Top Ten “In Spite of the Cover” Books

We’re always taught never to judge a book by its cover, but nearly everyone does. If we didn’t, there wouldn’t be whole divisions of employees at publishing companies carefully crafting book covers to appeal to specific markets. All you have to do is look at the Twilight-esque versions of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights in the YA section of bookstores to know that cover art is important for marketing. We are influenced by what these books look like – and sometimes, really great books get rejected because the covers turn us off. Today, I want to talk about the best of them, books that should be read despite awful covers.

(Note: Please don’t take any of the following as snarky, rude commentary. I say this all in a lovingly playful teasing manner, because I adore each and every one of these books, and their covers.)

– Genre-Cheesy: Think about all those books out there that miss out on a more general market due to extremely cheesy genre marketing. Examples:

warbreaker Howl's_Moving_Castle_(Book_Cover) Blameless_by_Gail_Carriger_1st_edition_cover

1. Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson – What is up with the 80’s porn-star vomiting rainbows? I’ll take the British version of the book, thank you very much.

2. Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones – I can see how some cover versions of this would appeal to children, but there has got to be a better way to portray the spirit of this book that would reach a larger readership!

3. the Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger – I thought these covers were for the mass market versions only, but no. They’re just that cheesy. Even though I had solid recommendations from people I trusted, I still almost didn’t read them, and avoided them for years.

– Nondescript: It’s like some artists just can’t come up with an idea, and say f-this, let’s just put some words there and hope people will buy it. Examples:

Jonathan_strange_and_mr_norrell_cover casual vacancy

4. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke – This book is full to the brim of amazing imagery and that’s its cover??

5. The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling – Considering all the resources Rowling has and all the faith that the publishing industry has put into her, I have to wonder if she specifically asked for nondescript here.

– Wrong Story: Sometimes I see a cover, then read a book, then wonder WTF was going on with that cover, because it seems like it’s advertising an entirely different plot… Example:


6. Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy – There are plenty of different covers for this one, of course, but the one I first got my hands on was this one. The story does not have a turkey in it. Or hunters. Or pretty much anything that’s in this picture. I kinda think they just chose a generic classic painting to slap on a classic novel…

– Wrong Genre: Ever pick up a book that you think you’ll like from the cover, only to discover it was in an entirely different genre than you expected? This is like that, only reversed. Examples:

crossed-wires Rowan the Strange

7. Crossed Wires by Rosy Thornton – This cover looks like straight-out chick-lit. The story isn’t in any way like chick-lit. It’s subtle and literary and deals with hard issues and is a fantastic cultural portrayal of two different kinds of lives in Britain. I mourn for this cover because it turns so many readers off. Boo!

8. Rowan the Strange by Julie Hearn – If I had not been assigned to read this book, I never would have picked it up. I expected RL Stine paranormal cheesiness. But instead, it’s psychological war drama. And fantastic.

– Ugly: Of course, everyone has a different definition of ugly, and what appeals to one person might not to another. But there are still some books that I desperately wish had more appealing covers! Examples:

Germinal giver

9. Germinal by Emile Zola – Yes, I know, the story is about coal miners, and this cover is appropriate. But the drudgery of it just doesn’t do Zola justice! The book isn’t a drudge! It’s exciting and shocking and riveting and beautiful and tear-jerking, and this cover does not say any of those things!

10. The Giver by Lois Lowry – I avoided this book for years because of the cover. I would have never guessed from it the mystery, the fear, the elegance of world-building that’s in here. I understand the cover, but man it’s ugly…

(Again, please remember that I’m totally being facetious here. Totally not making fun of anyone or any book!!)

What are some of your favorite books with awful covers, or at very least, covers you wish could be redesigned?


Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

About Amanda

Writing. Family. Books. Crochet. Fitness. Fashion. Fun. Not necessarily in that order. Note: agender (she/her).
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8 Responses to Top Ten “In Spite of the Cover” Books

  1. Karen K. says:

    I totally agree about Howl. There are different editions with much better covers. My edition is a mass-market from 2001, it’s much better. And the paperback editions of Jonathan Strange are much nicer.

    And WHAT IS UP with the turkeys on the cover of Return of the Native. Did they even HAVE turkeys in England in the 1800s? Ridiculous! I still want to read the book, though. Also agree about Germinal, that cover is just sad.

    Maybe you should retitle this post “When Bad Covers Happen To Good Books.” Or maybe I’ll just steal your idea and do my own posting! I once did an entire blog post about horrible covers on House of Mirth, it’s one of my favorites.


    • Amanda says:

      Unfortunately I don’t think there are ANY covers of Howl that I’ve seen that I like. :/

      I’ll bet the horrible covers for a single book would make for a great post!


  2. Nice list of books and theme for this week’s TTT post!!

    Here’s a link to my TTT post for this week:


  3. Melissa says:

    Those are all such ugly covers! The funny thing about The Giver cover is that’s a photo that the author actually took and picked out for that cover!


  4. Carrie says:

    #6 – LOL LOL LOL!!! And I totally agree with you about The Giver! My TTT


  5. As much I go on about being obsessed with covers, ultimately, I do still love the books I love for their content, not their covers. You sure did pick some terrible covers though lol. Sawdust & Spangles: Stories & Secrets of the Circus is the first that comes to mind for me because it’s one of those public domain books with just the title and author on the cover, but it’s AMAZING. I never read nonfiction by choice because I normally find it boring, but that one is the exception. Nice choice of topic 🙂 Here’s my TTT!


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