Book By Its Cover


Well – in the best possible way – August has rather passed me by. What with the excitement of Olympic fever and widespread national joy over the fact it was actually sunny during August – yes, sunshine, blue skies, soaring temperatures, and all – the days seem to have flashed passed and now suddenly we’re in September. Gulp! But even if I have been sunning myself on the south coast, eating ice-cream in Holland Park and screaming at the TV as Mo Farah made his competitors eat dust in the 5,000 meters, the publishing world has still been hard at it, producing beautiful books and eye-catching covers. Here are just a few for your delectation…

Narcopolis by Jeet Thayle (Faber & Faber)
Opening in Bombay in the 1970s and spanning three decades, Thayle’s literary debut is a stunning portrait of a city and its diverse and dissolute underworld. I actually saw this matt-finish cover in Waterstone’s today and I couldn’t resist picking it up. I love Jimmy Zombie’s gorgeous illustration – it has an undeniably psychedelic charm. This is a trade paperback, but the fairly unusual addition of illustrated flaps is a great, high quality touch.

The Falcons of Fire and Ice by Karen Maitland (Michael Joseph)
I love this PLC hardcover for the latest historical tour de force from Karen Maitland. Set in 1564, the novel is the tale of Isabela, the daughter of a falconer in the royal court in Lisbon. When her father is accused of killing two of the king’s precious falcons, Isabela must undertake a dark journey fraught with danger and menace to save her father from imminent death.
Designed by one of my favourite illustrators, Jon Gray, otherwise known as gray318, this is a gorgeous glossy cover with bronze foil and eye-popping yellow type against the black background of the volcano. It’s intriguing and original.

The Illicit Happiness of Other People by Manu Joseph (John Murray)
While muted colours are all well and good, I’ve got to hand it to Jon Murray for their brightly coloured, type heavy cover for Manu Joseph’s engaging black comedy set in modern India. The novel is about a journalist trying to discover what caused his son to commit suicide three years ago and whose only clue to what the seventeen year old was thinking is a cartoon strip he designed before he died. The quirky paisley pattern and bold colours are a nod to the Asian setting, while the naively drawn lettering reflects the comic book component of the plot.

The Woman Who Dived into the Heart of the World by Sabina Berman (Simon & Schuster)
In this heartbreaking debut, Isabelle moves to Mexico to take over the family tuna company after her sister dies. When she gets there she meets her autistic niece Karen whom she had no idea existed before, and she takes it upon herself to look after the child.
I think this cover is stunning. I love the intricately illustrated fish and the bold, modern silhouette of the diver. The design is full of movement and energy – it makes me want to dive right in – and I love the simple but effective use of colour.

Umbrella by Will Self (Bloomsbury)
Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize this year, Will Self’s latest offering is an audacious and imaginative story of a woman with sleeping sickness, who has been confined to a mental institution in London for decades, and the maverick psychiatrist who brings her back to life.
This is an unusual and beautifully designed demy hardback. I love the small format, and the stark black umbrella illustration works well against the muted colours of the background. Plus it has great umbrella-pattern end papers, too. Well, why not?!

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