10 Truly Terrible Book Jacket Redesigns


Just today, the UK’s Vintage Books released a set of six redesigned versions of novels from Jeanette Winterson’s backlist, created by Vintage’s senior designer. Now, while Vintage does often put out great designs, these are not great. They are bad. They are lazy and hard to look at and don’t reflect any of the beauty and complexity of Winterson’s prose, nor her ideas — at least in this reader’s opinion. It’s always unfortunate when books are redesigned and their covers end up worse, but it’s particularly bad when those books are beloved — who wants to be caught clutching that bizarre orange monstrosity to their chest? After the jump, a list of sadly terrible book cover redesigns to avoid on books that should be read.

Really, a big orange? Stop. See more here.

This new cover for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, part of the new line of Penguin Modern Classics, caused a fuss last month, with detractors calling it “creepy” and “overly sexualized.” A Penguin spokesperson defended the cover, stressing that it was “intended for an adult audience” and explaining, “This new image for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory looks at the children at the centre of the story, and highlights the way Roald Dahl’s writing manages to embrace both the light and the dark aspects of life.” Right. But wherever you come down on the inappropriately sexualized thing, it’s also just kind of ugly and, as Margaret Talbot pointed out at The New Yorker, reminds one immediately of JonBenét Ramsey. Better not.

Attending the release of David Mitchell’s newest novel, UK publisher Sceptre has released newly designed versions of his backlist. Now, I admit these are a matter of taste, and the Cloud Atlas redesign isn’t so bad, but mostly these are manic, overstuffed covers that make the books look like cheap YA novels. I don’t get it.

Here’s another set of covers for Vintage UK that misses the mark in its simplicity. There were definitely people who liked the minimalist vibe, but that vibe isn’t really appropriate for the books at hand. And, um, as for the theme, yes, we get it, Murakami is Japanese. Good one. The John Gall covers are so much better.

Ah yes, that time they redesigned Brontë to look like Meyer. Jane Eyre, Romeo & Juliet, and Pride and Prejudice received similar treatments. No argument against selling good literature to people who need to read something other than Twilight (though the fact that this is how publishers have to do it is depressing), but they’re still fairly awful looking.

I’m including the original cover design of this one just to emphasize the downgrade. How could the publishers go from such a cool, come-hither cover to one that looks like a fake movie poster?

Neal Stephenson or John Grisham? This cover was released in 2008 as part of a backlist redesign to go along with Stephenson’s Anathem, but it’s pretty incomprehensible when attached to this book. Just look at how hard that charming subtitle clashes with that cheap-thriller red.

Ursula K. Le Guin’s classic has been around long enough, and been beloved long enough, that it’s had a host of different covers (two of my personal favorites directly above). So why, if you go to buy a copy today, do you have to settle for this horrible cover that looks like a Legends of the Guardians tie-in?

The worst movie tie-in cover of all the bad movie tie-in covers.

Last but not least: everyone’s favorite bad book cover redesign, Faber&Faber’s 50th anniversary version of The Bell Jar. They explain:

We think there is a reader for this novel who will enjoy its brilliance without knowing anything about Plath’s other work. This edition was briefed with such a reader in mind. The image on the cover picks up on the beginning of the story, where the narrator is an intern at a women’s magazine in New York in the fifties and is encountering the conflict between new freedom and old assumptions about women’s aspirations. Our intention for this cover was that the image of the expressionless woman ‘putting on her mask’ and the discordant colour palette would suggest ambivalence and unease. The copy on the back of this edition makes reference to the narrator’s depression and suicide attempt.

Are you buying it?