Top Ten Tuesday: books I bought for the cover

Text only: top ten TUESDAY

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish, and is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. It’s all about books, lists and sharing the love we have of both with our bookish friends. This week, I’m going rogue with a twist on an old topic.

Don’t judge a book by its cover, they say.

But it’s very hard not to sometimes. Great cover art grabs my eye – bad cover art can stop me even picking a book up to look at the blurb. Call me shallow, call me foolish – and yes, I’m sure I’ve missed out on some great reads for my cover snobbery – but cover art does count, even in this age of digital books where you never have to see it again once you’ve bought it. Sure, the author counts for far, far more and the cover blurb can still put me off however good the cover – but a good cover is the difference between whether I read the blurb at all.

Last year, I did a top ten of my favourite covers. This week, I’m going to talk about books I know I bought at least in part because of their cover… and how that turned out for me. I’ve tried to find artist credits, but it’s surprisingly hard – let me know if you know any I missed!


Book cover: Annihilation - Jeff Vandermeer (patterned hardcover, white flowers or spores on a grey background)
Artist: Kai and Sunny

Annihilation – Jeff Vandermeer
I adore an unjacketed hardback, and that goes double when it’s etched or embossed or otherwise decorated. I know I picked Annihilation off the shelf in Forbidden Planet because it was so pretty (as are Authority and Acceptance) – and when I read the blurb I wasn’t wowed but I wasn’t put off – but I couldn’t put that gorgeous book back down. So I bought it (and really enjoyed it, phew! Can’t wait to see the film).


The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet – Becky Chambers

Book cover: A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet
Artist: Mark Read

I love the UK covers of the Wayfarer books. They’re majestic, yet humbling. I remember glimpsing Small Angry Planet on a shelf in Waterstones and literally just stopping and staring at it. I picked it up, read the blurb, and was on a book buying ban and didn’t buy it. But every bookshop I went into from there on in, I stopped to look at it. And when I eventually stopped resisting, I lost my heart on the spot. Such an adorable book (see also: the US edition of The Space Between the Stars).


Book cover: Wintersong - S Jae-Jones (a white rose in a glass ball)
Artist: Danielle Fiorella

Wintersong – S Jae-Jones

Snow, glass bauble, white rose, slight fussy old-school font – tick, tick, tick, tick. And the colourWintersong is just beautiful, and I loved it at first sight (which was online). It’s even more gorgeous in person – one of those books that once you have, you must read. I’ve just finished the sequel, Shadowsong (also very pretty, and equally good).


Book cover: The Drowning Eyes
Artist: Cynthia Sheppard

The Drowning Eyes – Emily Foster

Look at that face. Look at that face! This is just glorious artwork – her fierce face, that tight grip on the rope, the wrapping of the bodice, the hint of armour in the shoulder straps, the suggestion of skirts and seawater. This screams epic and beauty, and is almost as good a story in microcosm as the novella itself (which is amazing).


Certain Dark Things – Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Book cover: Certain Dark Things - Silvia Moreno-Garcia (a face half-obscured by swirling blood)To be fair, I’m pretty sure I’d heard of this book before I ever saw the cover art, but LOOK AT THAT COVER. OMG. I can sit and stare at it all day. The lighting on those features. The swirling red that turns into an Incan hummingbird. There’s a version without the red smoke which I think I like even more. The book is just as brooding and intense.


A Game of Thrones – George R R Martin

Book Cover: A Game of ThronesYes, honestly. I’d been ignoring the lurid pulp covers for several years (I’m such a booksnob) and then one day this elegant golden beast appeared on a table with a strapline that said “Characters as venomous as the Borgias” and my hand was drawn right to it. I have no regrets about letting the pulpy covers put me off – at least it meant I only had to wait about 6 years for A Feast for Crows


The Explorer – James Smythe

Book cover: The Explorer by James SmytheThis book stood out for being so stark (I loved it in both black and white) – the tumbling astronaut on the plain field, the crisp simplicity of the font and the little pop of colour on the author’s name. I do have a weakness for a good bit of design (and for a good bit of storytelling, which this is – although I liked the sequel better. It had great cover art too!)


Book cover: The Kraken Sea - E Catharine Tobler (painting of a person with their head in stormclouds, all menacing greys and pink lightning)
Artist: Magdalena Pagowska

The Kraken Sea – E. Catherine Tobler

Apex Magazine has an amazing track record with cover art and the cover for The Kraken Sea may not have tentacles, but it’s another gorgeous bit of artwork, all impressionist and brooding (yes, yes, I know, spot my biases. Yes, I have font biases too, and this ticks that box as well). I haven’t read this one yet.


Book cover: Too Like the Lightning - Ada Palmer (a hazy view of flying craft near a spire)
Artist: Victor Mosquera

Too Like the Lightning – Ada Palmer

Ahem, so let’s run down the check list of things I like: amazing colour palette, hazy impression of a cityscape, fab font, oh and impressive geology and flying craft! This says exciting to me, and while I’ve lost all track of what it’s about I’m really looking forward to cracking it open and reading it… but let’s not pretend I didn’t pick it up for the cover art. The blurb just didn’t put me off.


Book cover: Sedition by Katharine GrantSedition – Katharine Grant

This cover captures some of my other biases: almost photo-realistic, featuring people you can’t actually see (see also: silhouettes, random body parts – erm, preferably attached tho!), mood lighting and a good bit of scrollwork around the font. There’s also some lovely detailing on the piano keys, which makes me happy. The book, sadly, isn’t all that.


Have you ever bought a book (in part) because of its cover?