A beautiful and grisly cover.

Happy by Alex Lemon, designed by Rex Bonomellii

Happy by Alex Lemon, designed by Rex Bonomelli.

From Book Covers Anonymous:

The black portion of the cover is actually the jacket – a bellyband. The yellow portion is printed directly on the case. This is a memoir by a star college baseball player nicknamed Happy who [suffers] a stroke and two subsequent brain bleeds.

A nice concept: book designs completed by a bookmark.

Prev — Next (4 images total)
  • Alice Adventures in Wonderland with bookmark – designed by Igor Udushlivy
  • Moby Dick with bookmark – designed by Igor Udushlivy
  • Robin Hood with bookmark – designed by Igor Udushlivy
  • The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes with bookmark – designed by Igor Udushlivy

By graphic designer and illustrator Igor Udushlivy.
See the full set.

Maybe impractical in this execution (the designs would be too impoverished when the bookmarks weren’t carefully in place) but still, fun and interesting, and I bet there’s interesting things you could do designing bookmarks for specific titles. A rasher of bacon for Eating Animals, maybe – keep Stephen Colbert happy.

A clever piece of publicity (and book design) for the Rethink Scholarship.

The Rethink Scholarship is an $18,000 scholarship for aspiring art directors and designers to Langara College’s Communication and Ideation Design program. The winner will also receive a 3-month internship with Rethink.

Reminds me of:

ABC3D on Youtube, on Amazon.

There was only one best book cover design of 2009:

The Humbling by Philip Roth, designed by Milton Glaser.

And I say that even with a horse in the running on The Book Design Review’s rather more thorough round-up of the year.

(Actually it’s gray318’s horse, but I still like to brush its locks and feed it sugarcubes.)

This is all great stuff, and I want to see more of this. Publishers, get on it. From Penguin, two posters of the fantastic covers for the new set of Penguin Deluxe Classics:

Penguin poster of Moby Dick cover, art by Tony Millionaire

Poster from cover of Moby Dick by Herman Melville, art by Tony Millionaire


Poster from cover of White Noise by Don Delillo, art by Michael Cho, design by Paul Buckley

Then the very delightful design blog Kitsune Noir has begun the Kitsune Noir Poster Club by asking five artists to produce a poster based on a book they love. The results of which include another take on Moby Dick:

Moby Dick poster by Mark Weaver for Kitsune Noir

Poster inspired by Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, by Mark Weaver

But I think my two favourites are these, coming from opposite ends of the austerity scale:

Infinite Jest poster by Cody Hoyt for Kitsune Noir

Poster inspired by David Foster Wallace’s Infinte Jest, by Cody Hoyt

Walden poster by Jez Burrows for Kitsune Noir

Poster inspired by Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, by Jez Burrows

The other two titles are Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.

And then there’s Penguin designer and, more importantly, ≥ regular Stefanie Posavec, who has a print at 20x200. It’s based on Walter Benjamin’s ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’, and uses the same technique to visualize the text as she’s used before for On the Road.

Walter Benjamin print by Stefanie Posavec

Walter Benjamin: A Literary Organism Analysis print, by Stefanie Posavec

I am wishing I had more money right now.


Send me money.

There are probably two men who can claim the title ‘father of science fiction’ (gay dads!): Jules Verne, author of Journey to the Centre of the Earth and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, and H.G. Wells.

I didn’t realise that as well as writing genre-defining classics like The War of the Worlds and The Time Machine, Wells has also been called the father of miniature war gaming.

H.G. Wells playing an indoor war game

He wrote two books, Floor Games and Little Wars (what a title), of rules and theory for playing games with children’s toys and toy soldiers. Little Wars includes a description of a game from the point of view of a caracitural general relating it as a battle from his storied past, beginning:

… suddenly your author changes. He changes into what perhaps he might have been—under different circumstances. His inky fingers become large, manly hands, his drooping scholastic back stiffens, his elbows go out, his etiolated complexion corrugates and darkens, his moustaches increase and grow and spread, and curl up horribly; a large, red scar, a sabre cut, grows lurid over one eye. He expands—all over he expands. He clears his throat startlingly, lugs at the still growing ends of his moustache, and says, with just a faint and fading doubt in his voice as to whether he can do it, “Yas, Sir!”

FloorGamesbyHGWellsLittle Wars by H.G. Wells

I don’t know anything about war games. (I am a nerd, but not that kind of nerd.) But I like the fact that Wells’ game makes use of spring-loaded cannons firing wooden cylinders. In Little Wars he says, ‘Whenever possible, death should be by actual gun- and rifle-fire and not by computation. Things should happen, and not be decided.’

If you’ve read Infinte Jest, that might make you think of nuclear-annihilation-and-tennis game Eschaton (or it did me, anyway), which similarly operates with real-world actions (tennis ball lobs) impacting on the accepted pretense of a game world (nuclear explosions). Or at least it operates until debate (does real world snow dictate game-world snow?) becomes violence and the end of play.

While the other cover for Orwell’s Decline of the English Murder discussed in this post at Zoo in the head is probably superior, I do like the Penguin placement here:

Decline of the English Murder and other essays by George Orwell

I think they did the same with other Orwells at the same time. For a more contemporary example, currently Penguin have an imprint just for James Bond titles, the logo for which is:

Penguin 007: the logo for Penguin's James Bond imprint. This photo is of the hardback Quantum of Solace, designed by Pentagram.

Penguin 007 logo. Pictured on the Pentagram-designed Quantum of Solace hardback.

But there must be other examples like this?

Too Loud a Solitude is a novella by Czech writer Bohumil Hrabal about Haňťa, a compactor of waste paper. Haňťa has for 35 years been making bales of paper, crushing everything from bloody, sickly sweet butcher paper to rare and valuable books. The books he reads reverentially; he takes them home and adds them to the two ton stack perilously held over his head as he sleeps; and  he uses them to stud his bales of compacted paper, turning the bales into his own works of art.

This section comes as Haňťa visits an old sweetheart:

… Manča showed me around the cottage, from basement to attic, explaining in hushed tones how an angel had come to her and she had obeyed him and taken up with a ditchdigger and spent all her savings on a plot of land in the woods, and the ditchdigger dug the foundation and slept in a tent with her, but then she threw him over for a bricklayer, and the bricklayer made love to her in the tent and put up all the walls, and then Manča took up with a carpenter and he did all the carpentry work and shared her bed, but then she threw threw him over for a plumber, who slept in the same bed as the carpenter but did all the plumbing, only to be replaced by a roofer, who made love to her and laid her roof with concrete tile but was eventually replaced by a mason, who roughcast all her walls and ceilings by day and slept in her bed by night, until she took up with a cabinetmaker, who made all new furniture in return for her bed, and so it was that Manča, with nothing but a bed and a clear cut goal, built herself a house.

The second set of hardback classics

Last November, I interviewed book designer Coralie Bickford-Smith on the Penguin blog about her designs for a set of ten hardback classics, and how they made me want new cloth-bound editions of books more than I wanted, say, food. Or love. Definitely a lot more than I wanted love.

For the interview, I’d send her an image with a question in it, and she’d fill the remaining space with whatever she wanted, and then I’d send her another, and so on. It worked well and I’M NOT MADE OF IDEAS DAMMIT, so with a new set of ten more handsome volumes about to be published, we’ve done the same thing again.

[UPDATE, 9/10: The books are at last available through the Waterstone’s website. (Thank you to sarah b. for spotting them and commenting.)]

A single tear
We heart spines
Coralie's soul has printer's marks
Gridded but not rigid
In this metaphor chairs are society I am a barstool and you are JUDGING ME
Lady Chatterley's Cover. Or are we phoeNIXing puns?
The first draft of this, Coralie was much nicer to me. Then she said she was going to fix something, and suddenly: SASS.
Colour me impressed
First the Directorial Tea-Towel then the Passive-Aggressive Toilet Roll
Next time: we do the whole thing in diagrams. Whaddaya say?

So, to recap, the books are published on 5 October, and you want them, or else, I guess you hate things that are nice? The Directorial Tea-Towel is available now, through the pleasingly named ToDryFor.com.

Here’s the full list of the ten books. They are, for the moment, exclusive to Waterstone’s. Titles link to images, ISBNs link to the book’s Waterstone’s page:

Little Women – Louisa May Alcott – 9780141192413
The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins – 9780141192420
The Hound of the Baskervilles – Arthur Conan Doyle – 9780141192437
The Odyssey – Homer – 9780141192444
Treasure Island – Robert Louis Stevenson – 9780141192451
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass – Lewis Carroll – 9780141192468
Emma – Jane Austen – 9780141192475
Lady Chatterley’s Lover – D.H. Lawrence – 9780141192482
Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens – 9780141192499
The Sonnets and A Lover’s Complaint – William Shakespeare – 9780141192574

Good God, but they're nice.

And eight of the ten titles from the last set are now available through Amazon and all ten in Canada through Chapters Indigo. Titles link to images, ISBNs to Amazon.co.uk:

Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert – 9780141040318
Great Expectations – Charles Dickens – 9780141040363
Wuthering Heights – Emily Brontë – 9780141040356
Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen – 9780141040370
Cranford – Elizabeth Gaskell – 9780141442549
Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy – 9780141040332
Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen – 9780141040349
Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky – 9780140455687
Jane Eyre – Charlotte Brontë – 9780141040387
The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde – 9780141442464

Please feel free to leave a comment if you find the books available anywhere else.

Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.

The Second Pass recently linked to this gallery of covers to different editions of Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita (as well as to this competition for people to give it their own design).

It’s certainly not a book that’s been universally well-served by designers. There are some covers that want to suggest Humbert Humbert’s lascivious gaze but, to avoid straying into the same morally reprehensible territory as Humbert himself, they do so with an image of a full-grown woman rather than a pre-pubescent girl. Others just have illustrations of fairly inept nymphets (there are some real grotesques in there). And there’s also some good design (as you’d hope in a collection of slightly more than 150 images).

Interestingly, tucked away in an old episode of a television programme called USA: The Novel, Nabokov himself flicks through some of these editions:

And here are the jackets of the books he picks up:

1959 Turkish edition of Lolita

1963 French edition of Lolita

1964 German edition of Lolita

1959 Italian edition of Lolita

1958 Dutch edition of Lolita

(It seems to be impossible to find the Nabokov video on the public television website from which it originally comes, but you can see the whole episode embedded at this blog. The different Lolitas appear in part 3, which also features Nabokov reveling in a list he has constructed of things he detests.)

Then there’s this cover of Lolita that never came to be, an abandoned draft John Gall shared in an old interview at Fwis:

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, unused design by John Gall

It’s both absolutely nauseating and unbearably elegant, and as such is perhaps the perfect Lolita cover.

Sadly, they let the queasiness get to them and this is the final design they went with (and it still goes to the head of the class):

John Gall Lolita final cover

So this excellent edition of Nineteen Eighty-Four has been featured on the finer book cover design blogs recently.

Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, gray318 design

Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, design by gray318

Unfortunately, what with the decline of proper journalism and whatnot, nobody thought to ask the really important question here: What renegade genius working an admittedly low-level job in the publisher’s marketing department suggested keeping the title off the cover?

Last year I was a copywriter at Penguin and wrote a lot of blurbs for the Classics lists. So you get used very quickly to seeing your words on books by some of the greatest writers who ever lived. The job was a joy from start to end and there’s not a lack of things it was a thrill to be able to work on.

But getting to use the iconic language of Orwell’s classic like this, and having the editor take the idea to gray318 (who is, you may know, in a league of his own) and have him come up with this absolutely perfect design across front, back and spine (and throw in a couple of endpapers that would have made great Orwell jackets in their own right), was perhaps the best of a lot of gratifying moments.

Here’s the full design:

Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, gray318 design

Inside front cover of Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, gray318 design

Inside front cover

Inside back cover of Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, gray318 design

Inside back cover

So thank you Jon Gray, thank you Penguin and thank you George Orwell. You made me a very happy man.

Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

Nineteen Eighty-Four · George Orwell · 9780141191201 · at the Book Depository · at Amazon.co.uk

I have been reading a lot of David Foster Wallace recently. It’s easy to read a lot of David Foster Wallace, in the sense that you just have to take on Infinite Jest, his most famous novel: at 1,100 pages, it’s a book massive enough to have merited a support group for people trying to read it this summer (with its own schedule), and by itself constitutes a lot of David Foster Wallace.

And reading Infinite Jest I am. But the decision to read it (to the schedule) was a last minute one – a pledge between me and a friend – made when I was already alternating between Wallace’s short story collection Oblivion and his non-fiction in Consider the Lobster.

The essays, articles and reviews in Consider the Lobster are often extremely long: Wallace records delivering one article to Rolling Stone, the magazine that commissioned it, and having his editor there point out that to run it at its full length would fill the entire issue’s text allowance and ‘might even cut into the percentage of the magazine reserved for advertisements’. This is because he digresses constantly and brilliantly. A review of A Dictionary of Modern American Usage expands into a whole discussion of language snobbishness and its implications for social issues like (for example) race, and of prescriptive versus descriptive ways of considering and teaching grammar (a preoccupation evident in Infinite Jest). Another, of the autobiography of tennis player Tracy Austin (tennis being very ditto), becomes a critique of the whole genre of sports biographies, and then, with remarkable empathy and psychological acuteness and with a swiftness like prestidigitation, turns the failings of these books (i.e. being uniformly tedious) into an element of another discussion – about the sort of personality necessary to perform and compete athletically at practically super-human levels. Not all the pieces in Consider the Lobster are great, but in those that are (and there’s more than a few) Wallace’s mind expands topics to new, sweeping scope, while at the same time making them newly navigable.

I’d recommend it is what I’m saying.

Another article included in Lobster is ‘Host’, a 2005 profile of talk radio host John Ziegler. This is worth reading for several reasons.

One is a section that gives a fairly straight recounting of Ziegler’s life and career as extracted by Wallace from Ziegler himself.  This is wonderful stuff: you-could-make-it-up-but-they’d-never-believe-it stuff. To give you an idea of the tragicomedy involved in this timeline: Ziegler is fired from a TV hosting job for telling an ‘incredibly tame’ joke (pre-trial) about O.J. Simpson’s guilt. A year or two later, while working on radio, Ziegler is persuaded to do a show about this firing, during which show he retells the joke – and, as a result, gets himself fired for it a second time. Later, at another radio job, Ziegler is fired for using the (actual) N-word when making an argument about how patronizing (the euphemistic phrase) ‘the N-word’ is. And then at another job Ziegler is again fired for telling the story of this firing (despite this time euphemistically avoiding the actual word).

Another reason is the design of the text, which separates digressions and editorial content (often marked ‘editorial content’) out into boxes (and then sometimes into further, nesting boxes) which are located in the text by means of outward arrows. (The idea that there is any way Wallace could keep the editorialising neatly confined to sidenotes is an obviously false one, which Wallace is too smart not to appreciate, and the attempt creates a tension which he both recognises and defuses when he starts giving the notes headings like ‘just clear-eyed dispassionate reason’.) This complicated layout, and the rest of the interior of Consider the Lobster, was designed by Marie Mundaca, and it’s worth going here to read her description of working on it (in concert with Wallace).

The full text of ‘Host’ is also on The Atlantic website, and they’ve managed these notes through the use of clickable links and pop-ups. So ‘Host’ gives a rare opportunity to see the same challenging text (challenging in terms of layout, I mean) thoughtfully designed for both the internet and for print.

‘Host’ by David Foster Wallace in the non-fiction collection 'Consider the Lobster'.

In the 2005 non-fiction collection Consider the Lobster

‘Host’ by David Foster Wallace online at The Atlantic.

On the website of The Atlantic

Some more images:

‘Host’ by David Foster Wallace. In the non-fiction collection 'Consider the Lobster'. Compare and contrast with the online verstion at: www.theatlantic.com/doc/200504/wallace
‘Host’ by David Foster Wallace in the non-fiction collection 'Consider the Lobster'.
‘Host’ by David Foster Wallace in the non-fiction collection 'Consider the Lobster'.
‘Host’ by David Foster Wallace in the non-fiction collection 'Consider the Lobster'.
‘Host’ by David Foster Wallace online at The Atlantic.

Except, of course, there’s a third ‘Host’: the article originally appeared in the print edition of The Atlantic. So another print version, but this one in a hugely different format from a paperback collection, with much larger pages and the possibility of colour, so the result is very different (as you can tell from the only image I managed to track down):

‘Host’ by David Foster Wallace in The Atlantic's print edition

In the print edition of The Atlantic, April 2005, via the if:book post, ‘hyperlinks in print

Whenever I come across a very long article or blog post online that sounds interesting, I tend to bookmark it, then set it aside. Presumably I am imagining that at some point the Internet will run out of amusing comics, inexplicable film trailers and crazy goddamn optical illusions, that Cute Overload will suffer some kind of Cute Outage, and suddenly reading long form writing on my monitor will seem like a fun way to spend my time and my eyes.

Not that I don’t read a lot on-screen (I do) but the longer something is and the more interested I am in it, the more frustrating the idea of reading it in a less than ideal form seems. And even well designed websites tend not to be ideal reading environments.

Happily, while I am a man only with problems, other people offer solutions. At blog.thoughtwax.com, rather than continuing to stockpile long online articles for a day that would never come, Emmet Connolly decided to take them and put them into the more ideal reading environment of a one-off edition of a print-on-demand book: the ‘Instapaper (analogue edition)’.

So following his lead, after a bit of typesetting, some hasty cover design and a wait of just under a week for printing and posting, I had me a copy of Offline #1:

Offline #1

I’ve been very happy with the result. In carting it around the cover’s unpleasantly shiny laminate has already started to separate at the edges – I can’t say I’d want to buy a real book from Lulu – but it served its purpose extremely well. Being conscious that these were articles I could have been reading online made me aware of the way my eye moved around the page, and the pleasure of proper typesetting. And as I assumed they would be, a lot of the things I had filed away for future consumption were a lot better and more enjoyable than the things I often read when it’s just me and my feed reader killing some time.

It cost about £6 to print and about £4 more on postage. Some more pictures follow.

Offline #1
Offline #1Offline #1Offline #1

And now my bookmarks folder of things ‘to read’ is not a gloomy, waiting chore, but an opportunity for another pleasant offline read, just as soon as I have enough for volume 2.

This post was 392 words – thank you for reaching the end.