For what is now the seventh time in a row, I am pleased to present the best book covers of the year—as chosen by some of the industry’s best book cover designers.
This year, I asked 31 designers to share their favorite covers of the year, and they came back with a grand total of 103 covers, representing work by 62 different designers for 54 different imprints. Their choices, and their comments, are below.
But first . . . the stats.
The best of the best book covers:
First place (tie, six mentions each):
Elias Canetti, I Want to Keep Smashing Myself Until I Am Whole
design by Alex Merto, illustration by Ian Woods (Picador, September 27)
Tess Gunty, The Rabbit Hutch
design by Linda Huang (Knopf, August 2)
Second place (three-way tie, five mentions each):
Fernando A. Flores, Valleyesque
design and illustration by Na Kim (MCD x FSG Originals, May 3)
Charles Simic, No Land in Sight
design by John Gall (Knopf, August 9)
Lidia Yuknavitch, Thrust
design by Lauren Peters-Collaer (Riverhead, June 28)
Third place (nine-way tie (!), four mentions each):
Michael Cunningham/Virginia Woolf, The Hours/Mrs. Dalloway
design by Pablo Delcan (Picador, May 3)
Katherine J. Chen, Joan
design by Holly Ovenden (Hodder & Stoughton, July 5)
Missouri Williams, The Doloriad
design by Luke Bird (Dead Ink, March 3)
Jem Calder, Reward System
design by Alex Merto (FSG, July 19)
Yiyun Li, The Book of Goose
design by Na Kim (FSG, September 20)
Maayan Eitan, Love
design by Stephanie Ross (Penguin Press, March 8)
Gwen E. Kirby, Shit Cassandra Saw
design and illustration by Lydia Ortiz (Penguin Books, January 11)
Sheila Heti, Pure Colour
design by Na Kim (FSG, February 13)
Ling Ma, Bliss Montage
design by Rodrigo Corral (FSG, September 13)
The presses with the most covers on the list:
First Place (13 mentions): FSG
Second Place (11 mentions): Knopf
Third Place (8 mentions): New Directions
The designers with the most different covers on the list:
First Place (7 covers): Janet Hansen
Second Place (6 covers): Na Kim
Third Place (5 covers): Alex Merto
The best month for book covers:
First Place (tie, 12 covers each): May, September
Second Place (11 covers): June
Third Place (10 covers): April
The full list:
I can’t stop looking at this eye-bending collage. Love how the hectic, unsettled type complements the art, channels the title really well, and manages to get quite a lot of copy onto the cover. Neon orange is a great touch.
This is such a fun cover. I love the brain-like cutout and the playful, head-smashing type treatment.
This cover looks like its title; smashed yet whole.
How? What? It’s insane. I love it.
Alex has somehow woven together two images with a shape that isn’t exactly conventional and set the type playfully without making the whole thing look like a messy plate of spaghetti. He is in complete control of his craft.
Alex! I want to keep staring at your collage to see how you did this.
When I first saw this I was blown away by Linda’s use of color, texture, negative space, and the delicately balanced typography and illustration. The jacket is printed on a lithofoil stock that gives it that extra special sheen. Not only did the author win the NBA for fiction, but she was also given one of the most beautiful covers of the year.
These bright colors suck me in when viewed in RGB, and the design gets “even better” when experienced IRL, printed on that lovely metallic paper.
I am instantly pulled in by the bright colors and symbolic design. I want this as an art print on my wall.
It’s always nice to see special effects being used thoughtfully. That gradient plus shimmer is beautiful.
“Shot through the heart and you’re to blame” taken literally.
This cover just stands out so much online and on the shelf. The bold composition + foil + soft touch, it’s a stunner.
Na is such a talent in both design and illustration. This cover really shows how skilled she is in both worlds.
Valleyesque received a well deserved gasp from me. With a palette and style that connects you to some of the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch and in a similar fashion, begs you to look closer at the tiny details and intrigues you to want to learn more.
If I could dictate the visual language of my dreams, this is what I would choose every single time (complete with banner-wielding poodles).
I truly cannot get over this surreal, incredible art.
Every element in this dreamlike painting is treated with such balance and thought, creating deep intrigue.
Thrust is perfection. Each collaged detail feels like it belongs exactly where it is. The combination of textures, styles, the two contrasting typefaces sent me marching to the store.
This design is bonkers in the best way possible. Every moment here, from the image to the typography, is fresh and unexpected.
I have no idea what is happening and I love it.
Such a fun and intriguing collage with a ton of upward momentum. Somehow the clashing typography adds to that sense of kinetic energy too.
I love how the upside down balloons look like raindrops or tears. Really fantastic cover design made to look really easy.
Such wonderful simplicity. Each time I look at it I can sense my brain processing it all—everything clicking into place with delight. As an aside, I highly recommend everyone watch a hot air balloon inflate at least once in their life. They are like dinosaurs roaming the sky.
Effortlessly beautiful and dreamlike.
The simple move of turning an image upside down is so powerful here, especially paired with the title.
Great design, though I spotted a printer error; the photo is upside down. Awkward.
Such a beauty! The pressed flowers with the gold foil type is so sweet and lovely. A true object to treasure.
These made me shriek. Exquisitely executed, ethereal, and clever, they exist in the realm of fine art. Pablo makes everyone jealous.
Printed on uncoated stock with deboss on the type, I want this book just for the beautiful jacket. Holly is an amazing designer and illustrator, and this is my favorite cover of the year from the UK.
This stunning cover reimagines the subject of Joan of Arc in such a powerful way. The type and colors are so unexpected and pack such a bold punch.
Ah the colours…they are glorious. It’s very satisfying when type works as an image within a cover; it’s such a pleasing composition, a real beauty, as are all of Holly’s designs.
The colors are stunning—feels energizing to just look at! It captures the spirit of Joan of Arc in such a fresh and dynamic way.
I couldn’t work out if it was a contemporary artwork or an old painting, whether the person is unhinged or if it is just the crop playing tricks on me. It’s so engrossing, and sets the tone for what sounds like a mad book without giving anything away.
The reviews of this book all use words like “bizarre”, “unsettling”, “disturbing” or “challenging”—they could be reviewing the cover too. “Brilliant.”
The power of a great crop! It’s so effectively unsettling and compelling.
The cropping and lettering is perfection.
The simplicity in this is striking. Perfect example of less is more.
So simple, elegant, and perfect.
Stephanie takes what would otherwise be a clichéd icon and subverts it with that slight grimace. The placement in the mass of negative space and the choice of a rough-hewn serif elicit in me a feeling of mono no aware, something design rarely does.
Looking easy is very hard.
You can almost smell this cover. Amazing.
So vibrant! This cover hits all the senses! (Get your hands on a copy for the glowing color, glossy finish, and raised type!)
Just so brilliantly executed.
The distorted type is perfect. It feels like you’re suffocating in a bag of oranges and need to get out.
Simple. Clever. Ominous.
Just the sight of that spinning wheel makes me feel slightly anxious (it seems to move now and again, too). This is such a simple cover, but with such a lot going on.
I just stare at it waiting for the cover to load… Well played…
There is always a tension you have to interrogate as to how you want to communicate the title of a book. What Na Kim did with this cover was take one of the most direct routes possible while still leaving room for ambiguity with the shape and placement of Ellsworth Kelly’s art. No small feat for a title this simple.
The simplicity and minimalism of this design is so satisfying.
I love the way the green blob almost seems like a monster overtaking the title, and the way it just barely overlaps with the “L” in “NOVEL” is perfection.
It’s so elegantly done. Ellsworth Kelly’s Green crowding out the text on the cover somehow feels exactly like the book does; a crowded petri dish of emotions.
Euurgh its just SO beautiful. Perfection. But what else would you expect from Na Kim? I don’t just want to read it… I want it on my wall too.
Love how all the elements interact with each other.
Na is great at creating simple yet emotive covers. The mix of the Audubon-esque art and the graphic sun gives this cover a nice contemporary yet elegant look.
Gorgeous. There’s something about a goose neck.
I can’t imagine what those burning eyes saw. The type on fire and mouth slightly open seals the deal for this one.
Crazy! Love it.
Frantic to the max and I just love looking at this. Its also worth nothing that getting this to print so vibrantly was no small challenge.
I was so relieved to realize this beautiful book was published in early January, and that I could include it on this list! It was an instant favorite of mine—the balance of pattern, color, and texture is just perfect. The elements work well on their own and come together in a wonderful whole.
LPC does it again! Everything about this cover is incredible: the colors, the collage of imagery, the typography! It’s nuanced and packs a punch at the same time.
I think this one took everyone’s breath away when it came out—the colors, the type, it all works beautifully together.
The solo tear drop is a perfect device to hold the requisite “memoir” type, elevating this simple biography cover to something double-take worthy.
Mean Baby just keeps creeping into my mind. A fantastic crop of the image and combination of photo, title and that subtitle placement! Simple, eye catching and jumped off screens and shelves and is memorable.
Designing celebrity books can be hard, and making something that stands out is even harder. There are so many parts that are involved and getting to a place that is so elegant and interesting is a feat.
Beautiful arrangement of type and imagery. The design has an ethereal quality and love how the structured grid interacts with the gradient watercolors.
Immediately draws you in! I love everything about this, the way the type seemingly moves through the squares, the holographic quality, the various water textures.
So much energy and movement captured within a grid—I could puzzle over these tiles for hours.
Such a simple design, yet so incredibly unnerving—it’s a design you can almost hear. Perfectly captures a break with reality.
So elegantly illustrates a book about those who occupy the “psychic hinterlands, the outer edges of human experience, where language tends to fail.”
Deceptively simple, really effective.
Love how Linda utilizes the type here, the way the bold flat title sits against the textural photographic background. I find myself wanting to “look around” to see what’s hiding behind it. The bits of aliasing on the title is a lovely cherry on the top touch.
The title stretched into the black shapes is brilliant.
I’m a sucker for letters as shapes and in this case it really works with the title.
UK publishers seem to have had a crisis of confidence recently, a lot of books seem to have three endorsements on the front cover now and all type at 72pts. Sometimes it feels like on this side of the Atlantic we have forgotten that books are physical objects that people covet, rather than a jpeg that needs to shout louder than everything else around it. When I first saw Brother Alive in a bookshop it stood out against the other books because of its bold, understated cover design.
So bloody simple and ambiguous—I have no idea what it is about, but that cover is just drawing me in. I love how Jo has pulled everything back to an abstract image, and the type is perfectly balanced. Jo is one of my favourite cover designers, she just nails it every time.
Love the allusion to sheet music and the consistency of the line weight throughout. The art really works here; haunting and unexpected.
Ethereal mushrooms floating through the air against a scale that seamlessly integrate with the type: 😘
Another Janet cover, Sedating Elaine must be mentioned. You can tell the inside will be darkly comedic and a wild ride and I even love the combination of the quote typeface combined with the roughly hand-lettering across the banana.
Every year, Janet’s work stands out for its beautiful simplicity. She takes something familiar, like lettering on a piece of fruit, and somehow makes it look better than ever.
This ominous and frankly sad painting paired with the electric blue text feels both classic and edgy.
Unsettling and striking image with brilliant type.
A gorgeous and thoughtful design. The collage so elegantly captures the power of language and communication.
There’s a satisfying simplicity to this cover; all the elements are arranged so elegantly.
The illustration with this title packs so much emotion.
I love the gestural quality and simplicity of the illustration. The thin, italicized type is such an excellent choice in mimicking the slender, linear feel of the art.
Love the drama happening here. Beautiful type and illustration. As off-beat as the classic Geek Love jacket while doing its own thing entirely.
It’s no easy feat to make a long title like this work so elegantly, but this cover pulls it off. The silhouetted hand is simple at first glance, but the nail illustrations and hand position (hitting the author’s name ever so slightly), bring a beautiful complexity.
A hand cover, but a fantastic hand cover. Adore the little scenes painted on fingernails.
Such a bright and fresh look! The colors are stunning—super saturated and bold, both on screen and in print. And the line quality of the illustration has a beautiful personality. I especially love the bits of color bleed and overprinting.
Nostalgic but with a really modern, vibrant palette. Balanced beautifully. Looks even better in the flesh that it does on screen.
This cover doesn’t even need the title to convey disorientation. The waffle-wrapped-hot dog is such a weird and especially disorienting touch.
Brilliant design—so much movement and energy that come across using just type as image.
Mind-bending in the best possible way.
Beautiful and rich, and very clever in its layers of illusion.
Beautiful execution of this concept. And upside down type! and it works! Give Derek a big hand (sorry).
I love the creative usage of all the different fonts on this cover. It really taps into my inner child of the ’80s!
So playful and well done.
The type on this is mesmerizing. The stacked, repeating type with the rainbow gradient fits perfectly with the title.
I wasn’t quite sure what to think when I saw this for the first time, but it stayed with me. Now that I caught up with it, I love it!
Outer space salami statue.
I don’t know what this book is about, other than being darkly comic and featuring a diabolical nun, but the cover makes me want to read it.
There’s something so unsettling about the reduced palette and diseased looking dots combined with the loaded religious imagery. It really pulls you in, without resorting to anything heavy-handed or “easy.”
I love the saturated color palette and the dimensionality of the type. This design gives such a sense of place. And the title font choice is amazing!
I honestly can not stop looking at this because every element works so perfectly together to create such a specific atmosphere and setting, it’s a really well-crafted cover!
Exquisite typography and execution. Having the candy beautifully photographed really takes this to the next level.
While the image does clearly depict the title (which could work against a designer), the inverted photo and silhouetted head, the limited palette, and the gorgeous hand lettering make this cover so appealing.
The tactile, handmade quality of the cover and the domestic scene contrasts beautifully with the “cold people” evoked in the title.
I love the unique perspective here—it feels as if you’re flying with the figure, diving head-first into that neighborhood. I had an almost visceral response to this illustration; I felt connected to the character without even opening the book.
I’ve long admired the work of both Gabriele and Cecilia so to see a collaboration on the always thoughtfully designed poetry society chapbooks was a treat. This one is my favorite.
This type creates within me a sort of effervescent joy.
Smart and succinct pairing of subject and graphics.
Surreal, simple and smart, and the stones are the perfect subtle addition.
I’m getting nuanced, Lisa Frank vibes and that is high praise.
Op-art! Very satisfying.
Perfect match of art and lettering, inventive layout, great use of color.
There are a lot of things that I love about this cover, but I’ll just say this: We rarely see book covers that embrace the color purple and this one does it oh, so well!
Less is more with Teenager. My eye travels down the highway right to the sun, the perfectly placed eye of the teenage face.
A refreshingly light approach to historical fiction.
This is a standout for me. I would notice it from across the room. A very original layout with a unique color palette, and those thick, black lines holding it all together.
Powerful, elegant, and haunting.
Am drawn immediately into this cover, an eerie porthole into fraying world.
Kudos to Amanda for taking something that is so reviled (yuck, pimples!) and for displaying them in such a cute way. This design is so
Books about music have to look authentic and this does such a good job.
The best “torn paper cover” ever. Clever concept. I know the designer worked with physical pieces of paper and scanned them in, and it really shows.
A complicated and abstract subject—care—visualized in an equally abstract but simple form.
Something about the strange, soft, almost tactile illustration draws and holds the eye. Just lovely to look at, perfectly balanced with interesting but understated type, and I love how the arm wraps around onto the spine.
It takes a mind like Pablo’s and an open-minded publisher/art director to marry Jon Han’s incredible style with a nonfiction book and it works so so well.
The pairing of this typography with the artwork by Hollie Chastain is perfect and elegant.
Succinct and clever, which is hard to do. I love the simplicity of the design and how it interacts perfectly with the title.
This cover achieves a monumental, iconic feel with such economy—it’s magic.
Love how all of the elements are tied together with the blue circles. It has a big book look, but is also very artistic and elegant.
Maybe it’s the amount of time I’ve spent with the words “bestselling author” talking, but this is hilarious and inspired.
This retro cover is as eye-catching as the title, it will stand out on any bookshelf.
Bold colours, small type, unusual composition and Vivian Maier photographs. What’s not to love about these covers?
I love the color and the texture and that it sets a mood.
The illustration on this cover is so interesting. From a distance, it looks like an abstract cover of lines and color, but upon closer inspection you can see all the different scenes and couples!
This cover contains so much elegance, power and dignity, for a subject matter that could be difficult to illustrate. Michael Salu has created such a moving cover with the simplest of designs.
The type frame is so effective here. Everything just comes together perfectly.
When I first saw this cover it stopped me in my tracks—so intriguing. I love the textures, composition, colours; the eye just draws you in. The author line going up the side is genius, so unexpected. To create such an atmosphere within such a small space is a real gift.
One of the blurbers calls this book “an ingenious pocket universe,” which could describe the cover itself: a small package that locks you in its orbit—you can’t help but trace that fascinating lettering round and round!
I love the noise and fuzziness of the image, especially on the print edition where it’s amplified by lithofoil. The texture gives a sense of static and uncertainty before you even begin to read. A beautiful example of a darker image, and smaller type, standing out on shelves.
You would think seeing raw meat on a book cover would be offputting… but it really works here: meat as type! I love it.
Such a perfect—and totally intriguing—marriage of art, type, and title.
Oliver Munday summons up the spirit of Henryk Tomaszewski in this cover. Love it.
I adore Simone Noronha’s playful illustration and the way title treatment really lets the artwork shine.
This is such a powerful and direct image. The modern type beautifully frames the scene but doesn’t distract. I love that it’s all in black and white—the starkness and her gaze say so much.
With its pitch-perfect palette and bold, confident shapes, this cover just about leapt from the display table!
There’s just something magical about this beautiful blend of type, image, and idea.
This is my cover of the year—it literally sings in the bookshop, so striking! The illustration grabs your attention. The rest of the book is beautifully designed too, the end papers are gorgeous. I love it, just wonderful.
Love the simple line quality of this illustration and all its crooked crumbling pieces on the perfectly selected uncoated stock.
Amazing optical illusion created by beautifully set type, on rainbow holographic foil. Really nice.
Beautiful and restrained use of collaging to deliver a power image.
Such an ingenious way of integrating a woman’s profile into the scene.
Nobody Gets Out Alive looks straightforward, but again the small thoughtful details within the illustration, that are hidden so well by the gradient, are a smart, provocative but subtle easter egg for the viewer.
The usage of panels, color, and collage is so playful on this cover! Who knew you could make history look so fun and interesting?
Such a funny, crude doodle that looks like something Willem de Kooning would have sketched. I love that this illustration was printed on a commercial book cover.
Somehow the title and illustration don’t feel like they are competing, instead they work together seamlessly in this instantly iconic package.
A cross-stitch that’s unlike any other cross-stitch I’ve seen.
So punchy and eye-catching! The pink dripping dot gives the cover an intriguing sinister edge.
This design and golf vibes!
The plane and clouds float effortlessly against a wall of type that’s barely standing. So much energy packed into a small space—it feels like it’s vibrating and barely contained.
Huge credit for persuading the publisher to do away with the cover text altogether, but the way it just creeps on to the cover is really clever. Somehow always pleasing to see a cover distilled down to the absolute minimum of elements.
I want to run around inside this cover—the movement and dynamism are masterful.
I love the use of color, and yes! more cleverly incorporated profiles!
What a lovely way to work in the fifty-five panels. The diver makes you feel like you could dip in and out of these stories at any time.
Always envious when a designer can get away with so little, especially when the cover relies on so few bells and whistles: a strong yet refined typeface and unconventional spacing. This would be strong even without the empty circle. Pure graphic design.
Would like to come up with something wise here but I fear it might in truth boil down to “lolz I like ostriches.” In any case, one of best ostrich covers I have ever seen.
Love the balance and symmetry.
This feels very LA. I love the clever mix of typography and how the clear division on the strip mall sign implies the themes of the book in a really graceful and attention grabbing way.
What’s not to love?!
This cover is perhaps not as sophisticated as some of its more highbrow colleagues from the world of letters, but it communicates its startling content with admirable zest.