Top Ten Tuesday: say it with words

Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by

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 we’re sharing books whose title is the cover art – where typography takes centre stage.

I get very exercised about fonts. One of my pet peeves is a bad font, although of course this is as wildly subjective as any other aspect of cover art (I don’t like highly ornate fonts for the most part). So I was ever so excited to see a prompt all about typography – although lettering-led cover art is surprisingly rare in my collection…

Sure, there’s technically illustration too but it’s the lettering that takes centre stage. I love the way the font communicates the setting here – although Upright Women Wanted isn’t your traditional Wild West tale (maybe I’d like wagon trail stories better if more of them featured revolutionary queer librarians).

Book cover: A Declaration of the Rights of Magicians - Uriah Heep

Lettering as design – sure, A Declaration of The Rights Of Magicians has a little embellishment too, but this is really all about the fanciful layout of the title. The mishmash of fonts should annoy me, but I have a soft spot for the way it manages to nod to formal documents of days past without really looking remotely like one.

The Wayfarers books always have beautiful if bland stock photography in the background, but the titles have always been the main event for me. I love the simplicity of font and lower case letters – combined with the stock photography the covers should feel meaninglessly generic, but I’ve always felt they achieve classy instead.

Book cover: the galaxy, and the ground within - Becky Chambers
Book cover: The Ends - James Smythe

The Anomaly series has – unsurprisingly, given the hiatus in its publishing history – changed cover design completely between first two and last two volumes, but that does mean its aptly titled finale The Ends got an uncompromising bright bold sans serif typographic treatment you just can’t argue with. Looking forward to reading this for SciFiMonth!

Jade City is a fantasy I really wish I’d enjoyed. Sadly I don’t particularly enjoy stories about gangsters, so I bounced off hard in spite of the promise of magic and kung fu. Still, I admire the understated cover design and that hand-crafted font for the title. Lovely.

Book cover: Jade City - Fonda Lee
Book cover: Feed - Mira Grant (RSS icon painted in blood)

Where’s the line between typography and graffiti as cover art? It’s daubed in blood on the cover of Feed, that’s where. This is probably my favourite novel by Seanan McGuire, although I still haven’t come to terms with the ending. Or the alternative ending.

Now we’re firmly in the territory of typography as art, with the gorgeous smoking lettering of The Djinn Falls In Love, a collection of short stories – as the name suggests – about djinni (although not necessarily about love).

Book cover: The Djinn Falls in Love and other stories - ed. Mahvesh Murad and Jared Shurin (white smoking text on dark background)
Book cover: The Peripheral

Some years ago, I remember reading Iain M Banks and William Gibson back to back and getting whiplash from the transition – Banks’s prose loaded with descriptors and sub clauses, Gibson’s as minimalist as the cover of The Peripheral (which I still haven’t read; but I’m looking forward to the Amazon show next month).

Forget fonts, the cover of Zoo City is pure art, with figurative letters that are absolutely charming (unlike the book’s cold, brittle heroine and gritty world).

Book cover: Zoo City
Book cover: The Secret History - Donna Tartt (text treatment plus seal of a stag)

A classic font, a little embellishment, a murderous tale of the seduction of dead languages at the cutting edge of class. Any excuse to finish with a favourite – I love that all these years later, the original design of The Secret History endures.

What books do you have on your shelf where the cover is dominated by lettering?