The Casual Optimist

Books, Design and Culture

50 Covers for 2014


Book designers, you do amazing work. Thank you. I am especially grateful to all the designers and art directors (not to mention publicists and other publishing folk) who have shared their wisdom, provided me with images, and helped me with design credits this year — these posts would not be possible without you. I also want thank my fellow book design bloggers, notably Book Covrs, Booketing, and Caustic Cover Critic, for their sterling work, and my local bookstores, TypeBook City on the Danforth, Ben McNally Books, and Indigo Bay & Bloor, for letting me browse their shelves.

Here are my covers of 2014:

All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews; design by Sunra Thompson (McSweeney’s / November 2014)

All Our Names by Dinaw Mengestu; design by Isabel Urbina Peña (Knopf / March 2014)

Bark by Lorrie Moore; design by Carol Devine Carson; photography by Josef Sudek (Knopf / February 2014)

The Book of Heaven by Patricia Storace; design by Linda Huang (Pantheon / February 2014)


The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber; art direction and design Rafi Romaya;  illustration Yehrin Tong (Canongate / October 2014)

The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt; design by Christopher Lin (Simon & Schuster / March 2014)

Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall by Will Chancellor; design by Richard Ljoenes (HarperCollins / July 2014)

Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes; design by Keith Hayes (Mulholland Books / September 2014)

California by Edan Lepucki; design Julianna Lee (Little Brown & Co. / July 2014)

Chop Chop by Simon Wroe; design by Ben Wiseman (Penguin / April 2014)

Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys by Viv Albertine; design by Luke Bird (Faber & Faber / May 2014)

The Corpse Exhibition by Hassan Blasim; design by Jason Ramirez (Penguin / February 2014)

Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill; design by Gray318 (Granta / March 2014)

Dog Ear by Jim Johnstone; design by David Drummond (Signal Editions / May 2014)

The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison; design by Tom Darracott (Granta / June 2014)

Enlightenment 2.0 by Joseph Heath; design by David A. Gee (HarperCollins / April  2014)

Forensic Songs by Mike McCormack; design by Jason Booher (SOHO / July 2014)

Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson; design by Allison Saltzman; illustration by Bryan Nash Gill (Ecco / June 2014)

Friendship by Emily Gould; design by Jennifer Carrow (Farrar, Straus & Giroux / July 2014)

Fullblood Arabian by Osama Alomar; design by Paul Sahre (New Directions / March 2014)

A Girl is a Half-formed Thing by Eimear McBride; design by Donna Payne (Faber & Faber / April 2014)

Happy are the Happy by Yesmina Reza; design by Suzanne Dean (Harvill Secker / July 2014)
The Histories by Herodotus, translated by Tom Holland; design by Coralie Bickford-Smith (Penguin Classics / September 2014)

The Intervals of Cinema by Jacques Rancière; design by Jessica Svendsen (Verso / October 2014)

Karate Chop by Dorthe Nors; design by Carol Hayes (Graywolf February 2014)

Leaving the Sea by Ben Marcus; design by Peter Mendelsund (Knopf / January 2014)

And here it is side by side with 2012’s The Flame Alphabet:

The Liar’s Wife by Mary Gordon; design by Linda Huang (Pantheon / August 2014)

Love Me Back by Merritt Tierce; design by Emily Mahon; illustration by Rizon Parein (Doubleday / September 2014)

The Man Who Couldn’t Stop; design by Katie Tooke (Picador / April 2014)

Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka; design by Jamie Keenan (W. W. Norton / February 2014)

My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead; design by Elena Giavaldi (Crown / January 2014)


Napoleon the Great by Andrew Roberts; design by Isabelle De Cat (Penguin / October 2014)

On Such a Full Sea by Chang-Rae Lee; design by Helen Yentus; lettering Jason Booher (Riverhead / January 2014)

Our Poison Horse by Derrick Brown; design by Jennifer Heuer (Write Bloody / October 2014)

Radio Benjamin edited by Lecia Rosenthal; design by Isaac Tobin (Verso / October 2014)

Russians by Gregory Feifer; design by Catherine Casalino (Twelve Books / February 2014)

The Scarborough by Michael Lista; design by David Drummond (Véhicule Press / September 2014)

The Secret World of Oil by Ken Silverstein; design by Matt Dorfman (Verso / May 2014)

Silence Once Begun by Jesse Ball; design by Peter Mendelsund (Pantheon / January 2014)

The Silent History by Eli Horowitz, Kevin Moffett, Matthew Derby; design by Oliver Munday (Farrar, Straus & Giroux / June 2014)

Song for an Approaching Storm by Peter Fröberg Idling; design by David Pearson (Pushkin Press / March 2014)

Specter of Capital by Joseph Vogl; design by Anne Jordan (Stamford University Press / October 2014)

Strange Bodies by Marcel Theroux; design by Nayon Cho; illustration by Mark Stutzman (Farrar, Straus & Giroux / February 2014)

Ugly Girls by Lindsay Hunter; design by Charlotte Strick; photograph by Natalie Dirks (Farrar, Straus & Giroux / November 2014)

Vanishing by Gerard Woodward; design by Jamie Keenan (Picador UK / March 2014)

Wittgenstein Jr by Lars Iyers; design by Christopher Brian King (Melville House / September 2014)

Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle; design by Timothy Goodman (Farrar, Straus & Giroux / September 2014)

Area X by Jeff VanderMeer; design by Rodrigo Corral (Farrar, Straus & Giroux / November 2014)

Young Skins: Stories by Colin Barrett; design by James Paul Jones (Jonathan Cape / March 2014)

Your Face in Mine by Jess Row; design by Oliver Munday (Riverhead / August 2014)

Thanks all.

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  4. I love a bunch of these covers, many of them are brilliant. I maintain that artistic, creative book covers aren’t great for mainstream books, especially self-published mainstream books, because they need to be more genre-obvious to attract the right kind of reader. Cleverness works well for non-fiction. Some of these covers would sink an indie author, because they’re too abstract and mysterious. They’re awesome if you look at them for awhile and try to understand them, but for indie authors – getting anyone to really consider your cover is a very tough ask.

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  19. Considering that fewer people are buying books – the real physical books – most indie writers just want their book to get noticed.

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