May 11, 2012

What we talk about when we talk about book covers


If the saying is true and everyone is a critic these days, then it should come as no surprise that tucked between the endless volumes of criticism about books appearing every day online and in print, there’s also a great deal of criticism about book covers.

We’re fortunate to have smart voices like Dan Wagstaff (the Casual Optimist) and James Morrison (the Caustic Cover Critic) writing sharp commentary about the state of design today. But until now, there hasn’t been a critical forum where the people behind the covers can engage in a direct dialogue about their craft.

A new blog, the aptly-named Talking Covers, aims to rectify this by eschewing commentary, interviews, and editorializing altogether. Instead, the site’s editor, Sean Manning, author of the memoir The Things That Need Doing, has created a platform where, as he puts it, “authors, designers, and artists join to discuss a particular book cover.”

The results are fascinating. In a recent post, writer Anthony Doerr, designer Rex Bonomelli, and photographer Susanne Masters contribute their thoughts about the cover of Doerr’s book Memory Wall. Though none of them have ever met, each marvels at the nature of their collaboration, as Masters demonstrates:

It felt weird, in a good way, that while I was mooching around on the beach collecting ammonites and then months later making a photograph of them the thoughts sloshing around in my head on time and place matched the thoughts someone else was having writing those stories and designing the book cover.

Read the full discussion and others at Talking Covers.


Christopher King is the former Art Director of Melville House.