Tag: book covers

What We See When We Read by Peter Mendelsund

Posted November 8, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Non-Fiction / 3 Comments

What We See When We Read by Peter MendelsundTitle: What We See When We Read (Goodreads)
Author: Peter Mendelsund
Published: Vintage, 2014
Pages: 419
Genres: Non-Fiction
My Copy: Paperback

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

When reading Moby Dick, does Ishmael look like Richard Basehart? How about Anna Karenina? Please don’t tell me she looked like Keira Knightley. What We See When We Read takes a look at the activity of reading with such depth and insight. Looking at not only the way our brain fills in the images but also what the author is trying to say. Take for example Karenin in Anna Karenina; his ears are described a few times within the novel but they get bigger. The size of his ears is an artistic simulacrum that changes as Anna Karenina’s feelings toward him change.

Peter Mendelsund is Knopf’s Associate Art Director and has been responsible for some of their most iconic book covers. Just looking at his book cover designs I get the sense that he loves reading and the artistic side of literature. His book covers really capture a feeling; they stand out and often work well with the written word inside. He is major is in Philosophy and Literature and the two work well together in looking at the idea of reading and how our minds interpret the written word.

This is very much like Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud, it explores the idea of reading in different ways and explores different concepts. We all read slightly different and Mendelsund is able to go into different methods. A stand out for me is the way Vladimir Nabokov read Kafka’s Metamorphosis; there is an image of his copy of the book and it looks like he edits and rewrites the book to make it his own. It is an interesting way to get involve with the written word.

What We See When We Read is a combination of written words and images, which allows Mendelsund to illustrate his point and give the reader a better understanding of the feelings. A big bonus is the fact that he references other books, which gives me a huge TBR pile of books that explore this idea further in different ways. I love books about books so I am pleased to have a reading list.

I have to say What We See When We Read is a must for all book lovers. This book will be a joy to read and will look good on the shelf. I own the new Vintage edition, which is a paperback but it also has French flaps so it looks nice. I like how he went for a simple cover design; it stands out and works well with this book. I know this book is rising in popularity and I hope more people get a chance to read this one as soon as possible.

Gatsby and My Hate for Movie Tie-In Covers

Posted May 9, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literature / 0 Comments


I had a little complaint about book covers changing a few days ago but now I feel the need to comment on something else cover related. Movie tie-in book covers are the worst thing out there, I know they help people recognise the book but they are just so ugly and should never be printed. The New York Times wrote an interesting article called Judging ‘Gatsby’ by Its Cover(s) in which they looked at the iconic Great Gatsby cover with the new movie cover.

Normally books go through different cover changes but when it comes to The Great Gatsby, the original cover is still the most recognised of all its covers. So when you see the movie tie-in cover it is a huge shock; do we really need a cover with Leonardo DiCaprio on it? The article is really interesting because it looks at how the original cover is out selling the movie tie-in and even an independent bookseller who refuses to sell the new cinematic edition. Saying “It’s just God-awful, ‘The Great Gatsby’ is a pillar of American literature, and people don’t want it messed with. We’re selling the classic cover and have no intention of selling the new one.”

There is even a little quote by Ernest Hemingway who called the original cover “garish” and wrote in his memoir A Moveable Feast that he was “embarrassed by the violence, bad taste and slippery look of it.” But that is probably a whole new blog post, maybe two (one to look at the complex relationship of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Hemingway).

I know I hate movie tie-in covers and go out of my way to avoid them at all cost. I know most people hate them, you can read The Week complain about them, even Books on the Nightstand had a conversation about them recently. But I want to know if there are any good movie-tie in covers out there and what you think about them?

Why Change the Book Cover Design?

Posted May 7, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literature / 8 Comments


This week, something that really annoyed me was the new paperback book cover for How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid. The originally cover was gorgeous, nothing too elaborate but it really stood out now the new cover looks too much like it’s trying to be a self-help book. Which I get, it looks almost exactly the same as the famous book on economics Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki.  This got me thinking, why do they change the style of book designs, if they have something that works so well?

I’m sure there is a lot to do with marketing strategies and who owns the publishing rights for a book yet I still find myself annoyed. What is more annoying is when you see a book change cover designs halfway through a series. Are they just trying to make sure everyone has to go out and buy all the books again so they all match on the bookshelf? Good marketing strategy but that is just mean to the readers and book collectors out there. I have a series of books which I bought from a book website (which I will leave nameless) and when all the books came they were the same style but they are different heights, so it still looks weird on the book shelf. Sometimes book cover designers do things that really annoy me.

I’m sure there are many people out there that just don’t care that much about different covers or if the book is in hardback or paperback. For me, it is almost like they went out of their way to annoy me; I don’t think I’m OCD but little things like cover design and the different sizes of the books really set me off; especially when it’s on a bookshelf staring and teasing me all day long. How about you? Are there things that annoy you about book designs? Let me know in the comments below.