Book by Its Cover

There’s nothing worse than getting back from your summer holidays (in my case from glorious sunny Istanbul!) and finding that over night, winter has hit, and it’s time for bikinis and flip flops to make way in your wardrobe for jumpers, scarves and boots. So if like me you need a bit of a treat to banish the post-summer blues, why not try one of these beautiful, brilliant books?!

The Secret Book of Frida Kahlo by F.G. Haghenbeck (Simon & Schuster)
Now here’s a fun one! This brilliant cover design was a collaboration between New York designer Anna Dorfman and illustrator extraordinaire Lisa Congden. I am a huge fan of Frida Kahlo – both the woman and her art – already, so I was immediately drawn to this book, but it was the vibrant colours and the playful mix of photography and truly beautiful illustration that really won me over.

Novelist F.G. Haghenbeck wrote this fictional account of Frida Kahlo’s life after several notebooks were recently discovered at her home in Mexico City. He brings his colourful heroine, her art, her beliefs and her relationships to life, while painting a gorgeous portrait of Mexico. A novel that is artistic, creative and accomplished in more ways that one.

The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers (Sceptre)
In his debut novel, Iraq War veteran Kevin Powers deploys beautiful, poetic language to lay bare the horrors of war and the experiences of his hero, John, as he returns home after a year in Iraq, haunted by memories that none of us could even imagine. Not only is this set to become an instant classic, it is also rather a stunning hardback too. It may be dainty in size, but The Yellow Birds packs a punch with his explosive photographic cover design. It literally bursts off the bookshelves with luminescent colour and the bold light bulb-esque typography. And of course, the gorgeous super soft finish of the jacket and the bright yellow end papers add the final touch of quality. A must-read novel that’s a must-have in hardback!

The Virgin Cure by Ami McKay (Orion)
Now you’re definitely in for a treat with this one. I absolutely love both the cover – by a certain talented fellow Magpie – and the novel – by lovely Canadian novelist Ami McKay. The Virgin Cure is set in late 19th century New York where a young girl, Moth, is left in the clutches of a brothel owner, Miss Everett, who specialises in procuring virgins for her wealthy clients, allegedly as a means of curing their diseases and inflictions. I absolutely love the typography – only made more special by the use of debossing (you really can’t beat it for adding depth and quality to a cover). There’s something both of the period, but also undeniably modern, about the lettering and the simple black-and-white illustration on the cover. Elegant, refined and a great read to boot.

John Saturnall’s Feast by Lawrence Norfolk (Bloomsbury)
Ooh. This is a great cover for Lawrence Norfolk’s seventeenth-century tale of life and love. The story of an orphan who becomes the greatest cook of his age. I love the stark black-and-white illustration, balanced by the intricate detail of the tree. This is a cover you have to take time to look at – the longer you look, the more you see! Plus, open the book and the beautiful illustrations continue with Andrew Davidson’s gorgeous wood carvings.

Prashad Cookbook by Kaushy Patel (Saltyard Books)
Despite being an inveterate meat eater myself, I do love vegetarian cooking every now and then – especially when it comes to Indian food. So I’m pretty pleased that the Prashad family business – which rose to fame in Gordon Ramsay’s Best Restaurant TV show in 2010 – has recently come out with this beauty. I love the fun, funky cover for this all-veggie cookbook full of delicious, mouth-watering recipes like spicy sweetcorn and green banana satay! With the ever-so-slightly uneven patterns and type of the hardback design, this book has a modern, yet rustic, charm that perfectly reflects the original, wholesome family recipes that it contains.

The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz (Orion)
I loved this book when I read it last year and I thought the stylish black hardback jacket printed on lovely textured stock was a winner for the new Sherlock Holmes novel. But lo and behold I love the paperback cover even more! The out-of-focus monochrome photograph evokes the late 19th century setting of the novel, while the fluorescent orange type, debossing (I can’t get enough of that), and the inside printing on the paperback flaps (nice, unusual touch) add a great modern twist. A brilliant gift of a book if you love the original Sherlock Holmes novels, or if you’re a fan of intelligent whodunnits in general.


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