Judging a book by its cover

Joyce Maynard’s just-released novel, Labor Day, is drawing kudos from all over. In her review for BookPage, Deborah Donovan calls it “a marvelous read” and she notes, as several other reviewers have, that the book is “perfect for one long sitting.” In other words, something about the story is so mesmerizing, so deeply engaging, that you won’t want to put it down.

Set in the 1980s, Maynard’s novel is part coming-of-age, part love story, part page-turner. The story unfolds over one long weekend as a divorced mother and her 13-year-old son head out for what should be a routine trip to the store and meet a mysterious stranger who will transform both their lives. In an interview with Kirkus, Maynard says, “The story I tell in Labor Day is painful, but it’s hopeful too. And I’m a hopeful person.”


The book’s hopeful quality is beautifully captured in a stunning cover design that pictures a lush end-of-summer scene viewed through a damp window. Outlined on the surface of the glossy window is the shape of a heart, as if someone had traced it there with a fingertip. Trails of condensation drip down from the heart on the window pane, making the image seem at once both lovely and poignant.

The cover was designed by Mary Schuck, VP/Creative Art Director for HarperCollins, who tells us via email, “This was an important book for us, so we went through many ideas and covers to come up with this.  Not to give anything away, but the heart drawn inside a steamy hot summer room seemed like a good way to get at least part of the storyline across.” Visual relief was added by using a gloss finish on the window pane, and a matte finish on the heart. “I wanted the pane of glass and water to shine and the drawn heart to look removed by human hands, so that’s why we went with the spot matte on top of gloss,” Schuck explains. When we received a copy of the finished book at our office a few days ago, I found the effect eye-catching, and as I suspect many others will, I was drawn to trace the shape of the heart with my own finger on the surface of the cover. As for the author herself, Schuck says, “Joyce loved it. She thought it was a nice surprise.”

Enter to win a copy of Labor Day by leaving a comment about a book cover that you love (or loathe) by Tuesday, August 4. If you win, you’ll not only be able see this very special book cover for yourself, you’ll have the perfect novel to read when Labor Day weekend rolls around.

17 Responses to Judging a book by its cover

  1. Melissa Mc says:

    I haven’t read this book but but I absolutely hate the cover for The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson.

    On the other hand, the new boook, Girl in a Blue Dress by Gaynor Arnold is quite lovely.

  2. Erica says:

    I love, love, love the cover of Jeffrey Eugenides’ Middlesex (the paperback edition). Love the mystery and history it evokes.

  3. Ti says:

    A cover that immediate comes to mind, in the loathe category… is Intensity by Dean Koontz. Here’s a link, the cover I am referring to is the first one on the left, right at the top.


    It fit the title, but I hated lugging that book around just because the cover was so horrid.

  4. WitchyEditor says:

    I bought Chuck Palahnuik’s book Haunted because of the cover. I had no idea what it was about but the cover literally jumped out at me. It was very different from anything on the shelves these days.

  5. Nicola Marsh says:

    I love Barbara Samuel’s ‘Madame Mirabou’s School of Love’. The colours are gorgeous and the cover sums up a scene from the book perfectly!

  6. Anne says:

    I love the cover of Little Bee by Chris Cleave, and think that the writing and the story were just as beautiful as the cover image.

  7. Graham says:

    I love the finely-observed detail of Pierre Le-Tan’s cover illustrations of the UK faber and faber editions of Garisson Keillor’s Lake Wobegon books. They perfectly complement Keillor’s perceptive and amusing observations in that wonderful place where all the women are strong, all the men are handsome, and all the children are above average!

  8. gail sergio says:

    I actually love the cover of the book
    Hot House Flowers

  9. Sally Bissell says:

    I do often pick up a book based on its cover and one of the ones that caught me lately was the cover of Shanghai Girls. The peach background with the white lace filigree is as delicate as the skin of the sisters. There also seems to be a wash over their faces that mutes them just a bit. I love cover art.

    Another interesting and much more dramatic cover is that on Marlon James’ The Book of Night Women.

  10. Jenne says:

    I love the cover of Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman. I love the book, too!
    Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan also has a great cover.

  11. Terri says:

    I bought Deborah Smith’s novel, The Homecoming, strictly because of the cover. I’d never read her (and don’t really like romance novels) but this was just a BEAUTIFUL cover with a book to match!

  12. Vicki says:

    Oh, dear. I have to admit, I don’t notice the cover. I look for author’s name to see if it is someone I like, then read the book synopsis. Couldn’t tell you what cover of any book looks like. Is this a right brain-left brain thing?

  13. Julia says:

    A book that I just dearly love, MUDBOUND by Hilary Jordan, had a terrible cover in hardback. Fortunately, the paperback has a different cover that is much, much more appealing. By the way, I also dislike the name of the book, too. It’s unfortunate, because I really think it kept this book from getting more readership!

  14. preese says:

    The cover of Jill Ciment’s new Heroic Measures is simple and elegant.

  15. Jacqueline Lee Valenti says:

    The original cover to Julie Powell’s Julie & Julie makes me want to go in the kitchen and make a meal mess just for the fun of it! It’s strange how a whisk with a little frowning hard boiled egg handle can convey so much of the story all on it’s own. Whereas, a cover I loathed was Sue Monk Kidd’s The Mermaid Chair; for the main character being an artist of breathtaking mermaids, the cover sure was a let down! So much imagery in the book that could have lead to such stunning options! Beautiful book. Bland cover.

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