Who Has the Better Book Covers: U.S. or U.K.?

Gabe Habash -- November 8th, 2012

During a stop at Dublin’s Hodges Figgis, I was struck by two things as an American reader. One: most U.K. paperbacks have cheap binding. Two: the covers of most books on the other side of the Atlantic differ drastically from what we see in the States. With the exception of Penguin Classics and a few other publishers that are in both markets, a trip through a U.K. bookstore is an altogether different experience.

Here are 10 books, U.K. on the left and U.S. on the right. Which do you prefer?

1. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole












2. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood











3. Under the Dome by Stephen King











4. The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach











5. Astray by Emma Donoghue











6. Capital by John Lanchester











7. Lionel Asbo: State of England by Martin Amis











8. Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel











9. This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz












10. Brighton Rock by Graham Greene



36 thoughts on “Who Has the Better Book Covers: U.S. or U.K.?

  1. wordsurfer

    I think UK covers in general have a more vintage, paper (as opposed to plastic), quality look to them. I’ve often compared the covers of German and UK books, and UK wins easily there…

  2. Emily

    1. Confederacy- UK
    2. Handmaid’s Tale- UK
    3. Under the Dome- equally bad
    4. Art of Fielding- US
    5. Astray- US
    6. Capital- UK
    7. Lionel Asbo- UK
    8. Bring up- US
    9. This is How- US
    10. Brighton Rock- UK
    The UK wins just barely

  3. Julie Rowan-Zoch

    Very Interesting! Set up a poll next time, please!

    1 A Confederacy of Dunces – UK, no comparison!
    2 The Handmaid’s Tale – US, though I like the UK vers.
    3 Under the Dome – UK; the US version is overdone, no room for imagination
    4 The Art of Fielding – tie
    5 Astray – US – far, far betta’
    6 Capital – UK, by a landslide
    7 Lionel Asbo: State of England – UK
    8 Bring Up the Bodies – neither, but the composition on the UK vers. is more striking
    9 This Is How You Lose Her – UK; the US version has no ‘flavor’
    10 Brighton Rock – UK

  4. Patricia Anne Elford

    clear winner on either side. To be specific:
    1. Confederacy — US
    2. Handmaid’s Tale — Tie
    4. Art of Fielding — UK but don’t like either particularly.
    5. Astray — UK
    6. Capital — Tie
    7. Lionel Asbo — UK
    8. Bring Up The Bodies — UK
    9. This Is How You Lose Her UK
    10. Brighton Rock — UK

  5. CarolK

    Mostly a toss up but the two US that are winners for me are The Handmaid’s Tale & Under the Dome. Perhaps I’d have stronger feelings if I had read each.

  6. Paul

    3. The UK Under the Dome cover is one of a set of four character covers – the publisher’s thinking was that they would be emulating character one sheets associated with movie and TV publicity.

  7. Robin Burcell

    I think that Michael Glitz has the right of it, with the exception of Handmaid’s Tale, which I couldn’t decide on. UK’s was more interesting visually. US evoked a different emotional response, as it made me think. The trick is to get them to pick up the book, and I think it would work in this case. Books I would not pick up based on the cover alone: UK’s Under the Dome, US’s Brighton Rock.

  8. paul takushi

    Comparing covers actually becomes quite an interesting exercise in determining the different marketing strategies and psychological reactions behind each cover, thereby demonstrating a particular UK aesthetic versus an American aesthetic. The UK Diaz is sexier and more vibrant. The US Diaz is more “digital” and sterile. The UK Amis is disarming and RalphSteadmanesque while the US Amis looks like a tabloid – cleaner and more sterile. The UK covers also remind me of US covers from the 1960s and 1970s (which is not to say that the UK covers are old or outdated).

  9. Christina (A Reader of Fictions)

    Confederacy of Dunces: UK, but only slightly more than US. Mostly I dislike both of these.

    Handmaid’s Tale: US wins for fitting the story, though I do like the style of the UK cover better.

    Under the Dome: US. Why is some random old dude on the cover? Where’s the dome?

    Art of Fielding: I like both, but I suppose the UK one would make me slightly more likely to pick the book up in a store.

    Astray: US. There’s a horse, and I like the illustration.

    Capital: UK. The US one is less visually interesting.

    Lionel Asbo: Wow, I hate both of these, but that illustrated man horrifies me, so US.

    Bring Up the Bodies: Both are lovely, but US for giving me a sense of the historical period.

    This Is How You Lose Her: US for looking like Tetris and for not being painful to my eyes.

    Brighton Rock: UK, because again I am scared of the illustrated man.

    So, overall, it’s 4 to 6, with the US squeaking out a win.

  10. Steve

    I agree that the US cover of Under the Dome is better. However, to understand the UK cover you have to remember that it was one of several different covers issued for the UK edition (featuring characters from the book). So it was eyecatching in the bookshop (as it had several different covers) but mystifying as a standalone cover when compared to the US cover.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>