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Sunday, April 23, 2006

New Will Self covers

Will Self is a wonderful, trippy writer, and his books definitely deserved an overhaul. I'm always excited when an author's catalog gets this kind of unified treatment:

I like these, but can't help but note the similarity between these and what was recently done to Sarah Vowell's books:

Are the new Self books too close to Vowell's?

The Chick-Lit Debacle

We've all heard by now about the "unintentional and unconscious" copying that has Kaavya Viswanathan in a little plagiarism trouble. Here's an article.

What's this got to do with book design? I can't give her/him props, but an anonymous comment (#16) over at Gothamist points out the similarity between these covers:

The Weiner book came first; the book on the right was written by the person who is claiming that her work was plagiarized by Viswanathan.

While it's pretty clear from what I've read that there's definitely something more than "unintentional and unconscious" copying going on, I wouldn't get too high up on my soapbox if the cover of my book is a clear copy of another chick-lit book.

(And before someone claims this is all the marketing department's fault, let's remember that there's a designer and an art director out there who really fell down on the job with this one.)

Glow-in-the-dark Haunted?

An ad in this weekend's NYTimes Book Review said that this new paperback glows in the dark. No mention of that at Amazon or at the Anchor Books site.

Gimmicky, no doubt. But does anyone know of any other (serious) book covers that do this?

Attention all fellow word dorks

I'm assuming there are a few of you out there... :-)

I recently bought White Sox tickets online from Ticketmaster and they have a word verification step, as many such sites do. Those of you who leave comments here know that I ask for verification as well, and that you're asked to type in "words" such as PXYSQ and FRPWQII. Ticketmaster, however, has real words, and what's cool is that most are old, obsolete words I don't know. Who knew:

oxter = armpit

adunc = hooked; as, a parrot has an adunc bill

gurry = fish offal

hurden = a course kind of linen

(defs. via

I am *SO* going to kick my wife's ass in Scrabble next time we play.

Suite Francaise

Celebrated in pre-WWII France for her bestselling fiction, the Jewish Russian-born Némirovsky was shipped to Auschwitz in the summer of 1942, months after this long-lost masterwork was composed. Némirovsky, a convert to Catholicism, began a planned five-novel cycle as Nazi forces overran northern France in 1940. (description from

Two things about this cover: Is it me, or does the photo look staged? I would be surprised if this photo really did date from the '40s. The two main figures are especially suspect. Secondly, anyone know what typeface that is? No doubt chosen for its mid-century, Deco-ish feel, but I think it's just awful.

Philosophy Made Simple

I majored in philosophy, and I can't remember anything about elephant trunks and cowboy boots. Can anyone help a brother out?

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Elements of Style

(from the NYT Review): The cover art for Wendy Wasserstein's "Elements of Style" makes this book look like an expensive present. The design cruelly underscores that there will be no more gifts from Ms. Wasserstein, the endearingly funny and much-admired Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright. She died in January at 55. Her first novel is her last.

Send in the Idiots

Diagnosed w/ autism, Nazeer tries to find four of the "Idiots" with whom he went to school.

The simplicity of this is growing on me. Four friends, four chairs; I've been told different color chairs are pretty normal in settings such as a school for people with special needs. And the chairs are empty. Where did the students go? That's what the book is about.

Think about some of the photos used on books which are attractive but which just don't feel right, even after you've read the book. The feet, the shoes, the hem of the dress, etc. And then think about this photo.

Gay Talese: A Writer's Life

I really didn't know what Gay Talese looked like, but the NY Times calls him "America's nattiest author" (take that, Tom Wolfe!) And indeed, he's one natty dude.

But I digress...It's a shame that such a great photo (I mean, c'mon...don't you want to have a drink with this guy???) is paired with such uninspired type and layout.

Halfway House

Love this. The upside-down house could have been too much, but it's not. A really nice lesson in taking care with the edge of the format.

Seventeen-year-old Angie has just routed the competition in the individual medley, and she's acting strangely, babbling to her teammates at the pool's edge. Her parents, Jordana and Pieter, wonder if she's on drugs — or maybe the pressure of college applications has gotten to her. Then, during her younger brother's race, Angie throws herself into the pool, swims to the bottom and stays there. Angie has had a psychotic break...


Quite different approaches, and based on the description of the book, it's the paperback (top) that gets it right:

Jasira, the 13-year-old narrator of Erian's bluntly erotic first novel, can't hide her budding sexuality. When her mother sends her to live with her Lebanese-born father in Houston, she endures anti-Arab slurs, the attentions of a predatory neighbor, and her father's mix of Old World Dignity and undisguised hostility.

A Death in Belmont

That's the palm of a hand. What's it got to do with this book? Junger's parents hired Albert DeSalvo, the alleged Boston Strangler, as a builder when he was an infant.

What a great concept (this cover, of course; not strangling people).


Last year's hardcover was one of my favorites. I'm pretty surprised that they went w/ something different for the paperback. (The new paperback is on top, the hardcover below it):

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Samuel Beckett: Grove Centenary Editions, vols. 1-4

Design by Laura Lindgren. Lovely. When I first saw them I thought they were from McSweeney's. (And you hard-core Beckett will have to tell me what they mean.)

Never Drank the Kool-Aid

I have to see this at the bookstore; it looks gorgeous.

And you have to check out Toure's Web site. How long has it been since you've seen the Web site-as-city metaphor? Yeah, me too. 1998.


Usually not a big fan of this kind of cover ("this kind" = picture of people from behind, or of their feet, etc), but I think I like this. The type isn't mind-blowing but I like the crop on the photo, especially how it just catches the word "CITY" in the Radio City Music Hall sign.

Challenger Park

This one really pops off the shelf in the store. Beautiful, deeply saturated colors.

Sunday, April 02, 2006


Graffiti stencil, meet book cover. Book cover, graffiti stencil.
Surprised there's not more of this. Or maybe there is, and I haven't seen it.
Either way, love this.

The Cloudspotter's Guide

Ah, what a different type makes.

The U.S. version:

The U.K. version:


Might just be me, but the stars-and-stripes lettering is a bit much, no? Otherwise, really nice and rather unconventional for a politics title.

Penguin Classic Deluxe Editions

How cool is this?

Penguin Classics presents the Graphic Classics - timeless works of literature featuring amazing, one-of-a-kind cover illustrations from some today's best graphic artists. These Penguin Classics Deluxe Editions also feature French flaps, rough fronts and luxurious packaging. Look for more Deluxe Classics with illustrated covers in the months ahead!

Who did which one? Check out the credits here.

"Progress in Distributing New Book Formats"

There's an article in today's NY Times book section about the Sony Reader, which is about to get a BIG marketing push. Read the article.

Have you seen it? If not, here it is:

There are some horrible things about this, and some great ones. If it's true that some day I can go to the book store and download Harry Crews' Naked in Garden Hills instead of paying hundreds of dollars for a library edition in poor condition, that's great.

But as people who are interested in book design, what does this mean for us?

Don't discuss amongst yourselves. Do it right here. I would love to know what people think about this.

Between the Bridge and the River

A novel by Craig Furguson, host of the Late Late Show on CBS.

As soon as I saw this, I thought of a cover that I posted a while back: some thought the photograph of someone falling out of a tree was beautiful, others thought it was gimmicky. I like that photo, and I like this one too.

The Disposable American

Search Corbis for "layoff" or "fired" and you'll see that you have a wide selection of stock photos of sh*t-canned people from which to choose. Who knew?

Sunday, March 26, 2006

A Changed Man: Hardcover vs. Paperback

When A Changed Man came out last year, I posted the jacket for the hardcover (on the right, above). I and the majority of readers who commented weren't so fond of it. I think "way too Photoshoppy" was my eloquent comment. ;-)

A brief description of the book will show you why the tattoo idea is being used:

Vincent Nolan, a disenchanted member of the neo-Nazi American Rights Movement, walks into the New York office of the World Brotherhood Watch, a human rights organization, and declares, "I want to help you guys save guys like me from becoming guys like me."
I like the new one a bunch. Does anyone *not* prefer this to the hardcover? If so, I would love to hear why.

Our Town

Marion, Indiana: birthplace of James Dean and Jim Davis (creator of Garfield), and "location for the last organized lynching in the American north."

The author, according to the reviewer, makes the following argument:

Carr asserts "that there can never be a real dialogue in this country between white people and black people until those of who us who are white begin to tell our terrible stories." And most white people "come from something," she writes: "slaveowners, Klansmen, dissemblers, dehumanizers, averters of eyes."

It's a great review (in the Village Voice) and I love the cover. It's restrained (this could have been done in a much more sensational way) and the rope is just ominous enough. Do we need a noose? I don't think so.

The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil: UK version

Reader Chris from the UK sent this in: it's the cover for the UK version of Saunder's great book. Here's the US version.

Thanks, Chris!

Some Fun: Stories and a Novella

OK. I'm not a big fan of short fiction, so I don't know who Antonya Nelson is. Apparently, though, she's quite good, as she's won a bunch of awards. How do I know this? BECAUSE MENTION OF THEM IS PLASTERED ALL OVER HER NEW BOOK.

I did a little checking (but not much, because life is short): Guggenheim Fellowship? Check. REA Award? Yep.

And this collection isn't by Antonya Nelson. It's by "Winner Antonya Nelson."

Someone please leave a comment and tell me this is a joke. Or that I'm missing some Po-Mo meta blah-blah-blah. Please tell me this.

Body Brokers

The title and subtitle of this book are pretty clear; is the bracelet overkill? (Seriously, I can't make up my mind.) And I guess there's a market for hands with gangrene? Yuk.