What Makes a Book Cover Iconic?

09 May 2022


The saying goes “don’t judge a book by its cover.” But let’s be honest… we’ve all done it. If you’re browsing the shelves of the local bookstore, there are certain book covers that simply jump out and grab your attention more than others.

There are also book covers that can easily be recognized by almost anyone, regardless of whether or not they have read the books.

Take Peter Benchley’s Jaws, for example. You would be hard pressed to find someone who, upon glancing at the giant shark head on the cover, couldn’t tell you what book it is.  

But what makes for an iconic book cover? Is it the design of the cover itself? Or does it have more to do with the popularity of the book?

In this great article from Literary Hub, they have compiled a list of the 25 most iconic book covers in history. To determine which covers made the cut, they looked for books that were easily recognized, were unique, and were frequently reproduced for things such as t-shirts, memes, or even used as inspiration for Halloween Costumes.

While Literary Hub’s list is quite comprehensive, here are a few more that we felt should have made the list:

J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter Series

Okay, so this first one is actually a series and not a single cover, but J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series have easily some of the most iconic book covers of all time.

With their vivid, colorful images, it would likely be easy for anyone to pick them out of a lineup.

George Orwell’s 1984

While the book cover for George Orwell’s 1984 has been redone a few times since its first publication, there’s no mistaking that giant, creepy, all-seeing eye that is featured on the original cover.

Paired with the red and black soviet colors, 1984’s cover definitely qualifies as iconic.

Albert Camus’ The Stranger

It’s possible that you’ve never read The Stranger by Albert Camus. It’s even possible that you’ve never heard of this award-winning 1942 novella. However, the cover to this book probably looks familiar to you.

The simplistic black and white shards, combined with the stark white center gives the cover an almost dizzying sunburst effect, which is a perfect pairing for the book’s clever and thought-provoking story.

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What book covers do you think are the most iconic?