Cover Designs of the 10 Best-Selling Books of All Time

Book covers are a unique and wonderful art form.  It’s no simple task to boil down hundreds of pages of well-considered words into a single image or design and still make it compelling enough for people to want to pick it up.  Book design can sometimes make or break the success of a book. It requires wit, knowledge of design fundamentals, and an overwhelming amount of creativity.  The task is even more daunting when you are given the assignment to design a best-selling book.

I wanted to see how designers have handled such a task so I looked through the cover designs of the 10 best-selling books of all time.  I found hundreds of covers ranging from the mundane to the corny to the excellent.  Here are some of the most interesting cover designs I found:

1.  The Bible

Literally thousands of editions of this book have been printed, with designs spanning a huge variety of styles.  Here are a few representative samples.

2. Quotations from Chairman Mao – Mao Zedong

Mao’s quotations are hugely read in China, and also hugely red in design.  Simple, but effective.

3. The Qur’an – Muhammad

Here are a few beautifully ornamented Arabic covers, with some English-translations trying to keep the same flavor.

4. Xinhua Dictionary – Wei Jiangong

Not a lot of originality with this best-selling dictionary.

5. A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens

Dicken’s great novel is represented with very dramatic illustrations.

6. Scouting for Boys: A Handbook for Instruction in Good Citizenship – Robert Baden-Powell

Interestingly this book is designed using a consistent illustration style across many editions.

7. Pilgrim’s Progress – John Bunyan

Pilgrim’s Progress has been around awhile and it’s cover has been designed in the period’s popular style many times.

8. The Book of Common Prayer – Thomas Cranmer

Lots more red for this simple book of prayer.

9. The Lord of the Rings – J. R. R. Tolkien

Great illustrations and ring/eye references.  Some especially fun covers from the 60′s and 70′s.

10. And Then There Were None – Agatha Christie

This fairly-recently written novel has had fewer editions than most of the others, but still some great designs.

And there you have it: book covers from the 10 best-selling books of all time.  What did you think (anyone notice an huge use of the color red)?  Which ones were your favorites?  Do you have any more examples you’d like to share?

Top Ten list compiled from Destican, MentalFloss, Wikipedia and then edited by me.



6 Comments

  • t.fitz 04.23.2010

  • more surprised by which 10 are the best selling than the covers if i’m honest.

  • Jeannie 04.24.2010

  • I found this most interesting! Thanks for sharing!

  • Shirley Thomas 04.27.2010

  • I figured Agatha Christie would be here somewhere but never thought it would be And Then There Were None. It’s my favorite!

    I guess one of the more visible difference between designs these days and those of years past is that back then, covers were ‘straight’ illustration whereas today, there are more subtlety and symbolism.

  • Apt Design 04.28.2010

  • @Jeannie – You’re welcome! Glad you enjoyed the designs.

    @TFitz – Yeah, weird what shows up in top 10 lists sometimes.

    @Shirley – Wow, your favorite already? Do you have one of these editions? I agree about book designs, and good point, they certainly are less and less literal.

  • Cheryl 04.29.2010

  • Hooray for Scouting! This year you can add the 100th Anniversary edition of the handbook. It is also being printed in Spanish now.

  • bunyenyezi david 11.19.2013

  • i would like you to design my cover page

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