The Casual Optimist

Books, Design and Culture

50 Canadian Book Cover Designs


Lists are always problematic, but CBC Books longlist of Canada’s Most Iconic Book Covers seems strangely underwhelming somehow. Setting aside what counts as ‘Canadian’ (some of the books on the list were not designed by Canadians for example), ‘iconic’ covers are inevitably those that have stuck around and we are most familiar with, not necessarily those that are well designed or particularly interesting to look at. Needless to say, the list says more about our fondness for certain books and authors than about the current state of Canadian book cover design. Perhaps it isn’t really fair to judge the CBC’s contest this way, but it makes the list less interesting than it might otherwise have been (to me, at least).

That said, I am terrible, no good Canadian. 10 years and one Canadian passport later, I still feel like the immigrant I am. It’s not that I feel particularly British any more (if I ever did), it’s more like I haven’t finished unpacking yet (which might literally be true come to think of it)! In nearly five years of blogging I haven’t dedicated a single post to Canadian book design. To remedy to that, below are 50 (FIFTY!) recent book covers designed in Canada. Some of them are well-known, some of them are award-winners, some of them were recommended, some I’ve posted before, and some are just personal favourites. I can’t say they’re ‘iconic’ but they are all great covers. Enjoy. (Pictured above: The Bedside Book of Beasts by Graeme Gibson; design by Scott Richardson; published by Doubleday Canada).

Alligator by Lisa Moore; design by Bill Douglas (House of Anansi Press)

The Amazing Absorbing Boy by Rabindranath Maharaj; design Jennifer Lum, illustration by Michael Cho (Knopf Canada)

Autobiography of Childhood by Sina Queyras; design by Ingrid Paulson (Coach House Press)

The Beauty of Humanity Movement by Camilla Gibb; design by Terri Nimmo (Doubleday Canada)

The Bedside Book of Birds by Graeme Gibson; design by Scott Richardson (Doubleday Canada)

Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures by Vincent Lam; design by Scott Richardson (Doubleday Canada)

Carnival by Rawi Hage; design by Brian Morgan, illustration by Lorenzo Petrantoni (House of Anansi Press)

The Carnivore by Mark Sinnett; design by Ingrid Paulson (ECW Press)

Cheers! An Intemperate History of Beer in Canada by Nicholas Pashley; design by David A. Gee (HarperCollins Canada)

Cigar Box Banjo by Paul Quarrington; design by Heather Pringle (Greystone Books)

Come Late to the Love of Birds by Sandra Kasturi; design by Erik Mohr (Tightrope Books)

The Culprits by Robert Hough; design by Terri Nimmo (Random House Canada)

Daniel O’Thunder by Ian Weir; design by Peter Cocking (Douglas & McIntyre)

Dead Man’s Float by Nicholas Maes; design by David Drummond (Vehicule Press)

The Favourite Game & Beautiful Losers by Leonard Cohen; design by Scott Richardson (McClelland & Stewart)

Floating Like the Dead by Yasuko Thanh; design by Terri Nimmo (McClelland & Stewart)

Folk by Jacob McArthur Mooney; design by Leah Springate (McClelland & Stewart)

A Good Catch by Jill Lambert; design by Naomi MacDougall (Greystone Books)

Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan; design by Michel Vrana (Thomas Allen)

Handfuls of Bone by Monica Kidd; design by Andrew Steeves (Gaspereau Press)

Heaven is Small by Emily Schultz; design by Ingrid Paulson (House of Anansi)

House of Spells by R. Pepper-Smith; design by Kisscut Design (NeWest Press)

I’ll Seize the Day Tomorrow by Jonathan Goldstein; design by Michel Vrana (Penguin Canada)

The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King; design by Andrew Roberts (Doubleday Canada)

In The Suicide’s Library by Tim Bowling; design by Andrew Steeves (Gaspereau Press)

Keon and Me by Dave Bidini; design by David A. Gee (Penguin Canada)

Kesu’ by Jennifer Kramer; design by Jess Sullivan (Douglas & McIntyre)

Listening to Trees by A.K. Hellum; design by Kisscut Design (NeWest Press)

Louis Riel by Chester Brown; design Chester Brown (Drawn & Quarterly)

Love and the Mess We’re In by Stephen Marche; design by Andrew Steeves (Gaspereau Press)

The Man Who Killed by Fraser Nixon; design by Peter Cocking (Douglas & McIntyre)

The Mechanical Bird by Asa Boxer; design by David Drummond (Vehicule Press)

Monstrous Affections by David Nickle; design by Erik Mohr (CZP Books)

Morning in the Burned House by Margaret Atwood; design by Kelly Hill (McClelland & Stewart)

My Life in Hockey by Jean Béliveau; design by Jess Sullivan (Greystone Books)

The Oil Man and the Sea by Arno Kopecky; design by Jess Sullivan (Douglas & McIntyre)

The Outlander by Gil Adamson; design by Bill Douglas (House of Anansi Press)

Paul Goes Fishing by Michel Rabagliati; design by Michel Rabagliati (Drawn & Quarterly)

People Park by Pasha Malla; design by Brian Morgan (House of Anansi Press)

Personals by Ian Williams; design by Kisscut Design (Broadview Press)

Rasputin’s Bastards by David Nickle; design by Erik Mohr (CZP Books)

The Rent Collector by B. Glen Rotchin; design by David Drummond (Vehicule Press)

Revenant by Tristan Hughes; design by Jess Sullivan (Douglas & McIntyre)

Seven Good Reasons Not To Be Good by John Gould; design by David A. Gee (HarperCollins Canada)

A Short History of Progress by Richard Wright; design by Bill Douglas (House of Anansi Press)

This Will Be Difficult To Explain by Johanna Skibsrub; design by Michel Vrana (Hamish Hamilton Canada)

Ticknor by Sheila Heti; design by Bill Douglas (House of Anansi Press)

A Whale for the Killing by Farley Mowat; design by Jess Sullivan (Douglas & McIntyre)

The White Guy: A Field Guide by Stephen Hunt; design by Peter Cocking (Douglas & McIntyre)

Wimbledon Green by Seth; design by Seth (Drawn & Quarterly)

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  1. If you had to choose three favorites, what would they be?

  2. Fabulous! I love my kobo… but those are covers I wish I had a hard copy of!

  3. I don’t think I can choose just three — that’s why I posted fifty (one) covers in the first place! I like all of them. What ones would you choose?

  4. Thanks for your comment, Robin. I think even though more people are turning to digital, we’re actually living in a golden age of print design!

  5. Wow, there are a ton of great covers there… too many for me to keep track of as I scrolled through them. But I think maybe “Dead Man’s Float” was my favorite.

  6. I love this post.

  7. Listening to Trees
    Good Seven Reasons not to be Good

    would be my favorites.

    Always judge a book by its cover. Until you read it you have nothing else to go by.

  8. Karl, I tried to limit myself to 20 but I just couldn’t do it!

  9. These are amazing!! A lot of my favourites on here and some I hadn’t seen before, too!

  10. I have read twenty of the novels listed on this post. My favourite book cover on this list is designed by Jess Sullivan as I love Haida art.

  11. Great to see.

    Disappointed though that there are no covers here by Gord Robertson, among the finest book designers in Canadian history. Look up his Cambodia, by Brian Fawcett– amazing. And scores of others…

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  13. I work in the industry and as such find myself going on to many differing sites looking for opinions on what’s been made before and also where things can and will go. Although I’ve found your list a little while after it was first published it’s still a great article and highlights some excellent examples of book cover art, thanks for a great post.
    Dave R

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