Tagbook covers

Book Cover Corner: Pocket Penguins

Penguin have just launched a new range of classics called ‘Pocket Penguins’. I couldn’t resist buying a couple when I saw the display in Waterstones yesterday…

Penguins

I have to say, I love this series design. It’s based on Penguin’s Little Black Classics from last year, but with different colours indicating the original language: books from English are in orange covers; French in dark blue; German in olive green; Spanish in yellow; and so on.

In ‘the flesh’, these books are attractive and a pleasure to read. For a ‘popular classics’ series, the design manages to feel both relaxed and authoritative – they look like books that were meant to be read rather than displayed, but they still have weight. I decided that I would limit myself to two yesterday, but I can certainly see myself buying more…

Tom McCarthy’s covers

Considering how much I enjoyed Remainder when I read it in 2007, I’m not quite sure why I haven’t read another Tom McCarthy novel since. But now I’ve picked up his latest, Satin Island, in anticipation that it might be shortlisted for this year’s Goldsmiths Prize. I’ve only just begun, but already I’m warming to it (and quite amused by the sly reference on the second page to the ending of Remainder).

I’ll come back to the reading of Satin Island at a later date; but for now, I just want to mention the cover. I love a thoughtful cover design, and there’s a wonderful symmetry between the UK covers of the new novel and McCarthy’s previous one, C.

Unless you remembered the cover for C, it probably wouldn’t occur to you that there was a connection; but put them side-by-side and it becomes clear: the inversion of black and white; the letter C turned on its side and given colour to become a buffer symbol (the shape of which also nods to the moniker of Satin Island’s narrator, U.); the dripping oil that echoes the squiggles/networks in the background of C.

These two novels are five years apart, and as far as I know they have no particular link beyond the author; yet the designers have gone to the trouble of doing this. I want to thank them for it, because I appreciate the care and attention they’ve put in.

(One more thing I love: as the Vintage designers’ blog reveals, the oil effect was achieved by using black treacle. Inspired!)

Book details (Foyles affiliate links)

Remainder (2005) by Tom McCarthy, Alma paperback

Satin Island (2015) by Tom McCarthy, Jonathan Cape hardback

C (2010) by Tom McCarthy, Vintage paperback

Comparing Book Covers: UK vs US

I’m always fascinated by the differences in book covers between countries. The Millions runs an annual feature comparing US and UK cover art, and a similar post appeared on Flavorwire a few days ago. I’ve decided to do a cover post of my own, with some of the books I’ve featured on this blog.

(UK covers are on the left, US covers on the right; title links go to my reviews of the books, for context.)

Diving Belles – Lucy Wood

 dbuk  dbus

The UK cover indicates folklore and the sea; it’s nice enough, but feels perhaps a little too obvious. The US cover, I think, captures the deeper heart of the book – that mixture of domesticity and sinister magic; I especially love the way that the stairs shade into abstract geometry. Winner: US

The Buddha in the Attic – Julie Otsuka

 bauk  baus

Two broadly similar treatments here, with the red parasol as focus. I think the closed parasol in the case evokes the novel’s themes better. Winner: UK

Christie Malry’s Own Double-Entry – B.S. Johnson

 cmuk  cmus

The covers of the most recent editions. There’s a simple elegance to both, but for me the disintegrating ledger is a little too literal, especially compared with the boldness of the UK cover. Winner: UK

The Longshot – Katie Kitamura

 lsuk  lsus

I like the composition of both these covers, but the image of the fighter and his trainer walking away makes it look as though their job is done. The clenched fists of the US cover evoke the tension and violence which are at the novel’s core. Winner: US

The Still Point – Amy Sackville

 spuk  spus

Oh, there’s no contest here: the paper cut-out look of the UK cover is gorgeous; the US cover doesn’t come close for me. Winner: UK

Redemption in Indigo – Karen Lord

 riuk  rius

The composition of the US cover is elegant, but I think the UK cover better evokes the tone of the book (tricksy-but-serious) . Winner: UK

How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe – Charles Yu

 hluk  hlus

Hmm. Yu’s novel plays with the conventions of both sf and mainstream ‘literary fiction’, which is captured nicely by the UK cover, with its ordered arrangement of laser guns. But it’s also a playful novel, and that spirit is evoked by the US cover, made to look like an old manual, complete with ‘creased’ cover obscuring the publicity quotes. I can’t choose one over the other. Winner: it’s a draw.

Communion Town – Sam Thompson

 ctuk  ctus

I’m not sure either of these covers really captures the essence of Thompson’s book, but the UK one wins out for me as being more intriguing and distinctive., turning a map into abstract art. (Incidentally, this is the cover of the UK hardback; the paperback cover, like the US one, goes down the less-interesting ‘murky skyscraper’ route.) Winner: UK

If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This – Robin Black

 iluk  ilus

Well, I don’t think the UK cover is very interesting at all. The US cover is not great, but the paint effect is a nice touch, and the title is used well within the composition. Winner: US

The Sisters Brothers – Patrick deWitt

 sbuk  sbus

Wow. What a difference in treatment. I love nigh on everything about the UK cover (it looks even better on the physical object). The US cover is too specific to suit the novel’s air of ambiguity, and just isn’t as well conceived as the more stylised version. Winner: UK

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