cover story

When I told people that Jubilee was going to be published, the first thing they asked was: ‘Do you have a cover design?’ or – in a variation on the theme – ‘Do you get to design the cover?’ I’ll deal with the latter question first. No, I do not design my own covers. If I did, they would look like this:


Instead of which, my quite unbelievably gorgeous paperback cover looks like this:

I know – you want to stroke it, don’t you? Me too.

I am quite happy to admit that, for me, a book’s cover design really, really matters. A novel is primarily a story – but it’s also an artefact, and preferably a beautiful one. Publishers agree. In fact, they agree now more than ever, in the era of the ebook, when printed novels need to set themselves apart and show off their USP. There are lots of little pleasures available to readers of Real Books; I was delighted to find, halfway through reading Lloyd Shepherd’s The English Monster, that it sports two cover designs. Beneath the dustjacket, on the book boards themselves, there’s a glossy red reproduction of an engraving. And, if you would like to join me in a little cover porn, here are four more books whose designs are an absolute pleasure – worthy of the cover price alone.

Now, I don’t mean to sound shallow here, but this book is very, very lovely, and even more so in the flesh, because the buildings are drawn in gold. If you’re starting to think that it’s a little too blingtastic, or maybe feel that you’re above such fripperies, let me challenge you to read this beauty without – just occasionally – stopping to close it again and admire its cover.


This is simple, elegant and witty, a subtle joke made by someone who’s clever, but not vulgar enough to advertise the fact: brilliant design.


We’ll have to wait until August for this novel, the design of which has given me severe cover envy. I love the huge expanse of sky and the simplicity of the title.

Finally, this is my favourite book cover of all time. When I read the novel, I sometimes used to just look at it sitting on my bedside table, and heave a deep, satisfied sigh.

I don’t think it can be equalled – but you undoubtedly disagree. So, what are your nominations for Most Beautiful Cover of All Time?

cover story

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