Design

US Book Covers vs. UK Book Covers

Ben Marcus

What book covers have caught your eye recently? When the same book is published in the U.S. and U.K., the covers can be completely different. Yesterday I came across a Literary Hub post comparing the covers in 2018, and it’s fascinating to see (the U.S. covers are on the left)….

The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner

The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner. (U.S. cover, left, by Peter Mendelsund, photograph by Nan Goldin.)

The Largesse of the Sea Maiden

The Largesse of the Sea Maiden by Denis Johnson. (U.S. cover, left, by Debbie Glasserman, U.K. cover by Suzanne Dean.)

Crudo

Crudo by Olivia Laing. (U.K. cover, right, by Justine Anweiler, photograph by Wolfgang Tillmans.)

Ordinary People by Diana Evans. (U.S. cover design, left, by Na Kim, art by Salmon Kushroo, U.K. cover design by Suzanne Dean.)

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata. (U.S. cover, left, by Gretchen Mergenthaler, U.K. cover by Luke Bird.)

Why aren’t the covers the same? “Sometimes our cover gets picked up by the publisher in the U.K., but in my experience, that that’s the exception, not the rule,” my friend Andy Ward, Vice President and Editor in Chief of Random House, told me this morning. “Often it’s not just different, it’s very different. I usually chalk it up to an editor with her own vision for the book and good sense of her market, going with a cover that best serves those readers.”

So, if you had to choose, which are better? New York-based book designer Megan Wilson says it depends on the cover. “When I go back to the U.K., I think they’re often more sophisticated and take more risks. I wonder if it’s because the market is so much smaller, versus our trying to reach such a broad audience.”

Inspired, I looked at a few others over the past few years…

Educated

Educated by Tara Westover. (U.S. book design, left, by Rachel Ake, illustration by Patrik Svensson.)

Eleanor Oliphant

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman.

Modern Lovers by Emma Straub. (U.S. illustration, left, by Leah Reena Goren.)

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones. (U.S. cover, left, by Steve Godwin.)

When Breath Becomes Air

(U.S. cover, left, by Rachel Ake.)

And the two covers of my brother-in-law Paul’s memoir looked really different: literary and iconic for the U.S., and cinematic and personal in the U.K. “Apparently they had neck auditions,” my sister Lucy told me on the phone this morning. “Guys came in, the designers cleaned up their necks, and they picked the finalist. They did a very good job. That’s exactly what his scrub cap looked like.” Which cover is her favorite? “I’ll always love the American one. It’s beautiful.”

Update: A reader named Sarah sent a photo of the front and back of the UK version, and the back shows a man in a patient’s gown. So heartbreaking, beautiful and true.

What book covers have you enjoyed recently?

P.S. Three great books, and what’s the most beautiful thing you’ve ever read?

(Top image of Notes from the Fog by Ben Marcus. U.S. cover, left, by Peter Mendelsund, U.K. cover by Jamie Keenan.)

  1. Gabi says...

    As a Brazilian, I find both US and UK covers a little bit teen-ish. Not all of them, of course. It’s just an impression about the typography, the illustrations, the elements. Also, I’m not saying that we make it better or worse. Please, don’t get me wrong. For me, it’s a habit to visit bookstores in different countries to find more about their design preferences. In the end, I think you guys have more cheerful covers than we do. And maybe my impression comes from the fact that our YA novels covers tend to be inspired in the US market due to sales purposes. But in general, I think we go for more sober options and they’re really beautiful too. We can’t compete on the paper quality though. The US hardcover editions are like a dream to us. If you’d like to see some Brazilian book covers, check out here:

    — Todavia (Publishing House): https://todavialivros.com.br/livros?categoria=1
    — Elaine Ramos (Designer): https://elaineramos-estudiografico.com.br/literatura
    — Objeto Livro (Instagram profile): https://instagram.com/objetolivro
    — Sobre Capas (a blog about covers): http://sobrecapas.blogspot.com
    — Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan series (Brazilian covers): https://abrilclaudia.files.wordpress.com/2017/01/elena-ferrante-livros.jpg?quality=85&strip=info&resize=680,453
    — Editora Seguinte (YA Publishing House): https://www.editoraseguinte.com.br/titulo/titulos.php

  2. Lindsey Nicole Young says...

    I read this post and then returned to it for some book recommendations and was so happy to realize that most of these are by women. =)

  3. JB says...

    Maybe it’s been mentioned but we get different covers in Canada too. The cover of Educated is different than both of those! So strange that they think people of different nations have different aesthetic taste in book covers.

  4. Oh my gosh, the hospital gown. I think my heart may have been ripped from my chest.

  5. S. says...

    I remember when I first started reading books in English and I was BLOWN AWAY by how colorful and creative the covers were! French books (esp. hardcovers) are *terrible* in that dimension. It was even almost confusing because I was like, oh if the cover is so.. bright and has…pictures…, it can’t be a good book. Thankfully I came to my sense and now my bookshelves are silly-looking, like, top two, beige-and-white, bottom two, COLORS AND COOL FONTS AND WOW!!

    More seriously, I love how UK/US covers give you a glimpse into the book. Case in point, Céline’s Journey To The End Of The Night (dark, haunting book about war)
    Traditional NRF cover:
    https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/41pt-TIOGuL._SX338_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

    English-speaking version:
    https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/41FVEPGQaRL._SX312_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg
    or this one:
    https://pictures.abebooks.com/isbn/9780811200196-uk.jpg

    Sigh.

  6. Sasha L says...

    Has anyone read “First, We Make The Beast Beautiful”, by Australian Sarah Wilson? The US hardback cover is navy blue cloth with a stunning illustration of a azure blue octopus, with orange dots scattered all over, and metallic silver lettering. It’s so incredibly beautiful, it just jumped off the library shelf. It’s also an amazing read, beautifully written and funny and full of helpful insights about anxiety.

    • Gemma says...

      I have not, but now I have to go track it down just based on your description! It sounds lovely!

    • kaela says...

      I picked up this beautiful book in an English bookstore in Paris! I didn’t buy it there because I didn’t want to lug it home (plus, I’m a librarian)… but I had forgotten about it until your description. Thanks for the reminder. The cover is truly beautiful!

    • Sasha L says...

      I hope you find it helpful Gemma!

    • Meg says...

      I didn’t enjoy that book, but I agree that the cover is stunning.

    • Jenn says...

      Oooh I bought this for mu adult daughter for Christmas and when it came I could not get over how beautiful the cover was!

  7. Megan says...

    I think the title When Breath Becomes Air is so beautiful and heartbreaking and worthy of a pause, and the US version does a much better job of letting the title be sort of poetry (and I believe it is from a line of prose…?)

  8. Alyssa says...

    Interesting – although I live in PA, I have the UK cover of When Breath Becomes Air. Regardless, it remains one of the best books I’ve read! <3

  9. One of my favorite things to buy when I’m in London is books, exactly for this reason! I love bringing back books that I recognize and I know I can find at home…but that will look a little different on my shelf than what I could easily find here!

  10. Gillian says...

    OMG I HAVE FOUND MY TRIBE.

    You guys! You have no idea how many ppl have looked at me like I was totally insane whenever I happen to mention that I prefer certain book covers over others. Literally, I’m such a nerd bookworm I can wax lyrical about how I prefer certain fonts/typefaces, paper thickness, the advantages of paperback vs hardcover, and if a book series comes with cover art that matches up the books’ spines to show a unified picture? Swoon!

    For example, I could’ve sworn the How to Train Your Dragon series came in a version where the spines of all 12 books lined up to show a dragon, but I can’t seem to find that version now even on Amazon or Google, so I can’t be sure I hadn’t somehow hallucinated it! But knowing that there are others like me who are equally passionate about book covers, who think about it and have strong preferences for one over the other, who refuse to buy a book until they can get the cover version they like — it’s like I’m home after a long hard slog through a barren desert :)

    The best example of my obsession with book covers is the Harry Potter books — when they first came out, I went to great lengths to get the US version from Scholastic books, because I loved the artwork of the illustrator who did the covers for the US version in a totally dreamy, soft watercolour palette and flowing style. The wraparound jackets for the hardcover version also cunningly incorporated images of characters and depictions of plot points from the story, which I only realized after about the 3rd book or so. After that I made sure to scrutinize them more closely, but only after I had finished each book so as to avoid spoilers, ha! They even had cute little drawings at the start of each chapter, which I found utterly charming.

    Getting the Scholastic version was no small feat because they were only available in just one bookstore in my entire city, which meant I always had to pre-order or turn up on the very first day the books went on sale or risk having them run out of stock. And because we’re a Commonwealth country we use British English all the way, so every other bookstore carried the U.K. covers only, which to my eyes looked overly cartoonish, with loud garish clashing colours and childish, gigantic fonts. I mean I know they were supposed to be children’s books, but did they have to be quite so in-your-face kiddy? It seemed to me a little presumptuous to assume kids wouldn’t appreciate or care about good design or artwork on a book cover, and needless to say for me it was a total turn off.

    Of course now there are many more covers available from the same U.K. publisher — some quite moody and adult and some frankly quite stunning — because I guess they finally realized plenty of adults read and love HP but didn’t want to be caught dead toting those garish covers around looking like they nicked them out of some unsuspecting kid’s backpack! But I’ll always have a soft spot for my Scholastic HP books, even if they do use Americanized English which bugs me sometimes (color vs colour, emphasize vs emphasise, etc). I did find it strange that Rowling (or her editors/publishers) felt the need to change the title from Philosopher’s Stone to Sorceror’s Stone, but that didn’t bother me that much. I think what bothered me more was the fact these same ppl felt the need to hide her gender, making her go with J.K. Rowling instead of her full name, because it was believed that readers would be more receptive to her books if they couldn’t immediately tell she was a woman writer.

    Then again she IS now one of the most successful writers ever, so maybe they were right/what do I know eh?

  11. Heather says...

    Weird! I can’t even notice a pattern either way! Can anyone else?

  12. Lindsey says...

    When I was in London recently, I bought Ottolenghi’s newest cookbook, Simple, thinking I was getting a book before it was available in the States. It was pure white with a big, bright lemon on the cover. I loved it! Then when I got back, I saw it everywhere, but with a perfectly styled tablescape filled with dishes, like at a dinner party. My first thought was, “Oh great, now I have a book where I have to convert Celsius to Fahrenheit and grams to ounces.” But my second was, “I like my UK cover better.” :)

    • Robin says...

      Ha! I picked up the US version after seeing the UK cover online, and couldn’t bring myself to buy it. The lemon is so much better. Also, did you know he has a podcast? There was a lovely interview with the guy from Hamilton and his wife, and Ottelengi interviewed them both, with equal interest. Made me so happy. Also, he tells a story from the making of mary poppins returns that made me cry on the subway. Just lovely, and not what I was expecting from a cooking podcast!

  13. jennifer says...

    I couldn’t deal with the American cover of “A Little Life” so I bought the U.K. version. Loved the book. Still hate the American cover, but now understand it better after reading the book. And I still prefer the U.K. cover.

  14. Rue says...

    The cover art for Abbi Jacobson’s memoir (2018) was done by a dear friend of mine, so I am incredibly biased, but it is stunningly beautiful. I own the book just so I can have a piece of his art! And I mean also to read the book. Not knocking Abbi’s talent.

  15. Elena says...

    Good book covers = pretty wine bottle labels. Make you go, “Ooooo!” And grab it!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Yes!! Definitely catches your eye!

  16. Jenny says...

    The difference in cookbook covers is really interesting. I was really surprised when I saw the cover of the first Smitten Kitchen cookbook as it looked really 1980s and fussy to me which is the antithesis of the site, but then I saw the UK version and thought aah they must know their markets because the Americans loved the original and as a Brit I love the UK version.

  17. Sarah says...

    The back cover of “When Breath Becomes Air” has the same photo but this time he is dressed in a patient’s gown.

    http://www.wrbh.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/BreathBecomes.png

    I thought it was a compelling representation of the two perspectives shown in the book – both as doctor and patient.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      On my gosh I didn’t know that. That brings tears to my eyes. That is really beautiful and devastating and so true. Thank you for sharing.

  18. I just finished a book, and, with my editor we are fighting about the cover…
    I want something as simple and colorful as the inside (I am a graphic designer), and my editor wants to put as many informations as possible on the cover which makes it look hideous.
    And I don’t even talk about the stupid title he choose instead of the one we worked on since the beginning !
    It seams I won’t have the final word, and it makes me want to cry… If I had known, I wouldn’t have even started this book…

    There will be a US version, I can only hope it will be better.

  19. joana says...

    i think it makes perfect sense that the covers change from country to country, even if it’s the same language. people are different, what moves them is different, what catches their eye is different. i think it’s this way in every country! in portugal book covers are always different from the original (if the book is translated, of course), unless the book turned into a movie, in which case the cover becomes the movie poster (something i hate). and i think this goes for all countries, doesn’t it? it would be fun to find these same books in 2 or 3 different countries and see what they look like too :) (portugal in the mix, please! we’re so little we’re always left out :D)

    apart from that, i can’t say which are better, UK vs US. some work better in their UK version, come in the US version, but i will always find fascinating how different they can be depending on who makes them :)

  20. Nigerian Girl says...

    Yay! to gorgeous book covers. My recent favourites include:

    – Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (US edition)
    – Small Fry by Lisa Brennan-Jobs (the US and UK edition have the same
    cover, which is rare and remarkable)
    – Ponti by Sharlene Teo (US edition)
    – Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo (US and UK hardback editions)
    – Black Swans by Eve Babitz (US edition)

    Fingers crossed that I like my own book cover in the future.

  21. Felicity says...

    On a related issue, may I say as an English reader, that I much prefer the quality of American books. The thickness and feel of the paper is superior. Maybe the solution is a US edition with a UK cover?

    • Kate says...

      YES I’ve noticed this too! The US books have more heft somehow. However I am still biased towards the US covers — there’s something about the way they approach the visual medium that appeals more to me.

  22. Liz says...

    I’ve been noticing those design differences over the past few years, and tend to prefer the British covers – they often seem more striking and imaginative. I made my first trip to London last month and stalked a couple of Waterstones locations specifically to buy the British covers of some books I wanted!

  23. Tina,nyc. says...

    I’m total anglophile, even lived in Londonfor 5 years but I respond to US combers. And Having read many of the books here some U.K. covers to me betray the book, and that really annoys me. I’m looking at your Eleanor Oliphant. And I loved the book!

    On the same note, the US version of Celeste Ng’s Little fires Everywhere, with its little matchbox houses, is the antithesis of Shaker Heigts OHio the location of the Home the story is suppose to be based on exists.
    First, the community of Shaker Heights is truly an architectural marvel. And not one or two streets i mean square MILES of homes that make you realize Cleveland was at he turn of the 20th century where Americas wealth resided.
    Ok I feel better for sharing this.

  24. Elise says...

    I’m an American that DEFINITELY judges the book by it’s cover (as in, I will pick up books based on the cover alone / I will pass over a book because of it’s cover) and I like the UK versions better, almost exclusively! Maybe I need to take a bookstore tour of the UK.

  25. Rachel says...

    I’m an Australian who lives in the US, and almost exclusively prefer the British covers. I actually still buy Australian editions of many cookbooks for this reason (for example Ottoenghi’s Plenty had a stunning cover in Australia and the US edition was just meh).

    • Rachel says...

      I hear you! I’m also an Australian who lived in the US until late last year, and put off buying Ottolenghi’s new book Simple until I moved home and could get my preferred (UK/Australian) cover.

  26. The US publisher’s must have me pegged, I am drawn to most of the covers on the left. There are two exceptions: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, and An American Marriage-where I am drawn to the UK covers instead. Ona different, but somewhat related note-I also find it fascinating that Netflix will give you different thumbnails (for the same shows) under different profiles.

  27. Sharon says...

    I find it interesting that the UK does not shy away from showing ethnicity when the US does. The UK cover of an American Marriage shows that the characters are African American, the US cover does not. To me it is the same for When Breath Becomes Air. I think that the US worries that if they show brown or black skin, only brown or black skinned people will pick it up. Says so much about American society

    • lesley says...

      i don’t think so! there are millions of covers out there, you can’t draw that conclusion from two books shown here.

    • sbe says...

      That was my thought exactly!

  28. Em says...

    Book designer here. I often design both the US and the U.K. versions, so it isn’t necessarily a cultural difference. The UK publisher usually just wants something different for their own market to help drive sales. It is usually my opportunity to be a bit more creative or get the cover I wanted (but that my art director didn’t prefer)

    • Megan says...

      Curious — do you have to read the book first? or just get a synopsis from your director, etc. ?

  29. jade lees says...

    I have never realised this before. As an Aussie I am most familiar with the UK covers.
    The typography lover in me does make me favour quite a few of the US designs…

  30. Jennifer O. says...

    I’m clearly American, whatever that says about me, because I far prefer the American covers. Some of the British covers are hard to read or seem messy (to me). Some of the covers, like American Marriage, are so beautiful.

  31. as an ex graphic designer and long time photographer living in the UK, I must say I prefer the UK ones! great typography/graphic design/photography on a cover will make me pick up a book in an instant wanting to find out more. UK book covers have definitely gotten better over the years, as they used to be way more boring than the swedish ones I was used to, growing up in sweden.

    there’s a few in the first section here that I’ll have to check out next time I’m in my local book shop! :)

  32. Melinda says...

    The most startling example of this is the US versus Australian covers of Elena Ferrante’s Neopolitan novels. The Australian ones are cinematic, brooding and a little sinister, just like the books. The US covers look like superficial chick-lit. Can’t believe that US customers bought them to be honest – I would have skipped past those covers, and it would have been my great loss.

    • SarahN says...

      I’m also Aussie and it’s incredible how often I ‘read’ US blogs etc, but borrow books that’s covers are largely like those on the left, aka as the UK ones.

      We have the left cover for: Notes from the inside; Eleanor Oliphant and I’m pretty sure Educated.

      I’ll admit, I have a visceral reaction against some of the above covers, so it’s a tricky decision undoubtedly for those who select the covers. Pretty much with the other Sarah said!

    • Sonia says...

      I actually had the whole series shipped from Australia because I hated the US covers so much… Come to think of it that was definitely over the top but just seeing those US covers again I understand my original impulse!

  33. Sarah says...

    We just ordered When Breath (from VA!) and when the UK cover came in I was so off put! After seeing the US version so many times, this one didn’t evoke the same emotion.

  34. Vivian says...

    I noticed this years ago when I moved from the UK to the US. I thought that the US covers were dull. I still prefer the UK covers in general.

  35. Alice says...

    Last year I loved The Power cover, UK version.

    I mostly preferred the British versions. I’m a Brit so they’re getting it right over here!! I feel like they’re a bit edgier and more abstract than the U.S. covers (bar Educated and When Breath Becomes Air which I preferred the U.S versions of), though I’ve seen American commenters say the same!

    My husband designs book covers amongst other things and agreed that it’s easier to hit the mark without having to do ‘broad appeal’ in the UK because it’s a smaller pool of consumers. I always felt the same about music here, a lot of musicians never really think they’ll make it BIG big because there’s only so big you can go in the UK! So they just do what they want. America has that possibility of being gargantuan big!!! Maybe that’s changing now with the way we discover new music.
    Wow this topic is so interesting! Thank you :)

  36. Jenna C. says...

    I’ve been dying to buy Yotam Ottolenghi’s new cookbook, SIMPLE, but it just kills me that the beautiful (and actually simple!) lemon cover is only for the UK, whereas the US version looks like a million other humdrum cookbooks.

    • jenni a says...

      bookdepository.com !!
      Free worldwide shipping and everything is the British version.

    • rosemary says...

      I was given the UK edition at Christmas and when I got back to the states I discovered that I already owned the American edition–just didn’t recognize it for what it was. Love the lemon–makes me want to open and begin cooking.

    • YES!!!!

    • YES! I love the lemon so much.

    • LU says...

      I agree!! I had seen only the lemon version of the cover on his Twitter and Instagram and when I went to order it I was disappointed that the American cover was so boring and generic. I haven’t bought it yet for that reason haha. Good to know about Book Depository!

  37. deanna may says...

    Why is it that the US publishers always feel the need to state what kind of book it is on the cover? Almost all of these say “a novel” or “short stories” or “a memoir”, whereas the UK versions just have the title.

    • Megan Wilson says...

      Agreed! I always remove these lines when possible. The title is often a big clue as to whether the book is fiction or not.

  38. the UK covers are also way more literal.

  39. Emily says...

    I have often found this fascinating! I wonder how they are able to know what UK and US audiences prefer.

    I love Liane Moriarty (the author of Big Little Lies) and I discovered on her website that her books have different covers for Australia, UK and US.
    https://lianemoriarty.com.au/Book/nine-perfect-strangers-2-2/.

    Also, if you’re a Louise Penny fan. If you scroll down, her website shows the different covers for US/Canada and UK! https://www.louisepenny.com/books.htm

  40. Mckenzie Cunningham says...

    With all of the ones you shared, I’m a fan of the US ones over UK … Although, I have found that UK Cookbook cover > US Cookbooks. US ones tend to be photographs, while UK ones lean towards graphics/illustrations! See Ottolenghi’s recent cookbook Simple – I may or may not have order the UK one based one the cover …

  41. Erin says...

    HUGE endorsement for the Mars Room. Truly a stellar read. Rachel Kushner is a force.

    • Jen says...

      Agree. One of the best books I read last year.

  42. Klara says...

    The Dutch translation of ‘When breath becomes air’ has the US cover. It’s beautiful…

  43. Th U.S. Educated cover is EVERYTHING. I don’t think the book would have been as popular if it weren’t for that cover!

    Olga

    • Cara says...

      Agreed! I loved the book, too, but the cover is brilliant.

    • Rae says...

      Yes! That cover is gorgeous and meaningful. I gave the hard cover version as a gift at Christmas to a couple of friends and loved that it was a beautiful object as well as a powerful book.

      The Denis Johnson story collection was my favorite book of the past year. I may order the gorgeous UK version – so much better than the US one!

  44. Elizabeth R says...

    I prefer Modern Lovers US cover by a lot; but I think the difference between the book covers in general indicates cool cultural differences. I

  45. Anna says...

    What I’m not sure comes across in Andy’s comment is that the publishers are often *different* in the US and UK, so I am guessing it’s a matter of two main business/licensing reasons:

    1. The negotiated rights on the cover art: if a publisher only has US right, they may not negotiate for worldwide rights. they’d only negotiate for the rights mapping to their book publishing rights.

    2. The two publishers are competitors so they don’t want to emulate one another. For example, Penguin Random House UK would *want* to distinguish it’s UK cover from the HarperCollins US cover.

    And it doesn’t stop with US/UK — it goes into audiobooks and across many rights variations globally. Books publishing has BONKERS rights landscape.

  46. Neen says...

    I’ve always loved the cover of Paul’s book…but even though I ordered it through Amazon in the US (and shipped it to the US), I received the version with the UK cover! I didn’t even realize there was a different cover.

  47. Andrea says...

    My 6 yo nephew just started reading the Harry Potter series and was chatting with me about it over Christmas. We are Canadian and he was telling me that the first book, which is titled “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” in Canada, is titled “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” in the US because polled American’s didn’t know what “philosopher” meant. I asked him if he knew what it meant, and when he said no and asked me to define it, I struggled and told him “a person who loves to learn about the world around them”. His response: maybe the book should be called “Harry Potter and the Person Who Loves to Learn About the World Around Them’s Stone”.

    6! What a fun age :)

  48. McKenzie Randall says...

    That Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine UK Cover gives SO MUCH AWAY! I loved that the American one left it open.

    This is an amazing post! I love book covers.

    • Kile says...

      The UK cover gives a lot away, but it also feels a little crass to me. The circumstances of that fire were very disturbing and the UK cover feels a bit winky to me. I actually couldn’t believe it when I first saw it.

  49. Maclean Nash says...

    My cover of Educated is wildly different from both the ones shown! (Read it if you haven’t yet).
    Which is surprising because I’m in Canada!

    • Natalie says...

      I was going to comment the same thing! The Canadian version shows a school desk in a field with Buck Peak mountain in the background.

    • Emily says...

      Yes! I love the Canadian cover. I actually didn’t notice the mountain in the pencil on the American cover. Now that I see it, it’s beautiful but I wonder if others missed it like me.

    • Maggie hammoc says...

      I missed it too, Emily! I just went back and looked because I was surprised everyone was saying the pencil was so beautiful!!

  50. Ramona says...

    Sometimes you can’t decide on just one. Perhaps it’s just that there are two VERY GOOD choices to choose from? Sometimes US magazines choose two (or more) covers. Different looks appeal to different audiences.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      agreed!

    • MacDonald says...

      I just read Educated and it had a totally different cover! I’m Canadian, I wonder if there’s any difference between us?

  51. Stacey says...

    I’d say I’m pretty evenly split between the US and U.K. covers. I absolutely love the U.K. cover for An American Marriage.

    • Allison says...

      Me too!! I thought it nailed it.

    • shannon says...

      Me too! And +1 for the UK cover on An American Marriage.

    • CM says...

      My thoughts exactly!

  52. Irene says...

    It’s fun to see the different covers, but it drove me bananas when I found out that the American version of volume one of Harry Potter actually had a different title altogether! I picked up “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” at a bookstore at Heathrow, only to find out that the US versions were titled, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” That is a HUGE difference in meaning.

  53. LAURA says...

    Hmm. I got the sense that many of the US covers displayed here are riskier rather than the UK’s.

    I counted and like a greater number of US covers! Guess I match my demographic.

  54. celeste says...

    I want to read all of these! I’m Audibl-ing “Becoming” and even though Michelle Obama’s natural hair is so lovely, her book cover was beautifully shot, she is so open, and lived so many universal truths I can relate to. For the last 9 years, I’ve fought to be a part-time working mom and am looking to transition and she said working part-time was just like doing everything halfway. I’d never thought of that before.

  55. Susannah says...

    My friend who is a writer said that her greatest fear when she sees the drafts for the covers of her books is that they’ll put shoes on it. Apparently they’re always slapping high heels on the cover of books by women BECAUSE WOMEN LOVE SHOES, DUH! I can’t help but laugh a dry little chuckle to myself when I see a book now with shoes on the cover (and I never noticed before, but there are loads, regardless of what the book is about). I say a little blessing to the author hoping that’s just what she wanted.

  56. Adri says...

    I’ve read somewhere that apparently British bookcovers have more photographs and people depicted in them, whereas in the US it’s more illustrations, is this true, or do you have any opinions on this?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      it has always seemed like that to me! i’m curious to learn more.

    • alison says...

      There’s something I heard about cookbook covers that in the states publishers favor photographs of food vs illustrations. Which is why the new Simple by Ottolenghi is so dull in the states vs the beautiful simple lemon illustration of the Euro version. Interesting if the inverse is true for novels!

    • Caroline says...

      I’ve always thought the opposite! Especially with YA books, UK ones almost always have illustrations whereas US versions would have photographs.

  57. Also – the UK does a lot more photographs (in these samples) – I think I steer away from covers with photos because it reminds me of books that become movies. A book seems less than once it has the movie’s actors on the cover…

    • Silver says...

      I agree with you. I am sure it is probably ethically rather wrong to wish less opportunity to the author to earn real money but I dislike being told how to imagine my characters.

  58. I love it when the title of a book changes in a different country. Like Harry Potter and the Sorcercer’s Stone v Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

    • Nigerian Girl says...

      I don’t particularly love it, but I do find equally fascinating and frustrating. For example, Leila Slimani’s spectacular novel is published as Lullaby in the UK, and The Perfect Nanny in the US. I prefer the UK title; the US one is too on the nose.

  59. Interesting! I keep thinking I like the US covers more – but I can’t tell if it’s just because they’re familiar…

    Fun and interesting post – something I’ve definitely noticed before, but not given much thought to or wondered the reasons behind the differences…

  60. I find it interesting that in two cases the UK cover uses blurbs from Obama, while the US one does not!

    • Louisa says...

      Agreed!

  61. Rebecca V. says...

    Oh, I love this! I think almost all of the UK covers are so much better than the ones for the US – so much more visual interest.

  62. Liz C says...

    This is so interesting! Quite a few books you highlighted are on my list. I just picked up Michelle Obama’s “Becoming” at my local library this morning!

  63. Emily says...

    I love seeing the differences! I’d love the know more about how and why publishers use different covers.

    I LOVE the U.S. cover art for Educated – the pencil/mountain landscape artwork is brilliant, I think.

    And Educated was the best book I read last year.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      TOTALLY agree about educated. loved it so much.

      and yes, i would love to talk to some US and UK publishers and hear their reasoning / goals / audience differences / etc. :)

    • Rachel says...

      I never noticed the mountain landscape part inside the pencil! Thanks Emily! I’m intrigued that the UK version has Tara’s childhood picture, and I wonder if that drives home that this is a personal memoir, not a fictional story.

  64. Christy says...

    Why is it I always catch my breath when I see the cover of Paul Kalanithi’s book? It’s like the story’s pain and beauty hit my heart all over again.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you so much, christy. i’ll tell my sister xoxo

    • Carly Russell says...

      me too! seeing the cover just now threw me back to my sofa, so deeply reading it, that I didn’t realize I had been crying until I got to the last page. Christy said it perfectly, “pain and beauty”.

    • Rachel says...

      Same. I read it in one sitting, perched on the massive boulders that line the Arkansas riverbank in Salida. I was full-on sobbing by the end, and the rafters that were drifting gently downstream must have thought my husband and I were in the middle of a terrible argument!

      What a life well-lived. I’m so glad your sister and your family – and the world – had him for a time. Much love to Lucy and to you.

    • Lauren says...

      The title alone stops me in my tracks every time. The thought of a moment of transition that is so small and so subtle, and yet that means everything. The US cover really captures that; the other cover is too…grounded? Mundane?

      Anyway covers don’t mean much to me because I hate dust jackets and always take them off. :) A recognizable spine is more important, and I prefer the later-edition small softcovers anyway, for readability. :)

      But yes it’s so good that Paul did that book. I have a photo of myself that my husband took after I had finished it. Usually I don’t like having my picture taken, and I worry about how to ‘arrange my face’ before the camera goes off and all that. But in the ‘afterglow’ of the book I felt so much thankfulness for life–as awful as it has the capacity to be–that I was happy to ask my husband to take a picture of me, as I was–just to record the amazing fact of being, I guess!

  65. Jenny says...

    This is fascinating! Could you note which cover is the US and which is the UK? I’m having trouble deciphering that from the post.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes! added to the credits — all the U.S. ones are on the left, and the U.K. ones are on the right. thank you!

    • China says...

      The American cover is on the left and the British on the right, which I only know because I’ve read a lot of them!