Judging A Book By Its Cover – Part 2

As booksellers, we often open a box of new books, anxiously awaiting what lies within, only to be shocked by an unforgivably awful book cover. Below are 10 of the worst we were assaulted by in 2009.

(This is in no way a condemnation of the printed material inside any of the books, simply an aesthetic judgment passed upon some serious misfires in art direction).

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The rudimentary use of Photoshop and clip art aside, the design of this cover is just plain lazy. Apparently, Lisa Scottoline drinks small dogs in the morning instead of coffee. The title’s typeface being crooked implies a scatter-shot cut-and-paste approach to memoir, and ‘My Third Husband’ is the only part that pops. Why do I care about some freaky dog-obsessed woman that’s twice divorced?

In the vast cultural garbage dump of borrowed ideas, weak remakes and watered-down homages, Where the Mild Things Are deserves a place near the top. Cover up the title and author information (which any tween that knows how to right click on a mouse could make), pretend you don’t know this book is trying to be a parody and nothing about the illustration rings remotely true to Sendak. Meek indeed.

Why on earth would anyone put a picture of burnt bread on a bread book?!

To begin with, there’s the obnoxious orange color scheme and the bad Photoshop job on the earring tree with all the little faces. It’s ugly, that’s for sure. But there’s also something insidious about the cover of this book – it’ll start to creep you out and you won’t even really know why. I think I figured it out, though, when I realized that it reminds me of nothing so much as the finale of the original stage version of Little Shop of Horrors, when the faces of all the people the evil alien plant has eaten appear in its buds (to sing a final number, of course). Clearly, this earring tree has EATEN these women! The shortest distance between two of them is apparently in the devious beast’s intestinal tract.

Robert Williams may be the founder of Juxtapoz magazine, but that doesn’t save this cover. He may also be a darling of low-brow pop surrealist collectors with perverse tastes and deep pockets, but the painting used for the cover of Conceptual Realism is far less interesting than most everything that graces the pages of Juxtapoz on a regular basis.

C’mon, Christmas colors on a self-help book that draws much of its insipration from Yiddish proverbs and Talmudic stories? Do you really want to be taught how not to be a shmuck by a man whose book cover is certifiably shmuckish?

Britain’s “greatest living poet” wears a combative expression that says, “give me a Nobel Prize already, or I will give you a good thrashing.” Bring it on, Geoffrey. However, watching people browse the poetry section and pull out the Selected Poems of Geoffrey Hill by its spine and then occasionally drop the book is pretty amazing.

I never knew that mental health clinicians spend a lot of time posing for photos in the middle of the street as ambulances whisk around the deranged and suicidal. Everything about the half-assed Photoshop job begs the question: what were the other possible covers that lost to this one?

In the deepest reaches of the universe, in the cold vastness of space there was a franchise, known for its fast-paced quirk and never-ending pun-factory narratives needlessly reflected on the cover – neon signs suspended in the void, pointing nowhere, meaning nothing…

Why Monkfish would take the time to reissue a relatively unknown sci-fi book, even if the author does have a cult following, and slap a shoddy, insufferably dumb cover on it is anyone’s guess. No one unfamiliar with Wilson’s work will ever buy this book. Even those that are are likely to avoid this version of Space Vampires. Monkfish, you are guilty of the worst book cover of 2009, perhaps the entire decade. Perhaps ever.

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