We’re nearing the end of our Picture Perfect month, and how better to wrap things up than to share our favourite covers with you. From power stations to fabric vaginas, here are the books the 4th Estate team are happy to judge by their covers.
The Wallcreeper by Nell Zink
The brilliant flash of red in the underwing feathers of the wallcreeper is a thing of beauty that lives only in my imagination – I have only seen photos of wallcreepers, which are actually a bit dingy and hard to spot on high mountain cliffs apparently, until they occasionally splay their wings to reveal the bright red beneath. So for Nell Zink’s The Wallcreeper, obviously we had to have the painted underwing, the bird’s gorgeous little secret.
Nicholas Pearson, Publishing Director
This Isn’t the Sort of Thing That Happens to Someone Like You by Jon McGregor
This jacket brilliantly reflects what Jon McGregor does so singularly with his writing: making the unremarkable remarkable and leading us to look at the everyday with fresh eyes. I love the layering of its horizontal bands; that deep, deep red; the boldness of the title type – balanced by its delicate inked texture – and the typewritten text hidden behind it all. Like many of McGregor’s stories, it is pared back and deceptively simple, its strength and suggestive power coming as much from the space around the image and the type – the ragged edges and the stained paper – as the image itself. Although who knew a power station could be such a thing of beauty…?
Helen Garnons-Williams, Publishing Director
Tampa by Alissa Nutting
It’s perhaps not one you’d want to flaunt at your grandmother’s kitchen table (though I suppose that depends on your grandmother), but for me this cover design by Jon Gray stands out as one of the most striking and successful I’ve seen in recent years. It’s so bold, so clever, so simple, so intriguing, so unsettling. I would find it almost physically impossible to walk past this in a book shop and not buy it.
Anna Kelly, Commissioning Editor
The Shipping News by Annie Proulx
I was working at Waterstones when the cover of The Shipping News caught my eye, and drew me into a wonderful story that remains a favourite to this day. The gnarled wood is so tactile, urging you to run your fingers over the whorls and etchings, giving the impression of a piece of flotsam washed up on some Newfoundland shore. It’s the perfect casing for a book about setting and material and craft, how we choose to live and how our environment impacts upon us.
Tara Al-Azzawi, Marketing Manager
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
My favourite cover (and now favourite book) is A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. Through A Little Life we follow Jude through the decades, a man so troubled beyond repair that often I wanted to throw the book across the room and scold him for his actions and life choices that stem from his misguided sense of self and inability to forgive himself for the past that he has endured. The cover image is taken from the book The Multi-orgasmic Man, though without knowing that, what you see is a man in pure pain. Read the book. The link between pain and sex becomes all too clear.
Candice Carty-Williams, Marketing Assistant
We, The Drowned by Carsten Jensen
This is one of my favourite covers – and books – of all time. I remember the exact moment picked it up, and was so taken by its solid heft and smooth, crisp cover that, despite knowing nothing about it or the author, I immediately knew I was going to buy it. I love the simple yet incredibly evocative illustration, and the way the swirling vortex of waves around the ship motif draws you in and promises great adventure. It illustrates perfectly the tale of a small Danish village whose inhabitants’ lives are bound inextricably to, and revolve around, the sea.
Lottie Fyfe, Assistant Project Editor
Busman’s Honeymoon by Dorothy Sayers
I love the iconic 60s cover designs for Penguin Crime novels. With their reliable recipe of Akzidenz Grotesk, a minimal green, black and white colour palette, and abstract, experimental designs, they all follow the rules of what’s become known as the ‘Marber grid’ – a template for paperback Penguins created by Polish designer Romek Marber. Marber’s designs are striking yet endearingly DIY – he uses photography, drawing and collage, and, lacking a budget, frequently features on his own covers as a model. Unifying the works of authors such as Dorothy Sayers, Margery Allingham and Dashiell Hammett, Marber’s covers cemented green as the colour of crime in the UK in the same way that yellow (or giallo) signifies the genre in Italy. He freed the mystery novel from the pulpy and the twee, and his covers still look contemporary.
Tom Killingbeck, Publishing Executive
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