Shop Indie Bookstores

Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Contemporary Dictionary of Sexual Euphemisms

Photo by the author; design by Jennifer Carrow.

What, they couldn't take a picture of a rusty trombone? :-)

Buy this book from

Five Days in August

Design by Sarah Stengle

Getting dangerously close to Barbara Kruger territory here.

Buy this book from

US Guys

Design by Gray 318.

This has a nice screen print look to it in person, but ultimately left me a little flat.

Buy this book from


Cover art and design by Peter Mendelsund.

Finding this was interesting. It doesn't seem like something that would pop off the shelf, but nonetheless it did. It might be because it was shelved next to a book called Checkmate, which is a thriller about Muslim terrorists and stolen Pakistani cruise missiles and which has a cover to match, if you know what I mean. So the elegance of this stood out.

Read the Publishers Weekly and Booklist blurbs on Amazon to get a fuller picture of what this novel is about, but these quotes go reasonably far in explaining the design you see: "Bernhard's glorious talent for bleak existential monologues is second only to Beckett's," and "For readers who find Beckett too glib and Kafka a mere fusspot." There is something about the overall feel of this that suggests existentialism, the 1960s, and Penguin books from the period.

Buy this book from

Help Me Give Credit Where Credit Is Due

Spurred on by several requests to do so -- and because it's just a good idea -- it's time to start giving the designers whose work is featured here credit for their creations.

So if you know who's designed something featured here and if I haven't already noted the designer's name, please email or leave a comment on the post itself. I'll try to keep track of all the people who contribute and maybe we'll find a nice publisher who will give us some books to give away as a thank you.

My solemn vow to you, dear reader? I will:

1. Always carry a pen.
2. Carry paper, too.
3. Conquer my fear of said pen puncturing my scrotum.

So first off: anyone know who designed that amazing Allen Shawn memoir (below)?

Wish I Could Be There: Notes from a Phobic Life

Cover Designer: Herb Thornby

Allen Shawn's memoir has been getting a tremendous amount of press, virtually all of it glowing (the NY Times calls it "brave, eccentric and utterly compelling"). This man's got a LOT of fears, and writes: "I am afraid both of closed and of open spaces, and I am afraid, in a sense, of any form of isolation."

I saw this cover and didn't know what to think. I now think it's fantastic. The op art element creates exactly the kind of tension that's portrayed in the book. Is the design moving away from you or toward you? Is there height or depth? Wish you could be where: in or out? Both at the same time? Well, that's probably what it's like to live as Shawn does.

Buy this book from

Babylon's Burning

It's not often that a book review will mention the cover so explicitly:

We are not party to the publishing decisions that require the book to extend from punk to grunge. Maybe it's just an excuse to get two icons - iconoclast Johnny Rotten and martyr Kurt Cobain - on to a cover that shamelessly echoes Peter Biskind's wonderful Easy Riders, Raging Bulls. The jacket designs are the only thing these two volumes have in common.

Buy Babylon's Burning from

Bambi vs. Godzilla

Design by Brian Barth.

A cover that takes direction from one word: "vs." Works for me.

Buy this book from

The Virgin of Flames

Cover designed by Jerry Buckley

Read the NY Times review of this, as attempting to summarize this seems a fool's errand. I'll just say that the author has probably read Genet more than a few times.

Buy this book from

I Am Plastic

The police lineup makes this work.

Buy this book from

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Apex Hides the Hurt

Remember this?

You don't? Here's a brief description:

"The protagonist of Colson Whitehead's briskly existentialist third novel is a nomenclature consultant...The book's title comes from a bandage manufactured to color coordinate with pigments other than Caucasian."

While I think the new paperback (below) is fine on its own, held up to the hardcover it lacks a little something. Has anyone read this?

Anatomy of a Boyfriend

Not sure how many times something like this has been done -- my guess would be "LOTS of times" -- but it probably turns some heads, and sometimes that's good enough.

Where You're At

So what says hip-hop better: some old-school kicks or stencil grafitti?

A Slow Book Day

Haven't found anything worth posting today, but I did see this last night at a local Borders. Also briefly discussed over at Design Observer. Very cool:

"This clever and unique new slipcased guide contains 226 fonts from all the major type libraries in well over 1,000 typefaces. The selection ranges from classic fonts to new- comers, from Baskerville, Bodoni, and Jansen to Auto, Farnham Text, and Ginger. Each entry features special characters and includes a passage of dummy text that allows designers to assess the overall appearance and characteristic style of a font. Fonts are grouped in categories: Serif, Slab Serif, Sans Serif, Script, Black Letter and Display."

Buy the Type Selector from


In a word, wow. This is what's on the Picador UK site as well as what's on both the US and UK Amazon sites, but it's not yet published and therefore might not be final.

But if it is the final design: No author name on the front. No title on the front (the title is Fireproof, not "Help Me.") Again: Wow.

What it's about:

February 2002. A helpless nation watches as the city of Ahmedabad in India is rocked by religious violence. Before sunrise the next day, more than a hundred Muslim men, women and children will be killed, most of them burnt alive. Above the smoke and flames, the dead decide to intervene.

So begins Fireproof, Raj Kamal Jha’s mesmerizing new novel, in which the murdered whisper from footnotes and photographs. At the heart of the novel is its narrator Jay – a man who carries with him an unspeakable secret and a newborn baby – and a mystery woman, who writes with her fingers on glass, drawing man and child out of their home and on a journey across the burning city.

Don't know about you, but I love the whole idea of this.

Here's the Guardian review.

Fang Land

"(A) highly inventive reimagining of Bram Stoker's Dracula..." Design by Evan Gaffney.

Buy this book from

The Enemy at Home; What's Left

Working for the man sucks. You know what sucks more? Having this come across your desk and having to design it. And then having the art director tell you that putting a burnt flag on the jacket is probably the best idea s/he has to represent "the cultural left and its responsibility for 9/11," and that burning flags is really what liberals are all about.

Some reviews, etc. of this book:

The NY Times
Random House

And here's one from across the pond:

Excerpt here.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Unbinding

The LA Times writes: "Kirn depicts technology as a looming Orwellian force, spying on the citizenry, turning our insides outward. . . . The loss of privacy makes for comedy, at first, and then for a sense of foreboding as trampled boundaries refuse to reappear."

I say this is friggin' brilliant and my favorite of the short year so far. I don't think I've wanted a poster of a book cover this bad in a long time. Please, someone run to the bookstore and get me that designer's name! :-)

Buy this book from

In Spite of the Gods

There's a lot to like here: I love the colors of the type, among other things. But I can't stop looking at the camel sticking out of the guy's neck.

Buy this book from

Imitation? Flattery? Or Would You Call It Something Else?

Reader Jeff said this about the Kurlansky title, which I posted earlier today:

"What I'm more interested in is not only the cribbing of the classic Chuck Klosterman cover style, but even some of the cover copy..."

This is an important issue -- one that's been hashed out on many blogs and in many design classes -- but I want to hear what you have to say. Exactly what defines a unique visual style? Someone would be insane to use Futura Bold Italic on a book cover -- unless that someone is Barbara Kruger -- but what's the limit? One could probably make the case that the Klosterman books look like Miller Beer ads from a few years ago, which looked like...which looked like...

The point, I think, is that Jeff is essentially correct: walk by this in a bookshop and I'm guessing you would think this is a Klosterman book. But that doesn't necessarily mean it's a problem...or does it?

If you've not read it yet, there's a great post on this question (and LOTS of comments) at Design Observer.

Non-Violence: The History of a Dangerous Idea, UK and US

OK, military historians: does the statue in the US version (second image) have something to do with non-violence and pacifism?

Immigrants: Your Country Needs Them

OK, I need a little help with this one. The dots are immigrants?

Jimi Hendrix Turns Eighty

I think focusing more on the wheelchair and pimping it out 60s style -- as long as we're up to Photoshoppery -- would have been stronger.

Exit A

Is there ever a good reason to space letters like this?

Saturday, January 06, 2007

China Shakes the World, US and UK versions

It's not often that book covers induce motion sickness. But the US version of China Shakes the World comes close:

I love the UK version, though:

If Minds Had Toes

"Lucy Eyre's If Minds Had Toes is a clever and funny book shows young adults how philosophy can change their lives for the better."

As someone with a highly lucrative graduate degree in philosophy and a 14-year-old who doesn't quite know what I studied -- or rather, why I studied it -- I think I have to buy this.

Here's the full review.


On top, the new paperback. We looked at the hardcover (directly above) a few months back. I liked the simplicity and humor of the hardcover, but I haven't made up my mind about the paperback. Both hit the medical metaphor pretty hard, but there's nothing explicitly political about the rubber glove version, and I'm guessing that explains the change. What do you think?

The Scientist as Rebel

AKA the scientist as groovy NYC band...