Naturally, an unfamiliar book’s cover design has the power to attract me. I freely admit that I will at least give a chance to almost any book with whimsical colored pencil or watercolor illustrations. But since I mostly only buy things that I either have read or already have a basic knowledge of, when it comes to my personal collection of books, I’ve never been too picky about aesthetics. Nearly all of my books are beat up, old paperbacks, and most of those were purchased from used bookstores like this one in Chicago.
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Think messy piles of books with creased covers, yellow pages, notes in the margins, that vanillin scent. For me, the priority has really always been to build up a nice, big collection of beloved stories. Most of the time I really couldn’t care less what’s on the cover of a book I’m buying, if I already know what’s inside.
But on the precious, rare occasion that I do decide to treat myself and purchase a new book, especially a new edition of an older book that I love, I am extremely picky. It needs to be pretty, obviously. But not only pretty—it needs to perfectly capture the story within. This isn't always easy to find, as classic stories are constantly being repackaged and reevaluated. Take, for example, some of the newer designs for Pride and Prejudice, which are reminiscent of a certain vampire romance series.
Romeo and Juliet and Wuthering Heights got similar makeovers.
Also a very interesting look at the reevaluation of classic novels is this article by on the complexities and ramifications of designing a cover for Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. Lolita is one of my very favorite books, and due to its charged and all too often misunderstood content, it’s one of the few books whose cover I always notice.
Have any of the covers for your old favorites stood out to you? Did you find particular new designs appropriate or were you irked by the interpretation?