After almost three weeks of a very undeserved break, I’m coming back with what should be a fun post (hopefully).
I’ve been back home for the Easter Holidays and got to get a look at my bookshelf. As I’ve been moving around a lot for the past four years, my family home is the place where all my books end up and I’m always so eager to get back to them.
As I was perusing through my somewhat organised shelves, I fell in love all over again with some of the covers and wanted to share them with you.
To give this post some structure, I decided to divide these covers into three categories: oldies, feelies, and beauties.
DISCLAIMER: The sun decided to give up on me halfway through the photo-taking process and despite the magic of editing, the difference is a bit obvious at times.
I have always been a sucker for old-looking books so when I find one in a bookstore it’s hard to resist the urge to bring it home. You already know my love for the Penguin English Library edition paperbacks and their classy vintage-y covers (link to my 2015readingplans), but the following two books are made to look the way books were published before paperbacks were even a thing. They are not old editions, but made to look like they are.
On the left, you have a copy of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Need I repeat that I love Dickens… I don’t think so. This novella is the perfect story to read come Christmas time, not only because of the title but also because it’s full of hope and redemption, all that you should aspire to during that time of year especially. When I bought this copy on a sale rack, it was in a hideous little box. I was pleased to see the actual cover with its simple red colour, its gold engraved title and its details on the sides.
On the right is Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. One thing I love about reading is that, similarly to music, it brings back memories. I read this novel while I was visiting my parents when they lived in Moscow and now, every time I look at it, I’m reminded of this city and all the beautiful things I saw. Other than that, the story in itself is gripping and Wilde’s writing is just breathtaking. This cover is very baroque in style with all of its embellishments, but I kind of like it that way.
I think these two covers can qualify as “kitsch” but in my opinion, we all need some “kitsch” in our lives. I like the hard covers, the satin bookmark and the fact that these books just look more solid and valuable than most. Call me weird but I get more enjoyment reading from this sort of books than from regular paperbacks.
This section is probably going to be the hardest to explain and the pictures will hardly help me but I’ll try anyway. When I buy a book, I always pay attention to the way it feels. Since you’re probably going to hold it for a few hours at least, it might as well be nice to the touch. I always thought I owned many hardbacks but now that I have most of my books in the same spot, I hardly do and the few I have are pretty simple looking. Therefore, although I like the feel of a hardback, none of the following books are.
This first book is one I bought solely for the cover. When I was part of my English department’s student association, we used to host book sales and I had a hard time resisting a 50c book. In the spirit of full disclosure, I have not yet read this book and I don’t know if I ever will but it looks good on my shelf (sue me). This cover looks and feels like sturdy recycled paper. The background is grey and grainy. This book’s cover feels very natural and therefore enhances what I assume to be the main theme of the book: nature (tractors, caravans…).
The second book is one I had to read for my Russian Literature course: Gogol’s Dead Souls. This novella is amazingly satirical. Gogol is at the same time hilarious and dark, portraying Russian society honestly but humorously. I don’t think the picture really shows how shiny the cover is. The material is smooth and gives this copper metallic feel to it (I’m slowly realising how rubbish I am at descriptions…oh well) which is very agreeable to the touch. The only downside of this cover is that it gets dirty very fast and it’s almost impossible to get it clean (didn’t help that an apple sauce container exploded in my bag and got all over it… much sticky, so mess). I don’t even want to mention fingerprints… but it’s pretty.
The last novel is Expo 58 by Jonathan Coe. I’d already read a Coe’s book years ago called The Rain before it Falls. Whereas The Rain before it Falls is a very deep and emotional read, Expo 58 is much lighter. The main setting is the Universal Exposition of Brussels in 58 and the plot centres around a British man who is sent to help at the expo and is thrown amid conspiracies and love affairs. I read this book during my last semester and it was a great break from all my other university reads. What I love the most about this cover is the cardboard feel to it. What I need is for a cover to feel sturdy in my hands. I don’t want to have to fear that it’s going to be completely ruined by the time I’m done with it. Hardbacks are great but expensive. Therefore, these types of covers are a good compromise.
This last section is a little obvious but illustrations are in my opinion the most important aspect of a cover. In a bookstore, the front design or illustration is the second thing to catch my eyes after the spine. If I do my shopping online, it’s the first thing I see. The three following books are a small sample of what I like.
On the top left we have a book I read for one of my Canadian Lit courses. If I remember correctly,Truth and Bright Water is a novel about an indigenous town in Canada, focusing on a young boy. This book addresses a lot of important issues of inequalities and identity. The buffalo is an important symbol of the story. Therefore, I like the fact that it is the central element of the cover. The use of bright colours reflects the magical realism present in the novel as well as the challenges that modernity brings to a traditional society. I like the symbolism of this cover, the colours, but also simply the fact that it looks good; it catches the eye in a pleasant way.
Do I even need to introduce the two other books? What I like in the cover of The Hobbit is its simplicity. The union of black and gold is nicely done and the title font makes me think about the elvish writings we can find in Tolkien’s works. The illustration itself is simple yet fits in perfectly with the contents of the book. For the copy of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the illustration is also great because it does indeed “illustrate” the book without revealing anything about the story. But more than the illustration, what really appeals to me in this first edition of J.K. Rowling’s novel is the choice of colours. I don’t know why but I think that this mix of purple, orange, and blue works surprisingly well.
I realise that this post is very subjective so I now am wondering what YOU look for the most in a cover and what are some of your favourites?
PS: I’m thinking about making a new weekly segment on my writing, discussing where I’m at right now and the struggles I am facing. Something to look forward to!