covers–Vintage always does good covers it seems. Unfortunately TBD is Always OS on Maugham's books (the Vintage editions). I also love those Heyer's and have been collecting them! Not sure how readily available they are over there, but to my list of likes–NYRB classics and Europa editions are always very nicely done, too!


  10. Dani, the Vintage Classics are definitely beautiful. Have you seen their Alice in Wonderland with Alice's striped-stockinged legs on the cover? I buy the Sourcebooks Heyers in preference to the Arrow editions. The paper quality is just so much better & I heard that the Arrow editions were full of misprints (the early titles anyway) which put me off.


  11. I am a great sucker for a good looking book – my instinct is to duplicate my favourite books when a new beautiful cover is bought out! I noticed this week that Virago is publishing more of its lovely hardback books later in the year… I think the temptation to add to my collection will be too strong!
    I've also been thinking about book covers recently, specifically when publishers chose to use the same painting for different books – it makes me wonder about the use of a painting to reflect the content of the book and how a specific image connects the various books.


  12. Escaping, that's interesting about more Virago hardcovers. I wasn't tempted by the last lot because I already owned the books I was interested in, I wonder what they're doing this time? I also find it interesting when the same painting is used for different books, always makes me wonder what the publishers/designers were trying to represent. Simon, the NYRB books are definitely lovely, I don't have nearly enough of them!


  13. Hi
    i so agree with you (Lyn) about the devil-face Saki cover? Whoever chose it? How does it tie in with the content? It mystified me. Also, i think sales of that edition were very poor indeed. i got mine at a charity store and covered it in brown paper!

    Thanks for some lovely images

    X dee


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