I know the old excuse, “I don’t know the title, but it was blue,” is meant to be a joke, but let’s face it: there are loads of books with similar covers out there these days. Whether it’s two titles using the same stock photo, or just a striking similarity in design, it can be very confusing to keep track of all those book clones.
I’ve tried to keep the books on this list fairly up-to-date and in the spotlight, just because I don’t want to pull out a bunch of old supernatural romance novels and dated paperback books to make my point. Believe me, I have found a lot of material to work with.
Many of the groups below will make you think twice about your book cover memorization tactics. We all know this saying “It’s blue! It’s vague, but what about saying “There are poppies on the blanket”? Of course, that narrows down the list, but you’ve always left your reading advisor more than a few choices.
And, yes, many similarities between these book covers could be attributed to current industry and design trends. However, don’t be surprised if you try to catalog all of these book cover trends after reading this list.
For now, let’s look at the depth of the rabbit hole.
1. Blue books with stylized ladies
Once you’ve been spotted by the giant shadows of Maria Semple’s protagonist, it’s hard to resist snatching a copy of Where have you been, Bernadette on the bookshelf. Here, this cover is joined by those of two similar titles – Find Audrey by Sophie Kinsella and Vinegar girl by Anne Tyler – but see if you can find more.
2. The eyes have it
Eyes have to be a thing this year. I found too many and even debated having a second column for them. Here we have Your heart is a muscle the size of a fist by Sunil Yapa, Nobody’s son by Mark Slouka, and Tail by Basma Abdel Aziz, but you should also look for We Robots by Curtis White and The adult by Gillian Flynn.
3. All blue stripes
The stripes are in it, and the geographic stripes are very in. It’s your life, Harriet Chance ! by Jonathan Évison, Rain story by Niall Williams, and The high mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel are just the tip of this iceberg.
4. Brush Pen Mania
At what point did the graphic designers of the publishing world collectively decide to pen-brush titles over somewhat obscure, sepia-toned images and put an end to them? The trend is quite effective, however. I want to read these three books: Evangeline’s Doors by Hester Young, In the countryside by Mia Alvar, and Sons and daughters of ease and abundance by Ramona Ausubel.
5. Script and personal romances
Like the aforementioned Brush Pen Mania, pairing script fonts with tiny stylized people looks like the next big thing in romance novels. It all started with We by David Nicholls in 2014, but 2016 already has two prominent followers: Modern Lovers by Emma Straub and Break in case of emergency by Jessica Winter.
6. Documentaries, divided
I hate to generalize, but non-fiction as a genre isn’t exactly known to have thrilling covers. But more forgetful readers might find their descriptions of “split” covers insufficient. The new trend – as shown here with Being mortal by Atul Gawande, Thought, fast and slow by Daniel Kahneman, and How to write short by Roy Peter Clark – consists of separating the title and author with a horizontal slash on the page.
7. Nostalgia for the era of depression
Do you remember Lois Lenski Strawberry girl? This is the aesthetic of these titles. Pioneer girl by Bich Minh Nguyen, Invincible summer by Alice Adams, and Yuki Chan in Brontë Country by Mick Jackson are reminiscent of a simpler time, when books were cloth bound and did not have ISBNs.
8. Bad feminists
“I’m looking for this book … um … is it a white cover with black and pink writing?”
“Can you be more precise?”
“Uh … is it a bit of a feminist book?” “
You will have to do better than that if you want to distinguish between Bad feminist by Roxane Gay, Not that kind of girl by Lena Dunham, and Barbara the slut and other people by Lauren Holmes.
If in doubt, jot it down. Ever since I saw Greg McKeown’s cover Essentialism , I was a little in love with the scribble cover art. My heart and other black holes by Jasmine Warga is awesome, but Still life with tornado by AS King could surpass McKeown as my new favorite.
10. Ladies in profile
You wouldn’t be wrong to think crazy rich asians by Kevin Kwan somehow, somehow looks like Where have you been, Bernadette? above, but it’s much more exemplary of the Ladies in Profile book cover trend. See also: A woman of noble character by Yvonne Georgina Puig and I will have what she has by Rebecca Harrington.
11. Those YA apples
Ah, dusk . Those iconic black, white and red photographs – illustrations? – started a book cover trend like no other. That color palette may have shrunk, but apples are still great for YA titles. Just look Winter by Marissa Meyer and Eve and Adam by Michael Grant and Katherine Applegate, shown with Stephenie Meyer’s novel above.
12. Birds of a feather (yellow)
“Hey, you know what would be cool? If the birds were just flying through the sun.”
The above is how I imagine the cover design discussions went A brief history of seven murders by Marlon James, Stone mattress by Margaret Atwood, and The good seven years by Etgar Keret.
13. It’s a jungle over there
You’d think that remembering a book cover full of leaves would be enough to help you find it, but no, not today, mate. Louisa May Alcott’s Whimsical Puffin in Bloom Blanket Little woman this is just the beginning. To verify Wreckage and order by Hannah Tennant-Moore and Enchanted islands by Allison Amend for more fern and frondy goodness.
14. Filigree fever
There is just something about swirls that has inspired every book cover designer. The nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney is the latest release in a line that includes We could be beautiful by Swan Huntley and The Petit Paris bookstore by Nina George.
15. A record year for books
All kidding aside, I’m really in love with this bundle of sleeves. Lisa Lutz’s How to light a fire has the most inventive use of a banner, while Versions of us by Laura Barnett sports eye-catching colors and patterns. And then there’s Matthew Diffee’s Hand drawn jokes for smart and attractive people , which hits all the Gorey-esque notes that I love.
16. Threatening networks
Designers know that getting your eye through a room is what makes their art really work, and I can’t think of a better way to do that than by tracing a network path on the cover. Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, The phantom network by Catie Disabato, and Register by Joshua Cohen to see what I mean.
17. Hide your face
Whether you’ve been publicly humiliated or not, hiding your face is a great way to build interest in the book you’re promoting. Invisible monsters by Chuck Palahniuk is a prime example, and So you’ve been publicly ashamed by John Ronson took things a step further with two brands of paint. Among the wild mulattoes by Tom Williams opted for a headband instead of a hot pink statement, but it bears a striking resemblance nonetheless.
18. Shining stars
I’m not sure why we’re suddenly so obsessed with putting representations of the universe on our book covers, but we are. Girl in the dark by Anna Lyndsey and Binary star by Sarah Gerard are prime examples, while Black Hole Blues and Other Outer Space Songs by Janna Levin adds an extra layer by giving her blanket the heavenly vinyl treatment.
19. Poppies for everyone
“The poppies! The poppies will put them to sleep!”
These flowers are a little less threatening than the ones the Wicked Witch of the West grew, but they are just as beautiful and widespread. To verify The garden girl by Parnaz Foroutan, Mischling by Affinity Konar, and About the night by Anat Talshir for your next flower solution.