The Casual Optimist

Books, Design and Culture

Book Covers of Note May 2018

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America is Not the Heart by Elaine Castillo; design by Gray318 (Atlantic Books / May 2018)

A great new entry in the books on book covers genre! 


Awayland by Ramona Ausubel; design by Alex Merto (Riverhead / March 2018)


Be More Pirate by Sam Conniff Allende; design by Chris Bentham (Penguin Books / May 2018)

Related: I have a board of skull covers on Pinterest if that is your thing.


The Comedown by Rebekah Frumkin; design by Rachel Willey (Henry Holt / April 2018)


Exactly by Simon Winchester; design by Julian Humphries (William Collins / May 2018)

For some reason this reminded me of a Peter Mendelsund’s 2009(!) cover design for Vintage’s Foucault list. In reality, they don’t actually look that a like at all:


The Gloaming by Kirsty Logan; design Julia Connolly (Harvill Secker / April 2018)


The Honey Farm by Harriet Alida Lye; design by Zoe Norvell (Liveright / May 2018)

This fits both the ‘centred big white type‘ trend and the ‘type and flora‘ trend, but I still like it. 


Invasion by Peadar O’Guilin; cover art by Jeffrey Alan Love (David Fickling Books / March 2018)

Jeffrey also did a cover for The Call, the first book in this series,


It Needs To Look Like We Tried by Todd Robert Petersen; design by Nicole Caputo (Counterpoint / May 2019)


The Life and Rhymes of Benjamin Zephaniah; design by Jack Smyth (Simon & Schuster / May 2018) 


A Lucky Man by Jamel Brinkley; design by Kyle G. Hunter (Graywolf / May 2018)

I have to confess that I’m including this partly because I recently had a conversation about a street scene on a book cover with a publisher. The publisher said the author insisted on using a specific photo, which always makes things difficult, but all the same, I felt the photo could be used more effectively. The cover for A Lucky Man isn’t fancy, but it does the job really well — while there is a sense of place and atmosphere (it may even be recognizable if you know the street?), there is also ambiguity that leaves it open to interpretation. The blue of the authors name echoes the blue of a sign in the photo, but it doesn’t over do it — it’s nicely understated. 


The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner; design by Peter Mendelsund; photograph by Nan Goldin (Scribner / May 2018)

Using a Nan Goldin photo feels like a bold choice — especially for one of the most anticipated books of the year. I don’t know… perhaps Goldin’s photos aren’t as controversial as they once were? It seems appropriate to me, but then I Goldin’s photography. I guess the cover of A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihana used a photo by Peter Hujar…?

In any case, it’s quite different look from The Flamethrowers cover (designed by Charlotte Strick), and yet the compositions seem to echo each other (the horizontal bands of title — rectangular photo — author) when you place them side by side:

Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D Jackson; design by Erin Fitzsimmons (Katherine Tegen Books / May 2018)


The National Debt by Martin Slater; design by Steve Leard (Hurst / May 2018)


On Gravity by A. Zee; design by Jason Alejandro (Princeton University Press / May 2018)


The Pisces by Melissa Broder; design by Rachel Willey (Bloomsbury / May 2018)


See What Can be Done by Lorrie Moore; design by Jonny Pelham (Faber & Faber / May 2019)

You can read about the process behind this cover on the Faber blog.


Sharp by Michelle Dean; design by Bekki Guyatt  (Little, Brown & Co. / April 2018)

The cover of the US edition published by Grove was designed by Gretchen Mergenthaler and Daniel Rembert, and features an illustration by Kathryn Rathke:


Tomb of the Unknown Racist by Blanche McCrary Boyd; design by Nicole Caputo (Counterpoint / May 2019)

Nicole’s recent covers for Counterpoint all work quite well together. It’s interesting that snaking curves — a worm, a road, an actual snake! — appears in the background of these three:


Why We Fight by Mike Martin; design by Steve Leard (Hurst / May 2018)

Clearly I have a thing for black, white and red covers this month! 

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