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Sunday, November 30, 2008

My Favorite Book Covers of 2008

In no particular order, here are my favorite book covers of 2008. (And here are the 2007, 2006, and 2005 lists.)

New this year: Linked titles lead to the original post, if one exists. (The link for Maps and Legends goes to Karen Horton's beautiful photos over at design:related.) And back from last year: there's a poll at the bottom of the post. Voting is open until Dec 31; I'll post the results shortly after the new year begins.

A very small number of titles were actually published in December 2007. Last year's list was published early (Nov 15), and a few of the books published at the end of 2007 really needed to be included here. And the cover for The Medium Is The Massage? A reissue, but too wonderful not to include.

Lastly, this year's list has more U.K titles than in the past, so some designer credits are missing. Please help me give credit where there is none; leave a comment or send an email if you've got some info or need to correct any errors of attribution.

So here we go:

Things I've Learned From Women Who've Dumped Me
Design by Paul Sahre

Design by Henry Sene Yee

U.S. vs Them
Design by J. Wang

The Mayor's Tongue
Design by Gray 318

The Terror Dream
Design by Henry Sene Yee
Illustrations by Andrea Dezsö

Soon I Will Be Invicible
Designer unknown

Stuffed and Starved
Design by Carol Hayes

Something to Tell You
Designer unknown

Sharp Teeth
Design by Christine Van Bree
Illustration by Natasha Michaels

The Trouble With Physics
Designer unknown

All the Sad Young Literary Men
Design by The Heads of State

Make Room! Make Room!
Design by Jamie Stafford-Hill

The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction
Design by David Pearson

The Age of Entanglement
Design by Jason Booher

Obsession: A History
Design by Isaac Tobin

Design by Barbara de Wilde

Against Happiness
Design by Jennifer Carrow

The Medium Is the Massage
Designer by YES (London)

Maps and Legends
Design by Jordan Crane

Lopsided. How breast cancer can be really distracting.
Design by Carin Goldberg

Abraham Lincoln: Great American Historians on Our Sixteenth President
Design by Pete Garceau

Company of Liars
Design by Gray 318

Why You Should Read Kafka Before You Waste Your Life
Design and lettering by Steve Snider
Illustration by Douglas Smith

The Best Intentions: Kofi Annan and the UN in the Era of American World Power
Design by Jennifer Carrow

Bright Shiny Morning
Design by Gray 318

Man in the Dark
Design by Lisa Fyfe

The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America is Tearing Us Apart
Design by Paul Sahre

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thanksgiving Miscellany

The BDR is taking a few days off for the holiday; most likely, you are as well. But if you need a little break from the family, read about the kids who continue to show up at Roald Dahl's house, check out some excerpts from this year's shortlisted entries for the Bad Sex Awards, or do what I'm going to do: order this book, get out your X-Acto knife, and start cutting; you're in collage heaven.

Have a great holiday; back next week with the favorites of 2008.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Microserfs and Girlfriend in a Coma, new Harper Perennial editions

Design and illustration by Milan Bozic

I saw these recently and asked Milan to give me a few words of explanation:

About the design for Microserfs: "As Amazon says, 'Microserfs is not about Microsoft--it's about programmers who are searching for lives.' I've always imagined any Silicon Valley complex full of faceless, like-minded programming drones, and I assume that's what most other people imagine as well. So, it's not a far stretch of the imagination to go with pixilated peeps."

And w/r/t Girlfriend In a Coma: "We chose to go with pixilated on Girlfriend in a Coma so that both of the covers kind of match. Plus, it's a nice contrast between a busy cover, and one that's very understated."

What does Milan like best about these? "What I'm most proud of is getting away with no title on the cover — oh, and that pixilated penis."

What, you missed it? Click on the images for more detail.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Good Side of Bad Books

OK, enough of looking at book covers for a day or two. The Guardian's Stuart Evers has written a very, very funny article about "the good side of bad books." It's a hoot, and you should read it now.

But then you should come back here and tell us about the one (or two) novels that made you want to set yourself on fire, punch yourself in the face, or question why you learned to read in the first place.

I'll go first. After being hounded by my sci-fi-inclined friends for years, I read Robert Heinlein's Stranger In A Strange Land. When done, I immediately went out and bought two hamsters and a cage so that something could rip that book apart and pee on it. If there was an editor within 50 miles of that thing, I'll eat my shorts. I'll eat yours too.

I'm not anti-science fiction. I don't read a whole bunch of it, but I don't have a problem with it per se. J.G. Ballard holds a special place on my bookshelves. But this book? Ugh. I wish I remembered more about why I hated it so deeply, but I do trust my memory of discomfort and loathing.

OK. I'm done. Your turn.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Penguin / Waterstone's Hardback Classics

Design by Coralie Bickford-Smith

Designer Bickford-Smith strikes again -- and brilliantly so. Last month we looked at some of her designs for the Penguin Gothic Horror Series; this month the excellent Penguin Blog features her designs for a series of hardcover classics, sold exclusively in the UK through Waterstone's.

The spines alone are gorgeous; check out Penguin's Flickr photostream to see the individual titles.

Generally speaking, what do you think of jacket-less hardcovers?

Sunday, November 16, 2008


Design (both hardcover & paperback) by Charlotte Strick

Arguably the publishing event of the year, Roberto Bolano's 2666 has been released as a single-volume 912-page hardcover and as a 3-volume paperback boxed set. I can't remember anything being released like this (simultaneous hardcover & multiple-volume paperback) before. Do you know of any?

The hardcover:

The paperbacks:

The hardcover and one of the paperbacks features a detail of Gustave Moreau's Jupiter and Semele (below; click to enlarge). Jupiter is, of course, Zeus; Semele is the mother of Dionysius.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Harvard Business Review Classics

Series design by Kelly Blair

Saw these slim volumes on a quick spin through Borders at the Orlando airport. There are 10 or so in all, I think, and it's a pretty cool series, especially for business books. See more here.

I'm especially fond (in a sort-of-twisted way) of Control In An Age of Empowerment. The book addresses exactly what you think it would: " to give employees the freedom to innovate while protecting your firm from loose cannons." But if that doesn't work: bosses, just sit on the offending employee until HR shows up :-) Seriously, though, these are fun and there's some good thinking behind the main images.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Big Necessity

Design by Nick Caruso

There's a time to get out the Sharpies, and there's a time to fire up Photoshop. I would argue that this would have been a time to do the former. One of last year's favorite designs was successful precisely because the computer was left out of it.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Remember These Orwell Covers?

Penguin UK is selling signed and numbered A2-sized (approx 16.5 x 23.5 inches) screen prints of these Shepard Fairey-designed covers. There are only 200 of them, and they're sold as part of a set (with the books). Details are here. UPDATE: They're sold out.

Previous post and comments on these covers are here.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Jetpack Dreams

Design by Jon Resh

A week or so ago, Boing Boing featured a wonderful video for a new book about the history of jetpacks. Here's the cover.

Simple? Sure. Effective? Heck yeah. A really great example of basic design principles, well executed.

Buy this book from

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Abraham Lincoln: Great American Historians on Our Sixteenth President

Design by Pete Garceau

Released just last week and staring at me this afternoon from the new non-fiction display. And so the list of books with no title on the cover grows.

(BTW, designer Garceau is responsible for the Rorschach-o-riffic The Political Brain.)

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth, US and UK

Designer credits to come

UPDATE: Several readers have pointed out the series of books of which this is a part. Covers from the Massey Lecture series from 1961 to 2008 can be seen here. Thanks all!

Very different treatments of Margaret Atwood's "study of debt as an ancient and central motif in religion, literature, and the structure of human societies" (from the publisher's Web site). Clearly not a business book, so the UK edition (top) gets closer to what this cover should be.

The US edition (below) looks very much -- too much? -- like a business and finance title: