The Look of the Book: Jackets, Covers, and Art at the Edges of Literature (Hardcover)

The Look of the Book: Jackets, Covers, and Art at the Edges of Literature By Peter Mendelsund, David J. Alworth Cover Image
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Why do some book covers instantly grab your attention, while others never get a second glance? Fusing word and image, as well as design thinking and literary criticism, this captivating investigation goes behind the scenes of the cover design process to answer this question and more.


As the outward face of the text, the book cover makes an all-important first impression. The Look of the Book examines art at the edges of literature through notable covers and the stories behind them, galleries of the many different jackets of bestselling books, an overview of book cover trends throughout history, and insights from dozens of literary and design luminaries. Co-authored by celebrated designer and creative director Peter Mendelsund and scholar David Alworth, this fascinating collaboration, featuring hundreds of covers, challenges our notions of what a book cover can and should be.

About the Author

Peter Mendelsund is the former art director at Alfred A. Knopf, the creative director of The Atlantic, and the author of a design monograph called Cover, as well as What We See When We Read, which has been translated into fourteen languages, and the novel Same Same. His writings have appeared in the New York Times, the Paris Review, and other magazines.

David J. Alworth is the John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Humanities at Harvard University. He teaches and writes about modern and contemporary literature, media, art, and design. He is the author of Site Reading: Fiction, Art, Social Form and his essays have appeared in Public Books and the Los Angeles Review of Books, as well as in various scholarly journals.

Praise For…

Praise for The Look of the Book:

“A book about books that deserves a spot in every bibliophile’s collection.”—Kirkus Reviews

Praise for Cover:

“In the past decade, Mr. Mendelsund has designed about 600 book jackets, ranging from a sober, sophisticated cover for Tolstoy's War and Peace to his whimsical Pop Art-like treatment of Kafka's novella Metamorphosis, to the hypnotic fluorescent swirls on Stieg Larsson's thriller The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.”New York Times

“Cover is foremost a visually enticing tour of some of the most important books of recent times, made even more memorable by Mendelsund's daring covers.”Washington Post

Praise for What We See When We Read:

“A playful, illustrated treatise on how words give rise to mental images.”Alexandra Alter, New York Times

“Mendelsund, throughout this thought-provoking book, helps the lay reader contemplate text in ways you hadn't thought about previously.”Los Angeles Times

“A welcome and fascinating new book.”New York Review of Books

Product Details
ISBN: 9780399581021
ISBN-10: 0399581022
Publisher: Ten Speed Press
Publication Date: October 6th, 2020
Pages: 292
Language: English