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Double Take
By Teju Cole
A blog on vision, visuality, and visual culture
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Book Covers of the Year

One of the best ways to judge a book is by its cover.

Here are some of the better book covers of the year, as selected for the New York Times by “people in an around the world of graphic design.”

I love John Gall’s cover for Houellebecq’s latest (slide 1) and Keith Hayes’ design for Bloodland (slide 13). I also like slides 4 and 18, but many of the other covers bored me somewhat. One of my least favorite is slide 6, for Chris Ware’s Building Stories, chosen, as it turns out, by the very same John Gall whose own designs I adore. What do I dislike about it? The tricksy but depthless cartoonishness of it, as opposed to the cartoon-like mystery of the Houellebecq. I can see that it’s good, but I don’t love it. I like a book design to contain some element of worry. But so many people have recommended Ware’s book that I will read it anyway.

General thoughts: I don’t think American publishing uses photographs often enough or interestingly enough. Many covers end up typographically correct but vague. Too many feel as though they are trying to impress other graphic designers; many have a strong whiff of design school. But there’s no arguing about taste.

My favorite book cover design of the year was the one for Patrick McGuinness’ The Last Hundred Days. Simple, specific, memorable. I also liked Macmillan’s bold Bolaño reissues.

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