A book cover has to both draw you into the book when you first pick it up as well as stand as an aesthetic representation of the story’s heart. For many of us, book covers are a big reason why we’re still holding onto physical books, and there’s something about the best of them that conveys the transportive ability we find in our favorite books.
Here’s why East of Eden by John Steinbeck, published in 1952 and adapted into a James Dean film in 1995, takes the prize for having the best book covers: its story naturally lends itself to being captured in one representative image. The story is a sprawling family history with Biblical overtones and one of the best realized settings in literature, and the inherent quality of grandeur filling every one of its 600+ pages just makes for a better picture to put onto a book cover. We’ve looked through East of Eden‘s 50-year publication history for its best covers and have highlighted the best of the best below. What’s interesting about these covers is how they all choose a different aspect of the book to feature. While most feature the Salinas Valley as the centerpiece, some convey the complex character relationships via blocking (usually having one character face away from another), while still others play up the Biblical references found in Steinbeck’s book.
If you haven’t yet read East of Eden, you’re in for a treat. You just have the unenviable task of picking one of these editions over the others. Which one is your favorite? Or, do you think a different book has a better collection of covers than East of Eden? Let us know in the comments!
(First Edition cover, The Viking Press, 1952)
(Centennial Edition, Penguin, 2002)
(Penguin Classics, 1992)
(Penguin Modern Classics, 2000)
(Pan Books #2)
(Penguin Modern Classics)
(Oscar classici moderni, Italian)
(Penguin 20th Century Classics, 1999)