The ugliest book covers I own

Most of the books on my shelf have attractive covers, or at least covers which don’t offend my eye. Although I know that judging books by their covers is shallow, when it comes to books I actually own (rather than those I borrow) it’s important that they’re not completely horrible. An unpleasant cover can even put me off reading the book. However, a few have slipped past this arbitrary quality control.

Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons (Penguin, 2006). As I said in my review, this might win the award for ugliest Penguin Classic cover. I suppose the designers thought that the out-of-focus photo of a cow’s wet nose was somehow amusing. Penguins usually have nice covers, but obviously not in this case. The photo is copyright Renee Lynn / Getty Images.

Enter Frederick K Bower by Anthony Horowitz (Dragon, 1985). First published in 1979, this book was Horowitz’s first children’s novel. I bought it for about 20p from my school library’s book sale about 20 years ago. The date stamp sheet shows the book was borrowed 34 times between 1986 and 1998. The cover, illustrated by David Frankland, shows some ugly criminal characters from the story.

The Cucumber King by Christine NΓΆstlinger (Target, 1975). I featured this book in my post about weird books on my shelf. Indeed it was the gruesome gherkin-like creature on the front cover which both attracted and repelled me when I saw the book in a charity shop. The story itself is a short but entertaining read. Unfortunately whoever made the cucumber model is not credited.

Night and Day & Jacob’s Room by Virginia Woolf (Wordsworth, 2012). Wordsworth Classics can have questionable artwork choices on their covers. I don’t like the vintage French fashion plate image on this cover because it shows the 1920s straight-up and down style (unattainable and unnatural for most women), plus one of the women wears an awful shade of green and carries a fur.

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli (Orchard, 2001). This is one of my favourite books, yet that completely pink cover is eye-watering. The problem with it is also that the cover suggests a ‘chick lit’ type book when it really isn’t. I think the cover would be enough to put potential readers off, which is a pity because it’s a great story about standing out from the crowd.

Do you think these covers are ugly? Do you care at all what your books look like, or are you less shallow than me?

15 thoughts on “The ugliest book covers I own”

  1. That cucumber cover is going to give me nightmares! I wouldn’t be able to read a book with a cover like that.

    1. The story itself is not scary, just the cover! Sorry to give you nightmares πŸ˜‰

    1. Possibly the ugliest book covers date from the 70s and 80s and my selection here would have to correspond with that πŸ˜€

    1. Ha ha πŸ˜€ I hope you are reassured to hear that I couldn’t find any more ugly ones in my collection, just those 5.

    1. I’m glad we share the same taste πŸ˜‰ All the other Stella Gibbons I have are pretty, I just wish Cold Comfort Farm matched them πŸ™‚ But then, it’s the inside of the book that counts!

  2. A fun post! I don’t think Night and Day looks so bad, just a bit odd – from how I see it anyway πŸ™‚ I also have much worse examples on my bookshelves – too many, unfortunately (I cannot even look at my Steppenwolf cover)

    I used to not think how my books look at all – it matters what’s inside, right? But recent years changed me a bit – the bookshop “establishment” – changed its ways too somewhat, I believe, now says that books should also have an aesthetic appeal. Now, I care (a little) about my book covers and can appreciate a good book cover, but I also don’t think we should be harsh on the 1960s/1970s and even 1980s publications – it is easy to judge them now but I truly believe people did not care as much back then as they care now about their book covers and publishers knew that too.

    Incidentally, only recently I read some post about French book covers – they have notoriously been blank and minimalistic – what other countries would term painfully “boring”. For example, the Collection Blanche, which is the collection of French literature by Gallimard – just the title and white background – French elegance taken to extremes πŸ™‚

    1. I think society focuses on looks now, more than ever – especially as everything gets Instagrammed etc so people are looking for the prettiest book covers, for example. I think minimalistic covers are a good thing, I wouldn’t mind that. I don’t hate the covers I featured (that would be getting too worked up about it!) they are just the ones I like the least and of course beauty is in the eye of the beholder – someone else might think they all look appealing πŸ™‚ Thanks for your comment, glad you liked the post!

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