We get told from an early age not to judge a book by its cover, but not only is it impossible not to, but book design is also a key factor in how well a book sells. There are lots of amazing book covers out there, from the abstract colourful patterns which adorn literary fiction to the bubbly, handwritten drawings of romance novels. But the ultimate comparison in book design lies in the classic UK vs US debate, so let’s have a look and see who does it better…
Writers and lovers by Lily King
The American cover is the clear winner here with its original still life drawings on a juxtaposed black and pink background. It is striking and eye-catching. The British cover on the other hand gives me rom-com vibes and doesn’t give a clear idea about what the book is actually about as King writes about grief, capitalism and friendship in your early 30s.
Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell
Both covers allude to a ‘classical’ Shakespeare aesthetic, with the American cover using Elizabethan/Jacobean colour palette for a portrait painting whereas the British cover’s gilded, ornate letter H suggests exuberance and decadence. However, the British cover wins for me as the gold detailing truly is stunning.
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
The Vanishing Half is a great book all about two twins, one who chooses to live their life as a black woman and the other who chooses to live as a white woman in the Deep South and California in the 1950-90s. I do like both covers as the two merging faces portray the intertwined but separate lives these two women lead, but the brighter more contrasting colours of the US tips it to victory for me.
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Oof, both are great – as the UK’s vibrant image of a house on fire evokes the tension, excitement and gripping nature of the story. On the other hand, the US cover is more enigmatic and leads the mind to wander what this novel is really about. Is it about the relationships between the people in this neighbourhood? Or is it about family dynamics? Or is it about identity and secrets? Once you read it you figure out it is about all of these things, but the cover invites ambiguity and that is what makes the US the winner for me – despite the visually stunning UK cover.
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
This is a beautifully written book, I would really recommend it. But based on the cover alone, the US wins by a mile, even though the UK’s cover provides a better inkling of what the story is about, the beautiful blue background and gold tree is just *chef’s kiss*.
Ariadne by Jennifer Sant
Ariadne is a mesmerising retelling of the ancient Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. But, even though I like the centring of Ariadne on the American cover, the UK’s cover is beautiful (the dark blue and gilded gold is a favourite of mine) and it is even better in person, as the leaves and grapes are almost 3D on the page.
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
This book is brilliantly weird, violent and unique and the US cover definitely reflects this. The novel has also now become a classic alongside the Stanley Kubrick film which the US cover alludes to. Although, I do like the simplicity of the UK’s cover as it doesn’t give much away, the US cover’s pop-art style is a winner for me.
In Love by Amy Bloom
This is a memoir/biography about Amy and her husband’s decision and journey to end his life at Dignitas in Switzerland. It is powerful, emotional and raw and both cover’s reflect the transparent, honest and beautiful way Amy narrates her story. For me, however, the UK wins as I like the coral colour and the single flat line across the middle which is reminiscent of the end of life in a tactful and subtle way.
Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
Admittedly both covers are very similar, but the UK’s colour palette and quote by ESQUIRE make it the winner for me as it tells you a little bit more about what the book is about. That being said, you will get the most out of this book by simply diving right in to this initially confusing but fascinating world.
Little Scratch by Rebecca Watson
This novel is “structurally audacious and written with an understated power, Watson’s debut novel recounts the minutiae of an ordinary day from the point of view of a woman living with the legacy of sexual abuse” (Waterstones). This is a close call as both covers are distinctly unique and evocative in their own way. But the US cover wins for me, as the endless pins represent the office work space and anxious nature of the main protagonist.
The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker
This novel recounts the events of the Iliad, chiefly from the point of view of Briseis, and it is brilliant. But, the two covers are so different that you would think they were advertising different books! The UK’s colourful and busy depiction of events evokes classical Greek imagery, whereas the US cover is significantly more elegant and austere. Therefore, whilst I think the UK’s cover provides a more accurate depiction of the story, the simplicity of the US cover tops it for me.
The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
This is a fast-paced thriller but neither cover really does it for me. But, if I had to pick one it would be the UK’s as woman behind the torn paper alludes to the dark, sinister content of this book.
The Hating Game by Sally Thorne
Both covers are very much of the romance genre with their cursive font and drawing of the two main love interests. But, the US cover’s clearer and neater style makes it the winner, even though I like that both the main characters are facing each other in the UK cover as it this confrontation which plays a crucial role in the novel.
The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai
A dazzling, prize-winning novel of friendship and redemption in the face of tragedy and loss during the AIDS epidemic. The UK more clearly suggests the heavy emotional content of the book, and the quotes sell it for me. On the other hand, the US cover’s colours are gorgeous and would most likely make me pick it up in a bookshop. But, the UK wins for me as it invites more curiosity.