Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Bad Book Covers

Top Ten Tuesday, yippee! It is I, Christina, thrilled to share with you my top ten books whose covers I wish I could redesign. The trouble is, I don't think I'd be particularly good at fixing these covers. I just know that I don't like them as they are. If you've got an embarrassing paperback you don't want to be seen with, I suggest investing in one of these cool covers. Voilà! Now you're free to read erotica on the subway if that's your fancy, and no one will be the wiser. Speaking of erotica, check out this hot cover:

1. Notes on a Scandal, by Zoë Heller
The UK edition at left is the one I have. I read it in college, and I avoided carrying it around because of how misleading the cover is. It really looks like it MUST be erotica, or at least a pretty steamy romance novel. But it's not. Notes on a Scandal has a controversial plot, but it's a serious, clever, well-written book; it was shortlisted for the Man Booker prize. Not fluffy stuff. In contrast, I love the cover design of the American edition. Minimalist and provocative, and, most importantly, fitting. Though I do like the original title better.

2. Anansi Boys, by Neil Gaiman
I mentioned that I wasn't crazy about the cover when I reviewed it back in October.
Once again, the edition I read is at left. I think it's trying to say too much. Lightening! Spiderweb! London! Gloomy sky! Ugh. There's just no reason to give so much away.
The one at right is one million times better. I love the font and I just generally like that there isn't a lot going on. I do wish the title were bigger than the author's name, though. (See my no. 10)

3. Any movie tie-in cover
Even when I like the screen adaptation (as is the case with the Jane Eyre BBC series pictured on the cover at left) I don't want it advertised on my book cover. Whenever I read a movie tie-in edition, I feel like I'm saying: "I'd never heard of this book until the movie came out, and now I'm reading the book so that after I see the movie I can snootily say 'the book was soooooo much better.'" And that is almost never the way it works for me- I'm pitifully ignorant of what's playing in theaters.
Also, since books often really are better than movies (imho), it annoys me that a book has to look like a movie poster in order to garner sales.
Another reason I hate these covers is because they tend to offend my no. 5.

4. Animal Dreams
, by Barbara Kingsolver (1990 edition)
Here's another one that tries to say too much about the story, but somehow also manages to oversimplify it. I really like Animal Dreams (it's one of only a handful of books I've reread) and yet I dislike the cover of my edition so intensely that I can hardly stand to look at it. The font and southwesty style are so dated.
Unfortunately I've never seen a cover of this title that I did like, but I do have an idea for one. One of the characters has an unusual hobby: he takes photos of everyday objects and then manipulates them in the darkroom until they look like something else entirely. I'd love to see a photo like that on a cover for Animal Dreams.

5. Covers that depict characters
Some art director at the publishing house chooses a nice-looking model and there's the cover. It has nothing to do with what the author has in mind for that character, but from thenceforth all readers will imagine that character looking like that model. I think this is intrusive. It seems to happen the most with YA books that are marketed mainly toward girls. I'm guessing publishers believe teens are more likely to purchase books with covers that feature good looking sweet young things. But look at Twilight! Say what you like about the series, but I think it has really cool looking, minimal, meaningful cover designs. No hotties needed.

6. Free-Range Kids, by Lenore Skenazy
Once again, a book I enjoyed despite its unfortunate cover. This one bothers me because it's incredibly dated. It looks like it was published in 1999, not 2009. Who dressed those kids? Ugh. And they're doing something that isn't addressed in the book, and isn't really even relevant. I suppose it's supposed to be symbolic; if so, it's not very subtle.
This book stemmed from the heat Lenore Skenazy took after she let her 9-year-old take the subway alone. So how about a photo that relates to that? Maybe a black-and-white photo of her adorable curly-haired son walking through a turnstile alone?

7. Evidence of Harm, by David Kirby
Oh boy, this one actually makes me angry. It got a whole paragraph-long rant in my goodreads review. The eye-catching and alarmist red sets off a small photo of a scared little boy crying as he gets a shot in his arm.
I should just come right out and tell you that I'm firmly pro-vaccine, so maybe my strong feelings toward this cover are really just indicative of my strong feelings about the anti-vaccine movement in general.
One good thing about the cover design, though, is that it saves you the effort of reading the book! Just glance at it and you'll get everything you need to know: Vaccines hurt! Ouchie!
If you were the author, don't you think you'd be annoyed by the oversimplification inherent this kind of cover? There's no mystery or intrigue or subtlety. UGH.

8. I for Isobel, by Amy Witting
I have the American edition at left, and I think it misrepresents this book terribly. The darkened room and the frightened-looking girl staring straight ahead... it looks like a scary book. Besides that, it violates my no. 5.
The Australian edition at right is much more suitable, more pleasing to the eye, and classier. I love the title font. The body language hints at Isobel's character, but it doesn't give too much away or force the reader to picture the main character any certain way. Good job, Penguin Australia designers!

9. One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel García Márquez
This one isn't really awful, it's just... well, boring. I think this richly-detailed, fantastical book deserves a lush cover, and I especially love the 1999 edition at right. I wish I had that one. Actually, I'd like a poster of it.

10. Any cover
where the author's name is HUGE and you have to work to find the book's title
This has always irritated me. Mass Market paperbacks are the worst offenders. I can't figure out why it bothers me so much; I guess it's just a random personal pet peeve. I can understand the marketing behind it, but that doesn't mean I have to like it.

Hooray! Top Ten Tuesday is fun.