A Definitive Power Ranking of the Sexiest Book Covers

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Designing a book cover is a challenge, even more so when the work contains a hot topic. How to convey, at a glance, that the book is sensual, even sexy, without falling into pornographic tropes?

My first novel, Small rabbit, is about a sub/dom relationship between a 30-something queer writer and an older choreographer. Working with kink made me a bit stressed about my potential cover (I was also worried about ending up with a giant bunny). I was lucky to have a wonderful team at my publisher, Bloomsbury, led by Patti Ratchford, who really wanted me to give my opinion on the face of my first book (or two faces, in the case of Small rabbit). I immediately thought of Louise Bourgeois’ suspended sculpture at the MassMoCa entitled “Le Couple”. The work features two chrome humanoid figures eternally locked in a kiss, their arms and legs disappearing into a surreal, tangled knot. This sculpture – and all of Bourgeois’ work – means so much to me that I placed the main characters below during a pivotal scene. What better visual for the almost obsessive pull of early romance, the mess of entanglement.

Brilliant artist Najeebah Al-Ghadban created the central image: two bonded faces pressed together, tangled but also somehow not quite matching, with dark threads wrapped around and through them. The cover is sensual, without exploiting the book’s sexuality, and deeply engaged with the book’s twin themes of desire and art.

The following book covers depict lust in different ways. Some themes show up – my book isn’t the only one with two faces – and some themes have been left out (I have a personal aversion to food as a visual understatement. Sorry, eggplant emoji). As you can see, I’m also not very interested in subtlety. I don’t think it’s necessary to be flabbergasted or shy when sex is your topic. There are ways to be both tasteful and bold.

Here are the sexiest book covers according to Rising Spice:

11. The fish by Melissa Broder

I love the beloved fish silhouette ombre, as well as the woman’s pulp-romance style. He feels a bit shy, however, that the book is about the love of fish.

ten. White wedding by Kathleen J. Woods

The elegant bird’s head scissors act as the focal point of this densely layered blanket. The mix of sheets and legs is both seductive and a bit creepy.

9. Acts of service by Lillian Fishman

You look at this cover and you get it: this book is going to have nudes. Accessories for bright pink font and clever cropping.

8. Just looking at it by Ryan O’Connell

I just think it’s a beautiful image – the reddishness of the swimmer’s eyes, the way the bluish shadows on the shoulders match the water. The way the two characters look at each other, intimacy and distance (and additional props for cheekier text placement).

seven. be a man by Nicole Krauss

See-more mouths on a book. I love the desire that passes through those lips.

6. terminal boredom by Izumi Suzuki

Is it scary? Is it sexy? Or is it sexy-scary?

5. gay bar by Jeremy Atherton Lin

What a perfect picture for this queer nightlife story. Sweaty hair, cupped hand on the back of the head, the moment when a public meeting becomes intimate.

4. future sex by Emily Witt

This one is so risky I had to check to make sure it would be allowed. More props for the clever title placement and vibrant red blue colors that make the atmosphere sultry and otherworldly. My main qualm is that it seems to imply future sex is…electronic, which isn’t quite the thrust of Emily Witt’s collection of essays.

3. acts of desperation by Megan Nolan, Polish edition

Dive into the foreign editions in this one. I also like the UK cover of Nolan’s beautiful and painful book about a young woman in a deeply toxic relationship, but the Polish one gets my vote. Here, the cherry outline works due to the clean and elegant design and the high butt look.

2. Tampa by Alissa Nutting

Do I even need to say something? You can’t ignore such a thirsty sartorial understatement.

1. vladimir by Julia May Jones

*drum roll* Annndddd the sexiest book cover goes to Vladimir, the first book everyone said as soon as I mentioned this list. Look at the sly nod to the romance genre with the font and chest hair, the reflection of the gold chain and the hand resting suggestively next to the crotch. From the outset, the cover signals the content while skilfully and intelligently hinting at the surprises.

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