The Casual Optimist

Books, Design and Culture




Book designers, bless them, really do like to put a bird on it. Following on from wild beasts and reptiles and amphibians, here is my latest post looking at animals on book covers, ‘Birds’:

Acceptance by Jeff VanderMeer; design by Charlotte Strick; Illustration by Eric Nyquist (FSG / September 2014)

Because I Love you by Barbara Toner; design by Sandy Cull / gogoGingko (Allen & Unwin / November 2012)

The Bedside Book of Birds by Graeme Gibson; design by Scott Richardson (Random House / October 2005)

The Bird Catcher by Laura Jacobs; design by LeeAnn Falciani (Picador / September 2010)

Birds Without Wings by Louis de Bernières; design by Matt Broughton (Vintage / April 2014)

Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb; design by David Mann (Allen Lane / May 2007)

A Box of Birds by Charles Fernyhough; design by Dan Mogford (Unbound / May 2013)

Cartwheel by Jennifer duBois; design by Lynn Buckley (Random House / September 2013)

Civil and Civic by Jonathan Bennett; design by David Gee (ECW / April 2011)

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

The Coincidence Authority by J. W. Ironmonger; design by Nathan Burton (Weidenfeld & Nicolson / September 2013)

The Crow’s Vow by Susan Briscoe; design by David Drummond (Vehicule Press / April 2011)

Darwin’s Finches edited by Kathleen Donohue; design by Matt Avery (University of Chicago Press / June 2011)

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Don’t Let It End Like This Tell Them I Said Something by Paul Vermeersch; design by Natalie Olsen / Kisscut Design (ECW Press /  October 2014)

The Dunwich Horror by H. P. Lovecraft; design by Coralie Bickford-Smith (Penguin Classics / October 2008)

Early Bird by Rodney Rothman; design by Paul Sahre (Simon & Schuster / April 2005)

Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm by Philip Pullman; design by Alison Forner (Penguin / November 2012)

Floating Like the Dead by Yasuko Thanh; design by Terri Nimmo (McClelland & Stewart / April 2012 )

Florence & Giles by John Harding; design by Jo Walker (Blue Door / March 2010)

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen; design by Charlotte Strick (FSG / December 2010)

The Galapagos by Henry Nicholls; design by Nicole Caputo (Basic Books / August 2014)

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt; design by Keith Hayes (Little, Brown & Co. / October 2013)

Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck; illustration by Kathryn McNaughton (Penguin / October 2011)

H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald; cover art by Christopher Wormell (Jonathan Cape / July 2014)

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Grunt of the Minotaur by Robin Richardson; design by Emmanuel Polanco (Insomniac Press / October 2011)

Amanda Lindhout
A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout & Sara Corbett; design by Jennifer Heuer (Scribner / September 2013)

Hunger by Lan Samantha Chang; design by David High (W. W. Norton / September 2009)

Jenny & the Jaws of Life_JWillett
Jenny and the Jaws of Life by Jincy Willett; design by Henry Sene Yee (Picador / June 2008)

Kansas City Lightning by Stanley Crouch; design by Milan Bozic (HarperCollins / March 2014)

Klauw van de valk by Wilbur Smith; design by Mark Ecob (Xander Uitgervers / unused)

Love & Hunger by Charlotte Wood; design by Sandy Cull /gogoGingko (Allen & Unwin / May 2012)

The Marabou Stork Nightmares by Irvine Welsh; design by Matt Broughton (Vintage / January 2009)

The Marrowbone Marble Company by Glenn Taylor; design by Allison Saltzman (Ecco / May 2010)

Morality for Beautiful Girls by Alexander McCall Smith; design by Mark Ecob (Abacus / December 2003)

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius; design by Emily Mahon; illustration by Yucel (Modern Library / August 2003)

The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham; illustration by Brian Cronin (Penguin / August 2008)

The Mind of a Thief by Patti Miller; design by Sandy Cull / gogoGingko; illustration by Cherie Strong (University of Queensland Press / October 2013)

Mink River by Brian Doyle; design by David Drummond (Oregon State University Press / October 2010)

Monstress by Lysley Tenorio; design by Alison Forner (Ecco / January 2012)

Naming Nature by Carol Kaesuk Yoon; design by Chin-Yee Lai (W. W. Norton / August 2009)

never-ending birds
Never-Ending Birds by David Baker; design by Lynn Buckley; jacket illustration: Swallows by Audubon, The Granger Collection (W. W. Norton / October 2009)

News from the World by Paula Fox; design by Roberto De Vicq de Cumptich (W. W. Norton / May 2011)

The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin; design by Emily Mahon; illustration by Eleanor Grosch (Modern Library / August 1998)

Pigeon by Karen Solie; design by Bill Douglas (House of Anansi / June 2009)

Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman; design by Holly MacDonald (Bloomsbury / July 2011)

Romeo Spikes by Joanne Reay; design by Chris Sergio ( Gallery Books / August 2012)

Raven Girl by Audrey Niffenegger; design by Sara Corbett; illustration Audrey Niffenegger (Harry N. Abrams / May 2013)

Silent Land by Graham Joyce; design by Emily Mahon (Doubleday / March 2011)

Solo by Rana Dasgupta; design by Heads of State (Houghton Mifflin / February 2011)

Sweet Bird of Youth by Tennessee Williams; design by John Gall (New Directions / June 2010)

3 Elegies for Kosovo by Ismail Kadare; design by Matt Broughton (Vintage / May 2011)

To See Every Bird on Earth by Dan Koeppel; illustration by Mike Langman (Michael Joseph / August 2005) 1

Summer and Bird by Katherine Catmull; illustration by Jason Holley (Dutton / October 2012)

The Swan Gondola by Timothy Schaffert; design by Alex Merto (Riverhead / February 2014)

Treachery by S. J. Parris; design by Alexandra Allden, illustration by Daren Newman (Harper / August 2014)

The Virtues of Poetry by James Longenbach; design by Kimberly Glyder (Graywolf / March 2013)

The Vulture by Gil Scott-Heron; design by Stuart Bache (Canongate / July 2010)

Why is my Mother Getting a Tattoo? by Jancee Dunn; design by Catherine Casalino (Villard Books / June 2009)

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot by David Shafer; design by Charles Brock / Faceout Studios (Mulholland Books / August 2014)

Wizard of the Crow by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o; design by Peter Mendelsund (Pantheon / August 2006)

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1. The normally reliable Book Cover Archive credits the design of this cover to Mike Langman. However, my guess is that only the bird illustrations are by Langman, and that the design itself was by someone else. If you can shed any further light on it, please let me know


  1. This is like my favorite thing today–thanks!

  2. so many …. boggles the mind

  3. Thanks Jeff! I’m so glad you like it!

  4. Great post, Dan. Here I am leaving one more bird. Illustrated by Pablo Delcan, designed by Sabrina Rinaldi @ Planeta.

  5. Great list! Vintage’s edition of Lorrie Moore’s “Birds of America” (an obvious design choice, I guess) was one of the first ones I thought of.

    For Flannery O’Connor, publishers and designers seem to favor bird motifs (especially peacocks).

  6. Pingback: [Book Nerd Links] Birds on Book Covers | A Small Press Life

  7. So pretty. Lots of corvidae but did I miss the magpies? When it came time to suggest images for a book cover it had to be magpies for me, gorgeous little rat-bats.

  8. Pingback: Bird covers | Making Book

  9. Pingback: Bugs | The Casual Optimist

  10. Pingback: Bokomslag med djur på | bearbooks

  11. Late to the party, but would love to suggest: Mordecai Richler’s ‘Solomon Gursky Was Here’.

  12. Thanks Jennifer. I don’t know who designed that cover. I will have to look out for it next time I’m in a bookstore!

  13. Hi Dan. I have a different edition of Richler’s book, so I am not sure on the designer. sorry. This morning, I also came across another book for this collection: Kyo Maclear’s ‘The Letter Opener’ – similar pigeon to cover of Solie’s collection

  14. Discovered this post, and your blog, later than sooner, but I want to thank you for this posting in particular. I love bird imagery, and crazy about book covers, so this one is a best-of-both-worlds to be sure!

    – Ilana S.

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