Finding the best book covers of all time seems like an impossible task.
Over the years, countless examples of extraordinary art and design have graced the covers of books. Like a record sleeve, a book cover is a crucial element of the book: some are iconic; some are beautiful; some are scary and some are just unforgettable. So, here at Book Cover Lust we decided to select the unforgettable ones, the ones that we consider the best book covers of all time.
Best Book Covers
Best Book Covers – 19th century
In the nineteenth century before color printing was found everywhere and when interior book graphics were always black and white line art or lithographs, the cover of a book was the only place to use color.
Innovations in the manufacture of cloth and new techniques for ornamental blocking allowed nineteenth century publishers to mass-produce books with exquisite decorative covers.
Best Book Covers – 20th century
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
A Clockwork Orange is an amazing novel that touches on teenage violence and questions of free will. Thanks to Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 film, it has become a fundamental cultural touchstone. The cover image for the book, designed by David Pelham, quickly became a cult classic due to its bright colors and bold contrasts.
Psycho by Robert Bloch
Psycho is a suspense novel by Robert Bloch that was adapted into Alfred Hitchcock’s seminal 1960 film of the same name. The designer of this iconic book cover, Tony Palladino, showed that a simple solution can create maximum impact.
The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith
Adam Smith’s masterpiece, first published in 1776, is the foundation of modern economic thought and remains the single most important account of the rise of modern capitalism.
The Cat In The Hat by Dr. Seuss
First published in 1957, The Cat in the Hat is a children’s book written and illustrated by Theodor Geisel under the pen name Dr. Seuss. The story centers on a tall cat, who wears a red and white-striped hat and a red bow tie.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The book tells the story of the wealthy Jay Gatsby and his love for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan. It is an exquisitely crafted tale of America in the 1920s. Francis Cugat’s painting appeared on the book’s first printing in 1925.
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Leslie Holland’s blue canvas art perfectly captured the futurism of Huxley’s dystopian masterpiece in the 1932 edition. The book is set far in the future, where the World Controllers have created the ideal society. Through clever use of genetic engineering, brainwashing and recreational sex and drugs, all its members are happy consumers.
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
Nick Gaetano created the cover art for the 25th anniversary of Atlas Shrugged in 1981. Tremendous in its scope, this novel presents an astounding panorama of human life — from the productive genius who becomes a worthless playboy — to the great steel industrialist who does not know that he is working for his own destruction…
The Far Pavilions by M. M. Kaye
Finally this amazing story of India during the Raj, The Far Pavilions was an immediate bestseller when was published. The book cover, designed by Dave Holmes and Peter Goodfellow, marked a change in book cover design and a move to more commercially-driven imagery.
Best Book Covers – 21st century
Obsession: A History by Lennard J. Davis
A minimalist approach to cover design by designer Isaac Tobin. In this non-fiction book Davis analyzes several obsessions, from obsessive aspects of professional specialization to obsessive compulsive disorder and nymphomania.
The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde
Next we have this beautiful reinterpretation of this classic designed by the award-winning Coralie Bickford-Smith. The book tells the story of a fashionable young man who sells his soul for eternal youth and beauty.
Area X: The Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer
The cover design by Rodrigo Corral made the New York Times’ selects for “The Best Book Covers of 2014”. In this book series, Southern Reach is a secret agency that manages expeditions into an area known as Area X, which is an uninhabited area that nature has begun to reclaim.
Notre Dame de Paris by Victor Hugo
Benjamin Lacombe illustrated this French edition of this classic. Set in Medieval Paris, this is the haunting drama of Quasimodo, the hunchback; Esmeralda, the gypsy dancer; and Claude Frollo, the priest tortured by the specter of his own damnation.
Seven Brief Lessons in Physics by Carlo Rovelli
Another beautiful cover design by Coralie Bickford-Smith. This is a non-fiction book that covers everything you need to know about the beauty of modern physics in less than 100 pages.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
This book has had hundreds of different book covers over the years, but this pink, leather-bound Alice by Hugh D’Andrade’s definitively stands out. This classic tells the story of the young and imaginative Alice who follows a hare through a hole.
The Birds and Other Stories by Daphne du Maurier
This book cover design by Jamie Keenan won the Academy of British Cover Design (ABCD) 2017 cover design competition. Hitchcock immortalized the book in his unforgettable film, turning it into a horror classic.
What We Set in Motion by Stephanie Austin Edwards
Finally, this cover design by James T. Egan with carefully set type and simple illustration. The book, set in the turbulent 1970’s, finds the daughter of a prominent old South Carolina family fleeing to New York’s Greenwich Village in pursuit of a dance career.
In conclusion, the style of book covers is influenced by the continually changing design trends. That’s why an edition published in 1930’s will not look the same as the one from the 1980’s. Society is in a continuous change, so there will always will be new trends in book cover design and new beautiful book covers every year.