Sometimes I come across a set of covers that seem to evoke each other – and this edition of bookalike-lookalikes is all about spots. Satin Island by Tom McCarthy, Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart, and Us Conductors by Sean Michaels: three very different novels with three oddly similar covers:
When it comes to covers, simple can be good. Simple can also be colossally awful. I’m still trying to figure out what it is that separates one from the other. For instance, I found the simple, similar covers for The Girl on the Train to be really, really boring. But faced with another set of simple, similar covers – Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies – I find myself head over heels. What gives?
The most common cover I’ve come across is the North American edition, but also what seems to be the pick for translated editions:
Something about this design appeals to me on a basic level. Is it waves? Is it frost? Is it a topographic map? Does it matter? Any of the above speak well to the title of the novel – evoking the sense of forces outside of human control. And I especially like how the waves overlap the text to a variety of degrees across these covers, even as the font, title placement, and image all remain the same.
Fates and Furies also avoids the Girl on the Train fiasco of one boring cover by supplying a couple of different designs across countries. I love the contrast between the North American edition and the UK edition – playful design and pattern, vibrancy and violence.
Interestingly, the large print edition seems to have gotten its own cover, which riffs subtly on the original North American printing as well – confirming my perspective of waves.
Last but not least, the Spanish cover takes a completely different direction – keeping in the same colour scheme but moving towards more substantial imagery.
Going back to the NA cover, I think my love for its simplicity comes from a place that is both surprising and unsurprising: unlike The Girl on the Train, I was bowled over by Fates and Furies. It’s funny – we’re always told not to judge a book by its cover, but I never thought I’d find myself judging a cover by its book.
How about you? What’s your favourite cover? Leave me your thoughts and opinions in the comments!
Cover to Cover is a weekly feature appearing every Wednesday. You can browse through past posts here.
This week on Cover to Cover, I want to talk about one of my favourite 2014 releases and the fact that it only has two good covers. Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi is beautiful and unsettling, and lingers at the corner of your vision for a while after you’ve read it. You know that odd, bright shadow that sits in your vision after you accidentally stare at the sun? That’s what this book will do to you.
And yet I’ve only found two covers that really do it justice. How is that fair? (Luckily, one of them seems to grace the most popular edition, so that’s the one you’re likely to see – pictured left.)
Reading The Golden Compass was a coming of age for me – it was darker and more serious than any book I’d ever read before. Philip Pullman takes his readers seriously: he might be writing for teens and pre-teens, but he pulls no punches. I mean, the series name comes from a line in Paradise Lost; rather than worry about what his readers were capable of understanding, Pullman wrote a deeply intellectual and metaphorical novel for teenagers.
Apocalypse for Beginners is one of my favourite examples of CanLit – the sort of story that always seems like it’s set in your home town, no matter where you grew up. This was actually one of the novels that turned me on to the idea of CanLit in the first place – because believe it or not, I used to be the sort of monster who thought national literature sucked. Go figure.*
The premise: Hope is a normal teenager, except for the fact that every single member of her family has a coming-of-age vision of the apocalypse, complete with a clear date and time. When that date and time inevitably passes without the world ending, family members generally have to be committed to psychiatric wards for their own safety. Her mother’s predicted apocalypse date has come and gone, resulting in an odd variety of coping mechanisms and self-medication. Meanwhile, Hope waits for her own apocalypse to pass – whiling away sleepy summer afternoons in a small town and making a stab at being a normal teenager.
Dave Eggers’ books are always a wild ride – a little strange, a little whimsical, and always oddly familiar. Your Fathers, Where Are They? And The Prophets, Do They Live Forever? is all of the above – with the added bonus of the longest title I think I’ve ever seen on a novel. The wildest and best thing about it is that it’s written entirely in dialogue: no tags, no “he said, she said,” no description, no exposition other than what the characters say to each other. And it’s so masterfully done that I was 75 pages into the book before I figured it out.
But back to that wickedly long title, which I’m sure gave more than one cover designer a heart attack. What do you do with all those words on a cover?
Answer: keep things clean and simple.
Snapper was one of the first books I ever reviewed, and it will always have a fond place in my heart: a set of short stories all revolving around the same hapless, birdwatching narrator in rural Indiana. There’s such a firm sense of homeliness and comfort in these stories that it makes you a little homesick, even if you’ve never been to Indiana. I should really dig it out and reread it.
It only has three covers that I’ve found, all of which (unsurprisngly) revolve around birds. My favourite will always be the hardcover version, which made me nostalgic for the encyclopaedia illustrations and ancient National Geographic issues of my childhood.
Boo was one of the best books I read last year, and I continue to recommend it to everyone I know – my roommate, my mother, my former boss, the people I’m taking classes with. If I run into a stranger in the fiction section at a bookstore I’m going to chuck this one at them and run away. I literally just stopped to text a friend to recommend this book. I’m addicted. And so can you be.
Eighth-grade science nerd Oliver “Boo” Dalrymple wakes up in heaven and figures his faulty heart finally gave out. But soon the plot thickens – and Boo finds himself tracking down the mystery of his own murder.
That said, this is the only cover I’ve seen in the wild, and I’m not really all that enamored with it:
February 14, 1984
Margaret Mead has long been a hero of mine: cultural anthropologist, adventurer, and all-around fierce role model.
It’s no surprise, then, that Lily King’s Euphoria was on my radar pretty early on in 2014 – and quickly became one of my favourite books of the year.
This fictional account of a female cultural anthropologist is roughly based on Mead’s life and work – with all the drama and dedication that entails. Three anthropologists meet by chance in the New Guinea jungle in the 1930s, sparking competitive instincts in a series of subtle battles for power, for love, for professional and scholarly standing.
And with a lush jungle serving as the book’s background setting, the covers are likewise colourful, vibrant, and lively.