This is a difficult request as I have too many favorite books and many of them are quite plain underneath their dust jacket. I distinctly recall my father reading Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland to me as a child, and it was a simple, plain blue book, no embellishments. Also, many books cycle through popularity, like To Kill A Mockingbird, The Bell Jar or East of Eden as they get picked up by school reading committees or Oprah’s book club. Each time a book is reprinted, it is usually re-branded and a new cover is designed to appeal to whatever audience it is trying to reach.
I think a better question is to think about what draws us, as readers, to pick up a book in the library or store. I love to spend time in each just looking at the spines of books and reading titles. If I like a certain author, like T.C Boyle or Anchee Min, I will probably look to see what else that person has written and give it a try. But if I am totally in the market for something new, I am usually first drawn to a text by its title. I like witty, provocative titles that allude to something or compel me to think. Layers or entendres are also good. Sometimes, I admit, I look at the cover art or the design of the book but that alone is not enough to make me read it. However, the art can effect how I perceive the book.
I think it’s interesting that the same book can be released under a different title and a different design depending on the country in which it is released as well. I supposed the corporate folks in publishing do focus groups and study trends so they know how to market to mass appeal. One of my favorite reads a few years ago was Marcus Zusak’s The Book Thief. I recall picking it up because someone had referred me to it, and when I read the teaser on the book jacket it sounded interesting. A book set in WWII Germany narrated by death? OK, let me read this. However, I am intrigued by the ways in which this book was presented to the world and at the thought that goes into a cover’s design.
Look at the designs below – all for the same book – and see which one appeals to you, would make you pick it up, pay your money and take it home. Then think about why…I think this is much more interesting question and asks you as the reader to analyze your tastes and preferences and to contemplate why the publisher made these stylistic choices. To me, these covers and the fonts used are all really different and suggest a different reading experience. If the title and the cover art are the first introduction to a text, then I am sure they effect us in some way or set up an expectation for the read, whether it be consciously understood or completely fulfilled after completion.