We won’t waste your time telling you what makes a great book cover great. You know a great book cover when you see it. And though cover design is notoriously one of the most fickle and unscientific aspects of publishing, the best covers can come close to a general consensus of “Yep, that’s a good book cover.” PWxyz spent an amount of time we won’t care to admit looking at cover after cover, and these are our choices. That being said, this is 100% a subjective list, so let us know in the comments and at the hashtag #2011bestcover what your choices are for the best book cover of the year.
How the Dead Live by Derek Raymond (Melville House)
Three Stages of Amazement by Carol Edgarian (Scribner)
The Typist by Michael Knight (Atlantic Monthly Press)
Reamde by Neal Stephenson (William Morrow)
The Top 10
10. Someday This Will Be Funny by Lynne Tillman (Red Lemonade)
The fuzzed-out portrait renders the woman nearly anonymous, and the disorder of the central image is nicely offset by the order of the grid.
9. Lightning Rods by Helen DeWitt (New Directions)
8. A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter by William Deresiewicz (Penguin Press)
The formality of Austen’s novels is contrasted by the cartoonish style and informality of an outfit (and personality) being simply applied adhesively.
7. The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood by James Gleick (Pantheon)
A book cover that shows how simple is better, The Information‘s cover somehow found a way to convey the overabundance of information (the book’s center) through an uncomplicated design.
6. The Selected Canterbury Tales: A New Verse Translation by Geoffrey Chaucer, translation by Sheila Fisher (W.W. Norton & Company)
Talk about prestige. No other book is likely to make you feel as important as The Selected Canterbury Tales, which distills Chaucer’s tales into their basest form: they are all stories told during a journey.
5. The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank (Penguin Ink)
The Penguin Ink series assigns a tattoo artist to re-imagine a classic backlist title. Here, Lina Stigsson of Admiraal Tattoo Studio in Amsterdam chooses to highlight protagonist Jane’s anonymity as she maneuvers her way through relationships on her way to an identity. To see the difference a book cover can make, compare the Penguin Ink edition with the original edition.
4. The Influencing Machine: Brooke Gladstone on the Media by Brooke Gladstone, illustrations by Josh Neufeld (W.W. Norton & Company)
Graphic novels’ covers have an additional task that non-illustrated works don’t: they have to capture the style of the images. The Influencing Machine puts Gladstone’s portrait, literally, on her most-well known backdrop: radio. The blue on the cover also matches the only color you’ll find in the panels.
3. The Art of Immersion: How the Digital Generation Is Remaking Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and the Way We Tell Stories by Frank Rose (W.W. Norton & Company)
The book’s long title is wisely relegated to the fringe of the sinking silhouette. And since the book is about vertical immersion and depth, it’s an accomplishment that a two-dimensional cover somehow adds on a third.
2. The Uncoupling by Meg Wolitzer (Riverhead)
The best use of font this year, The Uncoupling‘s clean white text set on a bright background perfectly encapsulates middle-class suburban propriety. The brackets nicely separate title from author name without putting an obstructive line through the image.
1. Zone One by Colson Whitehead (Doubleday)
The best book cover of the year offers a glimpse of an empire, mostly obstructed, put through a filter so desaturated it’s almost black and white, making the book’s dread insidious rather than explicit. It looks like an old, important photograph, but with something unsettling, though you can’t quite put your finger on it. The zombie apocalypse has never looked so subtle or refined.