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The 12 Best Book Covers of All Time

The saying goes that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but let's be real, we all judge every single book cover. There's been more than a few times where I've bought a book purely based on its cover, not knowing anything about the content.


So, what makes a great cover? The answer is subjective and a little different for everyone. A cover should clearly show the title, the author's name, and capture the essence of the book. But otherwise, anything goes.


My personal taste for book cover design is minimalistic and clever, with a touch of whimsy. Below I've curated a list of 12 books that I think are the best book covers of all time.

The Intern's Handbook

At first glance, this cover looks like a classic skull and bones. But upon further examination, you realize its made entirely up of office supplies! Why does an intern's handbook have a skull & bones? What's so deadly about his/her job? The cover is simple, yet so intriguing.

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Outliers

Malcolm Gladwell has a slew of bestselling books, but this cover is my favorite. One little ball is in the center of the cover, but why is there a cluster off to the side? Shouldn't it be reversed, where the outlier is near the cover edge? Why is the outlier ball in the middle? So many questions, so few answers (until you crack open the book of course).

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How the Dead Live

This book is still in my TBR pile and I have no idea what it's about. I just know a broken plate with a face and pieces breaking off? What does it have to do with dead people? Real dead people or just dead-inside people?

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Gone Girl

Gone Girl is one of the few novels where I simultaneously hated the main characters and loved the plot. I also loved the cover. A few strands of hair running off the cover's edge, combined with the title, makes it subtlely intriguing.

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The Night Gardener

The only children's book to make this reading list. Normally I don't find kids lit covers as interesting since they tend to be more obvious and less clever, but The Night Gardener is an exception. At first glance, you think it's a real owl, but then you notice its legs are a tree stump. Is it alive? Is someone trimming the tree into an owl shape? Both?

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The Vegetarian

The Vegetarian is well-known for winning the Man Booker International Prize in 2016. It's equally well-known for its compelling cover. Seemingly, a simple silhouette of a woman looking up. And then you take a closer look and see the roots and plants growing out of her. It's unsettling and uncomfortable, particularly against the harsh red-pink background.

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1Q84

Part of what makes this cover so intriguing, is you know immediately that it is a reference to George Orwell's classic novel 1984. But how is this book different? Why is there a Q instead of an 0? Why does it feature a Japanese woman? Murakami's keeps us on our toes.

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The Design of Everyday Things

This book is a must-read for designers of every kind, from industrial to UX to clothing. When everyday things are really well designed, then we shouldn't notice them at all. If it is badly designed, like the red teapot on the cover, you will notice immediately. This cover is a favorite of mine because it conveys the message, design is important, in a singular object.

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What are you some of your favorite book covers? Share in the comments below.

Book Nerd. Forever Nomad. Wannabe Foodie. Aspiring Aerialist. Coffee Addict. Whiskey Drinker. I've worked for an indie bookstore, a small publisher, a large publisher, and now I'm Bookwitty's ... Show More

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