The Casual Optimist

Books, Design and Culture

Notable Book Covers for 2015


Back in 2014, there were signs that book cover design was maybe, just maybe, having a moment. Suzanne Dean was on the BBC. Peter Mendelsund was on… well, everything. But if 2015 has felt a little quiet by comparison, there were still plenty of reasons to be cheerful. This year’s list includes over 120 covers by 60 designers, and there is little doubt in my mind that this really is a golden time for book design.

Thank you to all the art directors, designers, and publicists who have supported the blog this year, and who make posts like this possible. Thanks too, to my local bookstore TYPE for letting me browse their shelves.

Act of God design Janet Hansen
Act of God by Jill Ciment; design by Janet Hansen (Pantheon / March 2015 )

Also designed by Janet Hansen:

Almost Famous Women design by Na Kim
Almost Famous Women by Megan Mayhew Bergman; design by Na Kim (Scribner / July 2015)

Angry Youth Comix by Johnny Ryan; design by Keeli McCarthy (Fantagraphics / February 2015)

Beatlebone design Rafi Romaya
Beatlebone by Kevin Barry; design by Rafi Romaya (Canongate / October 2015)

Beauty is a Wound design John Gall
Beauty is a Wound by Eka Kurniawan; design by John Gall (New Directions / September 2015)

Boo by Neil Smith; design by Isabel Urbina Peña (Vintage / May 2015)

Book of Numbers design Suzanne Dean cover illustration Carnovsky
Book of Numbers by Joshua Cohen; design by design Suzanne Dean; illustration Carnovsky (Harvill Secker / June 2015)

(Oliver Munday’s cover design for the US edition of the Book of Numbers published by Random House is also great.)

Also designed by Suzanne Dean:

Boring Girls by Sara Taylor; design by David A. Gee (ECW Press  / April 2015)

Also designed by David A. Gee:

Bream Gives Me Hiccups design Jean Jullien
Bream Gives Me Hiccups design by Jean Jullien (Grove Atlantic / September 2015)

Capitalist Unconscious design Keetra Dean Dixon
The Capitalist Unconscious: Marx and Lacan by Samo Tomšič; design Keetra Dean Dixon (Verso / December 2015)

Complete Stories design by Paul Sahre
The Complete Stories by Clarice Lispector; design by Paul Sahre (New Directions / August 2015)

curiosity design by Sonia Shannon
Curiosity by Alberto Manguel; design by Sonia Shannon (Yale University Press / March 2015)

Dismantling design Zoe Norvell
Dismantling by Brian DeLeeuw; design by Zoe Norvell (Plume / April 2015)

Also designed by Zoe Norvell:

Drinking in America Rex Bonomelli
Drinking in America by Susan Cheever; design by Rex Bonomelli (Twelve Books / October 2015)

Double Life of Liliane
The Double Life of Liliane by Lily Tuck; design by Abby Weintraub (Grove Atlantic / September 2015)

Early Stories of Truman Capote design David Pearson
Early Stories of Truman Capote; design by David Pearson (Penguin / November 2015)

Also designed by David Pearson:

Etta-front final
Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper; design by Gray318 (Penguin / January 2015)

Also designed by Gray318:

Fear of Dying design Olga Grlic
Fear of Dying by Erica Jong; design by Olga Grlic (St. Martin’s Press / September 2015)

Field Notes from a Catastrophe by Elizabeth Kolbert; design by Patti Ratchford; illustration by Eric Nyquist (Bloomsbury / February 2015)

Eric’s illustrated cover for The Best American Non-Required Reading 2015 is also spectacular.

First Book Amanda Weiss

The First Book by Jesse Zuba; design by Amanda Weiss (Princeton University Press / November 2015)

Also designed by Amanda Weiss:

fox and the star
The Fox and the Star, written, illustrated and designed by Coralie Bickford-Smith (Particular Books / August 2015)

Also designed by Coralie Bickford-Smith:

Generation design by Harriet Sleigh
Generation by Paula McGrath; design by Harriet Sleigh (JM Originals / July 2015)

Hall of Small Mammals by Thomas Pierce; design by Grace Han; cover art by Kate Bergin (Riverhead / January 2015)

Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum; design by Gabrielle Bordwin (Random House / March 2015)

Hotels of North America design by Keith Hayes
Hotels of North America by Rick Moody; design by Keith Hayes (Little, Brown & Co. / November 2015)

How to Run a Government by Michael Barber; design by Barnbrook (Allen Lane / March 2015)

I Am Sorry to Think I Raised a Timid Son by Kent Russell; design by Peter Mendelsund; hand lettering by Janet Hansen; photography by George Baier IV (Knopf / March 2015)

Also designed by Peter Mendelsund:

The Italians by John Hooper; design by Nicholas Misani (Viking / January 2015)

Also designed by Nick Misani:

KL by Nikolaus Wachsmann; design by Alex Merto (Farrar, Straus & Giroux / April 2015)

Also designed by Alex Merto:

A Manual for Cleaning Women design
A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin; design by Justine Anweiler; photography Jonathan Simpson (Picador UK / September 2015)

Also designed by Justine Anweiler:

The Mare design by Oliver Munday
The Mare by Mary Gaitskill; design by Oliver Munday (Pantheon / November 2015)

Also designed by Oliver Munday:

Mislaid design by Allison Saltzman
Mislaid by Nell Zink; design by Allison Saltzman (Ecco / May 2015)

Modern Romance design by Jay Shaw photograph by ruvan wijesooriya
Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari; design by Jay Shaw; photograph by Ruvan Wijesooriya (Penguin / June 2015)

motorcycles ive loved design by rachel willey
Motorcycles I’ve Loved by Lily Brooks-Dalton; design by Rachel Willey (Riverhead / April 2015)

Also designed by Rachel Willey:

Munich Airport by Greg Baxter; design by Anne Twomey (Twelve Books / January 2015)

muse design by gabriele wilson
Muse by Jonathan Galassi; design by Gabriele Wilson (Knopf / June 2015)

The Musical Brain by César Aira; design by Rodrigo Corral and Zak Tebbal (New Directions / March 2015)

This is actually a rather special lenticular cover that imitates the effect of flashing neon.

Also from Rodrigo Corral:

Of Beards and Men by Christopher Oldstone-Moore; design Isaac Tobin (University of Chicago Press / December 2015)

One Day in the Life of the English Language by Frank L. Cioffi; design by Chris Ferrante (Princeton University Press / March 2015)

Only Street in Paris design by Strick&Williams
The Only Street in Paris by Elaine Schiolino; design by Strick&Williams (W.W. Norton / November 2015)

Also from Strick&Williams:

On the Way by Cyn Vargas; design by Alban Fischer (Curbside Splendor / April 2015)

Also designed by Alban Fischer:

Paulina and Fran illustration Kaethe Butcher typography Nina LoSchiavo
Paulina and Fran by Rachel B. Glaser; illustration Kaethe Butcher; typography Nina LoSchiavo (Harper Perennial / September 2015)

PawPaw design by Kimberly Glyder
PawPaw by Andrew Moore; design by Kimberly Glyder (Chelsea Green / September 2015 )

Also designed by Kimberly Glyder:

The Poser by Jacob Rubin; design by Will Staehle (Viking / March 2015)

Also designed by Will Staehle:

Pretty Is design Lucy Kim
Pretty Is by Maggie Mitchell; design by Lucy Kim (Henry Holt / July 2015)

Real Life Rock design by Rich Black
Real Life Rock by Greil Marcus; design by Rich Black (Yale University Press / October 2015)

Racism design by Daniel Gray
Racism by Mike Cole; design by Daniel Benneworth-Gray (Pluto Press / November 2015)

The Racer design by James Paul Jones
The Racer by David Millar; design by James Paul Jones; photograph by Nadav Kander (Yellow Jersey / October 2015)

Also designed by James Paul Jones:

Secret Chord Jaya Miceli
The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks; design by Jaya Miceli (Viking / October 2015)

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson; design by Matt Dorfman (Riverhead / March 2015)

sphinx design by Anna Zylicz
The Sphinx by Anne Garréta; design by Anna Zylicz (Deep Vellum / May 2015)

Also designed by Anna Zylicz:

Syriza design by Jamie Keenan
Syriza: Inside the Labyrinth by Kevin Ovenden; design by Jamie Keenan (Pluto Press / September 2015)

Also designed by Jamie Keenan:

Trans Design and illustration Joanna Walsh
Trans by Juliet Jacques; Design and illustration by Joanna Walsh (Verso / September 2015)

The Utopia of Rules by David Graeber; design by Christopher Brian King (Melville House / February 2015)

Vegetarian design Tom Darracott
The Vegetarian by Han Kang; design by Tom Darracott (Portobello / January 2015)

Veiled Sun design by David Drummond
The Veiled Sun by Paul Schaffer; design by David Drummond (Véhicule Press / January 2015)

Also designed by David Drummond:

Weathering by Lucy Wood; design by Greg Heinimann (Bloomsbury / January 2015)

Also designed by Greg Heinimann:

Whisky Tango Foxtrot by David Shafer; design by Richard Bravery (Penguin / June 2015)

Richard’s white, black, and orange cover for London Overground by Iain Sinclair published by Hamish Hamilton is also fun.

The Woman Who Read Too Much by Bahiyyih Nakhjavani; design by Anne Jordan & Mitch Goldstein (Stanford University Press / April 2015)

Also designed by Anne Jordan & Mitch Goldstein:

Why Information Grows by Cesar Hidalgo; design by Richard Green (Allen Lane / June 2015)

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  1. You should have included the blurb to Kevin Barry’s Beatlebone to help explain the cover:

    “It is 1958, and Lucienne Day has escaped London to try to find the island off the west coast of Ireland she bought nine years prior. Leaving behind domesticity, her approaching forties, her inability to create, and her memories of her parents, she sets off to find calm in the comfortable silence of isolation. But when she puts herself in the hands of a shape-shifting driver full of Irish charm and dark whimsy, what ensues can only be termed a magical mystery tour.”

  2. What a delight it is to scroll through this blog post.

  3. Thanks, as always, for putting together such a fantastic year-end post. Beautiful work all around.

  4. Always one of my favorite year-end lists. Thanks!

  5. Some really great work assembled here.

  6. The Etta and Otto and Russell and James cover is certainly notable for having a typo on it. (This post is great though.)

  7. And there was me thinking it was about Alvin Lustig, Calyx… (I think the cover is great, and I really like it avoided the usual Beatles/Lennon tropes).

  8. Groan… I hadn’t noticed the typo until you pointed it out, Lisa. This is why I am not a copy editor! (I expect the blurb was added after the fact though, and I do love the illustration, lettering and colour palette.)

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  11. The Etta and Otto and Russell cover image has now been updated. :-)

  12. Huzzah! (Honestly, I own a nice, glossy-paged book from a university press where they forgot to replace a bunch of the TKs with real information, so it could always be worse.)

  13. Wonderful selection. Thank you!

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