Entertainment

The 50 Coolest Book Covers

Like a record sleeve, a book cover is a crucial element of the reading experience.

It's the first thing you see, and a great cover can draw you in and persuade you to start that journey of discovery, page by page. We've picked 50 of the coolest for you to enjoy: some are iconic; some are clever; some are beautiful; some are scary and many have transcended their original home to become as famous as the book itself.

All are very cool.

  • 1984

    1984

    Title: 1984 Author: George Orwell Artist: Shepard… More details

    1984

    1984

    Title: 1984

    Author: George Orwell

    Artist: Shepard Fairey

    1984 is a tale of Big Brother surveillance and, of the many great covers that have graced this, we like this one from 2008, designed by Shepard Fairey of Obey. The Soviet style of Obey's work suits the content of the book perfectly and the all-seeing eye gives that essential element of creepiness.

  • Against Happiness

    Against Happiness

    Title: Against Happiness Author: Eric G. Wilson Artist:… More details

    Against Happiness

    Against Happiness

    Title: Against Happiness

    Author: Eric G. Wilson

    Artist: Jennifer Carrow

    A brilliant piece of graphic design, with this minimal design inverting the traditional yellow acid smilie to create a gentle melancholic frown, using just the title and author - a simple, but effective trick.

  • The Bell Jar

    The Bell Jar

    Title: The Bell Jar Author: Sylvia Plaith Artist: Shirley… More details

    The Bell Jar

    The Bell Jar

    Title: The Bell Jar

    Author: Sylvia Plaith

    Artist: Shirley Tucker

    Shirley Tucker's original 1966 cover of The Bell Jar is the most iconic, and the coolest of all the covers for this classic; the mesmerising concentric circle design perhaps being a metaphor for the tunnel of despair that the protagonist finds herself in.

  • American Psycho

    American Psycho

    Title: American Psycho Author: Bret Easton Ellis Artist:… More details

    American Psycho

    American Psycho

    Title: American Psycho

    Author: Bret Easton Ellis

    Artist: Marshall Arisman

    Artist George Corsillo, who designed the cover art for Bret Easton Ellis' first two books turned down the chance to design the artwork for American Psycho, stating "I was disgusted with myself for reading it". However, this just opened up the door for Marshall Arisman, who responded with this haunting, and very cool, representation of Patrick Bateman as part-man, part-devil.

  • Amsterdam

    Amsterdam

    Title: Amsterdam Author: Ian McEwan Artist: Herman… More details

    Amsterdam

    Amsterdam

    Title: Amsterdam

    Author: Ian McEwan

    Artist: Herman Houbrechts/Dooreman

    Belgian graphic designer Herman Houbrechts specialises in PopArt style typefaces and non-linear letter arrangements, none more successfully than this very cool design for McEwan's Amsterdam.

  • The Brief History Of The Dead

    The Brief History Of The Dead

    Title: The Brief History of the Dead Author: Kevin… More details

    The Brief History Of The Dead

    The Brief History Of The Dead

    Title: The Brief History of the Dead

    Author: Kevin Brockmeier

    Artist: Archie Ferguson

    This very cool cover makes a visual pun on the title, with the black and white colour scheme adding to the creepiness of the disembodied hands. The use of 'a novel' as the name tag on the top of the coat is a nice touch too.

  • A Clockwork Orange

    A Clockwork Orange

    Title: A Clockwork Orange Author: Anthony Burgess Artist:… More details

    A Clockwork Orange

    A Clockwork Orange

    Title: A Clockwork Orange

    Author: Anthony Burgess

    Artist: David Pelham

    Designed ten years after the book's first publication, to coincide with the release of the 1971 film adaptation by Stanley Kubrick, this iconic cover was designed and realised by Pelham in a single night after an illustrator's first attempt was deemed inadequate. The Cog-eyed Droog design was thus adopted and instantly became a design classic.

  • Columbine

    Columbine

    Title: Columbine Author: Dave Cullen Artist: Henry Sene… More details

    Columbine

    Columbine

    Title: Columbine

    Author: Dave Cullen

    Artist: Henry Sene Yee

    Cullen's seminal non-fiction book - the definitive text about the Columbine High School Massacres of 1999 - deserves an iconic cover, and Henry Sene Yee provided it, with this minimalist design, incorporating a simple shot of the normal-looking school with a faintly ominous grey sky above it.

  • On Seeing and Noticing

    On Seeing and Noticing

    Title: On Seeing and Noticing Author: Alain de… More details

    On Seeing and Noticing

    On Seeing and Noticing

    Title: On Seeing and Noticing

    Author: Alain de Botton

    Artist: Laura Oakden

    This 2006 cover of Alain de Botton's philosophy text is perfectly suited to the book; the clothes hanger and question mark perhaps hinting at questions of self-worth and the search for oneself which Monsieur de Botton investigates in the pages beneath. Either way, a very cool cover.

  • The Craftsman

    The Craftsman

    Title: The Craftsman Author: Richard Sennett Artist:… More details

    The Craftsman

    The Craftsman

    Title: The Craftsman

    Author: Richard Sennett

    Artist: Coralie Bickford-Smith

    Perfectly suiting a book dwelling on the use of simple tools to create great things, Bickford-Smith uses of a random stack of pencils to create an incredibly cool cover. Cooler still, the artist ended up making use of them after the cover shot: "I use them to highlight my lists, so I don't forget what I'm doing. It's hardly artistic."

  • The Psychopath Test

    The Psychopath Test

    Title: The Psychopath Test Author: Jon Ronson Artist: Alex… More details

    The Psychopath Test

    The Psychopath Test

    Title: The Psychopath Test

    Author: Jon Ronson

    Artist: Alex Merto

    A brilliantly cool cover for this book, with the two contrasting design styles even having different textures 'in the flesh'. Formal, stagnant and reserved on the left is 'ripped' away to reveal psychedelic, fluorescent and crazed on the right - a perfect Jekyll & Hyde design to suit the title.

  • You Only Live Twice

    You Only Live Twice

    Title: You Only Live Twice Author: Ian Fleming Artist:… More details

    You Only Live Twice

    You Only Live Twice

    Title: You Only Live Twice

    Author: Ian Fleming

    Artist: Michael Gillette

    Commissioned for the Ian Fleming Centenary Covers, these designs tried to capture that crucial, and cool, element of all Bond stories - the Bond girls. Artist Michael Gillette stating: "None of them are based on any one person or image, they are archetypes. I wanted a look of seductive murder about them."

  • The Stranger

    The Stranger

    Title: The Stranger Author: Albert Camus Artist: Helen… More details

    The Stranger

    The Stranger

    Title: The Stranger

    Author: Albert Camus

    Artist: Helen Yentus

    Eminent designer Helen Yentus was given the task of creating new covers for the complete works of Albert Camus, and we think this is the coolest. The utilitarian type contrasts with the optical illusions of the black and white shards, creating a neat sense of vertigo; something which sits well with Camus' subjects and, well, just looks great.

  • The Road

    The Road

    Title: The Road Author: Cormac McCarthy Artist: Nick… More details

    The Road

    The Road

    Title: The Road

    Author: Cormac McCarthy

    Artist: Nick Lowndes

    Lowndes brings his unique stick-figure style to the fore on this cover for McCarthy's The Road, with the post-apocalyptic landscape perfectly represented by the bare, skeletal trees.

  • How The Dead Live

    How The Dead Live

    Title: How The Dead Live Author: Derek Raymond Artist:… More details

    How The Dead Live

    How The Dead Live

    Title: How The Dead Live

    Author: Derek Raymond

    Artist: Christopher King

    A brilliantly haunting cover, with designer Christopher King enigmatically stating that inspiration came from "the paradox posed by the title...[it] incorporates visual elements found within the book itself. The illustration presents more clues to the mystery than readers may initially realize."

  • Why You Should Read Kafka Before You Waste Your Life

    Why You Should Read Kafka B…

    Title: Why You Should Read Kafka Before You Waste Your… More details

    Why You Should Read Kafka Before You Waste Your Life

    Why You Should Read Kafka Before You Waste Your Life

    Title: Why You Should Read Kafka Before You Waste Your Life

    Author: James Hawes

    Artist: Steve Snider

    A brilliantly self-referential cover for this book on Kafka (who we've all read extensively of course), with the insect Gregory, from The Metamorphosis, clearly getting some tips from his creator to try and help with his existential dilemma. If you haven't read The Metamorphosis, or indeed any Kafka, just point at the cover and smile wryly and everyone will think you're really smart.

  • The Humbling

    The Humbling

    Title: The Humbling Author: Philip Roth Artist: Milton… More details

    The Humbling

    The Humbling

    Title: The Humbling

    Author: Philip Roth

    Artist: Milton Glaser

    This deceptively simple but clever cover perfectly represents the story within - the tale of an ageing actor who loses his power. The melancholy black and white theme together with the lonely spotlight makes for an extremely cool image.

  • The Great Gatsby

    The Great Gatsby

    Title: The Great Gatsby Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald Artist:… More details

    The Great Gatsby

    The Great Gatsby

    Title: The Great Gatsby

    Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald

    Artist: Unknown

    We've all seen an awful lot of covers for F. Scott Fitzgerald's widely read classic but none of them scream cool quite as much as this one does. From the yellow backdrop to the monochromatic man to the fact that he's using the damn 'Y' as a cocktail glass, it's an undeniably attention-grabbing image.

  • The Disappointment Artist

    The Disappointment Artist

    Title: The Disappointment Artist Author: Jonathan… More details

    The Disappointment Artist

    The Disappointment Artist

    Title: The Disappointment Artist

    Author: Jonathan Lethem

    Artist: Marc Cozza

    Is there anything more disappointing than an ice cream melting before you've got chance to get stuck in? We don't think so. Lethem writes in a variety of styles and genres, but this is a universal image and pretty damned cool.

  • Survivor

    Survivor

    Title: Survivor Author: Chuck Palahniuk Artist: Rodrigo… More details

    Survivor

    Survivor

    Title: Survivor

    Author: Chuck Palahniuk

    Artist: Rodrigo Corral

    Since he's one of the world's unarguably coolest living writers, Chuck Palahniuk was bound to crop up on this list somewhere. This most recent cover of his iconic novel Survivor succeeds through simplicity and by doing something differently. Hands up if you're now desperate to make a paper plane?

  • South Of The Border

    South Of The Border

    Title: South Of The Border Author: Haruki Murakami Artists:… More details

    South Of The Border

    South Of The Border

    Title: South Of The Border

    Author: Haruki Murakami

    Artists: Chip Kidd and Kapo Ng

    This retro cover for Murakami's quietly epic novel emulates a vinyl record, aka the quickest way to gain cool points. It's also massively helped by an array of vintage fonts that manage to work cohesively, making this cover one that you'd happily be seen grasping on the bus.

  • Big Sur

    Big Sur

    Title: Big Sur Author: Jack Kerouac Artist: Unknown If… More details

    Big Sur

    Big Sur

    Title: Big Sur

    Author: Jack Kerouac

    Artist: Unknown

    If retro chic is your thing, then look no further than this first edition cover for Kerouac's classic, Big Sur. Written in 1962, the cover is very much of the swinging-sixties school of design and thus very cool indeed.

  • Zoo City

    Zoo City

    Title: Zoo City Author: Lauren Beukes Artist: Joey… More details

    Zoo City

    Zoo City

    Title: Zoo City

    Author: Lauren Beukes

    Artist: Joey Hi-Fi

    Awarded the 2010 BSFA Award for best artwork, Joey Hi-Fi's artwork has become almost as famous as the book. What, at first glance, is just typography turns out to be an incredibly detailed drawing of animals, people and buildings - together, but also tearing themselves apart. Joey has done some consistently brilliant work throughout his career, and we think the BSFA got this one very right.

  • Heed The Thunder

    Heed The Thunder

    Title: Heed The Thunder Author: Jim Thompson Artist: … More details

    Heed The Thunder

    Heed The Thunder

    Title: Heed The Thunder

    Author: Jim Thompson

    Artist: Unknown

    This 1946 classic has one of those great old-school Ronseal covers - it does exactly what it says on the tin. Big, exciting title in a funky typeface, serious author and novel credit in a far more sober one, and a flash of title-referencing lightening to tie the two together. Job done.

  • Periodic Tales

    Periodic Tales

    Title: Periodic Tales Author: Hugh… More details

    Periodic Tales

    Periodic Tales

    Title: Periodic Tales

    Author: Hugh Aldersey-Williams

    Artist: Alison Forner

    Colourful, playful and charming, this cover captures the fun elements (see what we did there) of the subject matter. We all know Chemistry is cool really.

  • Books Burn Badly

    Books Burn Badly

    Title: Books Burn Badly Author: Manuel Rivas Artist:… More details

    Books Burn Badly

    Books Burn Badly

    Title: Books Burn Badly

    Author: Manuel Rivas

    Artist: Unknown

    A book about Franco's Spain, where book-burning was rife, consisting of the covers of 36 books in a beautiful patchwork effect. We're sure Alanis Morrisette wrote a song about that once.

  • Beowulf

    Beowulf

    Title: Beowulf Author: Seamus Heaney Artist: Seth… More details

    Beowulf

    Beowulf

    Title: Beowulf

    Author: Seamus Heaney

    Artist: Seth Rubin

    Beowulf is an epic Old English poem consisting of 3182 alliterative long lines and tells the tale of a heroic Scandinavian helping the King of the Danes, whose mead hall is under attack (a worthy reason for any heroic behaviour). This brilliant, simple cover captures the feel of Beowulf, wearing his chain mail, preparing to head away from the reader, into battle. Lets face it - Scandinavian warriors are always cool.

  • Flowers in the Attic

    Flowers in the Attic

    Title: Flowers in the Attic Author: V.C. Andrews Artist:… More details

    Flowers in the Attic

    Flowers in the Attic

    Title: Flowers in the Attic

    Author: V.C. Andrews

    Artist: Milton Charles/Gillian Hills

    This classic cover perfectly echoes the harrowing tale of the book - a group of siblings locked in an attic together, with the black sky, and blood red bricks housing a single pained face looking forlornly out of the window. A unique and haunting image.

  • The Godfather

    The Godfather

    Title: The Godfather Author: Mario Puzo Artist: S. Neil… More details

    The Godfather

    The Godfather

    Title: The Godfather

    Author: Mario Puzo

    Artist: S. Neil Fujita

    The cover art for this classic was simple and striking - a heavy, gothic typeface and a puppeteer pulling the strings; so good that it was carried over wholesale for the film...and the rest is history.

  • Kidney For Sale By Owner

    Kidney For Sale By Owner

    Title: Kidney For Sale By Owner Author: Mark J.… More details

    Kidney For Sale By Owner

    Kidney For Sale By Owner

    Title: Kidney For Sale By Owner

    Author: Mark J. Cherry

    Artist: David Drummond

    An intriguing look into the issues and merits of selling body parts on a free market, this book has an equally intriguing cover: the subject of the book mocked up into a classified newspaper advert. Clever and cool.

  • Psycho

    Psycho

    Title: Psycho Author: Robert Bloch Artist: Tony… More details

    Psycho

    Psycho

    Title: Psycho

    Author: Robert Bloch

    Artist: Tony Palladino

    Like so many great covers - simple, but hugely effective. Black and white starkness and a giant typeface, viciously slashed through. A portent of what was to come inside its cover, and carried through to the film artwork.

  • Porno

    Porno

    Title: Porno Author: Irvine Welsh Artist: DJ Design Lurid,… More details

    Porno

    Porno

    Title: Porno

    Author: Irvine Welsh

    Artist: DJ Design

    Lurid, crass, striking but real - the artwork for Welsh's sequel to the legendary Trainspotting suited the book perfectly. No-one could not notice this cover on the bookshelves.

  • In Cold Blood

    In Cold Blood

    Title: In Cold Blood Author: Truman Capote Artist: S. Neil… More details

    In Cold Blood

    In Cold Blood

    Title: In Cold Blood

    Author: Truman Capote

    Artist: S. Neil Fujita

    A pioneering work in the True Crime genre, Capote's classic needed a sober cover - Fujita provided it, with simple, classic typefaces and a hatpin with a drop of blood. The drop was originally a brighter red, but Capote requested it be made darker to show the time elapsed since the murders. Finally a black border was added, for extra gravitas - the finishing touch to an iconic cover design.

  • Super Mario

    Super Mario

    Title: Super Mario Author: Jeff Ryan Artist: Dan… More details

    Super Mario

    Super Mario

    Title: Super Mario

    Author: Jeff Ryan

    Artist: Dan Donohue

    The big little man is the coolest set of pixels to ever exist in the digital world, so it made sense for the cover of this exploration to use him. Retro 8-bit graphics and typeface, and a simple layout make this cover kitsch, understated and very cool indeed.

  • The Book of Dead Philosophers

    The Book of Dead Philosophers

    Title: The Book of Dead Philosophers Author: Simon… More details

    The Book of Dead Philosophers

    The Book of Dead Philosophers

    Title: The Book of Dead Philosophers

    Author: Simon Critchley

    Artist: John Gall

    A book within a book cover. But the book is about dead people. So the book that is photographed is positioned to be look like a tomb. That's cool.

  • Jurassic Park

    Jurassic Park

    Title: Jurassic Park Author: Michael Crichton Artist: Chip… More details

    Jurassic Park

    Jurassic Park

    Title: Jurassic Park

    Author: Michael Crichton

    Artist: Chip Kidd

    Another book cover that has become absolutely synonymous with the book itself, and the subsequent enormous film franchise, Chip Kidd's Jurassic Park cover is absolutely, undeniably cool. The eerie dinosaur skeleton has become so famous that it's easy to forget how menacing it must have originally looked. Very small arms though.

  • Loneliness

    Loneliness

    Title: Loneliness Author: John T. Cacioppo & William… More details

    Loneliness

    Loneliness

    Title: Loneliness

    Author: John T. Cacioppo & William Patrick

    Artist: Peter Mendelsund

    Probably the best of all the minimalist designs in this gallery, the dot of the 'i' at first looks like a mark on the page, which you think must be a mistake, that should be erased. Look closer and you find that it is, in fact, a metaphor for the subject of the book and you feel sad for writing it off and ostracising it. Oh yes, we think very deeply here at ShortList.

  • Procession of the Dead

    Procession of the Dead

    Title: Procession of the Dead Author: Darren Shan Artist:… More details

    Procession of the Dead

    Procession of the Dead

    Title: Procession of the Dead

    Author: Darren Shan

    Artist: Catherine Casalino

    Our third book cover to feature the word 'dead' in title, we apologise if we're being a little macabre. But there's something about the ol' grim reaper that seems to bring out the best in designers. This one is simple and haunting, and we're sure El Muerte would approve.

  • A General Theory of Love

    A General Theory of Love

    Title: A General Theory of Love Author: Thomas Lewis, Fari… More details

    A General Theory of Love

    A General Theory of Love

    Title: A General Theory of Love

    Author: Thomas Lewis, Fari Amini & Richard Lannon

    Artist: John Gall

    A touching (literally) cover graces this scientific book, getting to the heart (literally) of the subject matter discussed within. It's cool. And love-ly (literally).

  • Brave New World

    Brave New World

    Title: Brave New World Author: Aldous Huxley Artist: Leslie… More details

    Brave New World

    Brave New World

    Title: Brave New World

    Author: Aldous Huxley

    Artist: Leslie Holland

    This dystopian classic has a beautifully designed cover to match; there have been many since, but our favourite is the first edition version, designed by Leslie Holland. And of course, perhaps the colour scheme foresaw the advent of Facebook, which many believe is the modern day realisation of Huxley's World...or maybe it just looked cool. Probably the latter thinking about it.

  • A Cultural Dictionary of Punk

    A Cultural Dictionary of Punk

    Title: A Cultural Dictionary of Punk Author: Nicholas… More details

    A Cultural Dictionary of Punk

    A Cultural Dictionary of Punk

    Title: A Cultural Dictionary of Punk

    Author: Nicholas Rombes

    Artist: Sarah Rainwater

    Getting bonus marks before it even starts by eschewing the clich├ęd 'cut-out letters from magazines' style of almost every other book about punk, this cover literally puts the music in the centre, with a DIY aesthetic surrounding it. As it should be.

  • An Ethics of Interrogation

    An Ethics of Interrogation

    Title: An Ethics of Interrogation Author: Michael… More details

    An Ethics of Interrogation

    An Ethics of Interrogation

    Title: An Ethics of Interrogation

    Author: Michael Skerker

    Artist: Isaac Tobin

    Designer Tobin is responsible for a whole slew of great book covers, but this is his most simple and probably the most effective, with the single lightbulb conjuring up an image of a cold, dark room, with a detective who wants information...and is prepared to use any means necessary to obtain it...

  • Catch-22

    Catch-22

    Title: Catch-22 Author: Joseph Heller Artist: Paul… More details

    Catch-22

    Catch-22

    Title: Catch-22

    Author: Joseph Heller

    Artist: Paul Bacon

    Catch-22's iconic cover, almost as famous as the book itself, showcases Bacon's signature style of author and title in bold, large typeface, with a small, but memorable illustrative motif.

  • Burn This Book

    Burn This Book

    Title: Burn This Book Author: Toni Morrison… More details

    Burn This Book

    Burn This Book

    Title: Burn This Book

    Author: Toni Morrison (editor)

    Artist: Unknown

    For a book of essays dedicated to the power of the word, this cover fits perfectly. No more words necessary.

  • Farenheit 451

    Farenheit 451

    Title: Farenheit 451 Author: Ray Bradbury Artist: Joe… More details

    Farenheit 451

    Farenheit 451

    Title: Farenheit 451

    Author: Ray Bradbury

    Artist: Joe Pernaciaro

    An appropriately terrifying cover for this dystopian epic, the weeping figure standing over burning books has lost none of its power since being created back in 1953.

  • Jaws

    Jaws

    Title: Jaws Author: Peter Benchley Artist: Roger… More details

    Jaws

    Jaws

    Title: Jaws

    Author: Peter Benchley

    Artist: Roger Kastel

    What can you say about this cover that hasn't already been said - so good that Universal used the same design for the film. We've gone for the original cover, as the closed-mouth shark somehow looks even more menacing than the teeth-baring version.

  • When You Are Engulfed in Flames

    When You Are Engulfed in Fl…

    Title: When You Are Engulfed in Flames Author: David… More details

    When You Are Engulfed in Flames

    When You Are Engulfed in Flames

    Title: When You Are Engulfed in Flames

    Author: David Sedaris

    Artist: Chip Kidd/Van Gogh

    Most Sedaris covers could easily feature but his most recent just about won out in the cool stakes. It features an early Van Gogh painting. It's a painting of a skeleton. It's a skeleton smoking a cigarette. How could this not make it onto the list?

  • Tree of Codes

    Tree of Codes

    Title: Tree of Codes Author: Jonathan Safran Foer Artist:… More details

    Tree of Codes

    Tree of Codes

    Title: Tree of Codes

    Author: Jonathan Safran Foer

    Artist: Jon Gray

    While the whole book design is incredibly cool - a book that on each page has words literally cut out of the story in order to create a new one - the cover is also striking and worthy of attention in its own right.

  • All My Friends Are Dead

    All My Friends Are Dead

    Title: All My Friends Are Dead Author: Avery Monsen &… More details

    All My Friends Are Dead

    All My Friends Are Dead

    Title: All My Friends Are Dead

    Author: Avery Monsen & Jory John

    Artist: Avery Monsen

    Well, this book cover and title is certainly a way to get attention. Perfectly capturing the feel of the whole thing, the cover features a very forlorn-looking dinosaur making a brutally accurate and morbid statement. Poor dino.

  • Invisible Man

    Invisible Man

    Title: Invisible Man Author: Ralph Ellison Artist: Edward… More details

    Invisible Man

    Invisible Man

    Title: Invisible Man

    Author: Ralph Ellison

    Artist: Edward McKnight Kauffer

    A design classic to rank alongside Catch-22, Kauffer's Invisible Man artwork perfectly represents the protagonist, struggling to find identity in a hate-filled world, existing amongst the shadows. Effortlessly cool.

Tags: books, Design

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