Despite the not-so-great start to the year, it did bring with it a silver lining—more time to read books! When choosing one off the shelf (or on your Kindle), the cover is often one of the biggest deciding factors. Here are the 13 best book covers of 2020 in our opinion.
The book cover design can never tell the whole story—it is, after all, just one single page. What it can do is encompass the tone and serve as a slight spoiler to what the reader can expect from the book.
While a beautiful book cover is indeed important, having it be able to convey the same feeling the reader will get after turning the last page is what truly makes a cover great. Here are some great examples of both beautiful and thought-provoking covers.
Coming of age
Books of this genre focus on telling a story of a protagonist’s journey and growth from youth to adulthood and give the reader a unique opportunity to share that experience with the character. Like all stories of growing up include trials, struggles and big decisions, book cover designers ought to integrate that into the design in some way, shape, or form.
1. Almond by Won-Pyung Sohn
The following cover perfectly embodies the gist of the novel as the main character is unable to experience emotions due to a psychological condition. The minimalist book design resembles a paper collage, with the shapes having rigid edges, simulating scissor cuts. The lack of any details on the face outline gives a detached feeling, which mirrors the emotional state (or lack thereof) of the protagonist. The handwritten, slightly messy text—another popular book cover design trend—fits with the genre of a coming of age story, as it could easily have been written by a teenager.
2. Betty by Tiffany McDaniel
For a story that is set in the Appalachian mountains of North America, this cover art fits like a glove. The layers of mountains in gradient colors as well as the shadows provide texture and something interesting to look at. The design also incorporates a popular trend among book covers for this year—the overlapping of text with photos (more of these in entries #2 and #3). The signature-like font in which the author name is written completes this eye-catching cover.
This genre puts great emphasis on motivations, thoughts and feelings of the characters, exploring their internal states. The book cover designs of such books typically have a more dark, somber feeling to reflect said emphasis. The covers below do that very well while also being stunning from a design perspective.
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3. Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams
Although published last year, the cover of this Sunday Times bestseller uses many techniques found among book design trends of 2020. This book tells the story of the trials and tribulations of a young Jamaican British woman and her struggles with cultural identity, relationships, fitting in and self-worth. The dreadlock hairstyle is at the center of the cover, with the name of the protagonist literally intertwined into the locks. The details that are missing in the cover, such as the face, is made up for in the highly intricate details of the hair strands. This gives the cover cohesion and a deeper dimension, making it into a truly enchanting and beautiful cover.
4. The Town by Shaun Prescott
Described as “dark, slippery and unsettling”, this psychological fiction/thriller cover certainly manages to visualize that description. The beautiful vivid shades of orange and yellow have an almost toxic appearance, while the black hole at the very center of the cover appears to stare back at the viewer. It also supports the plot as the town where the main character resides experiences an epidemic of holes that threatens the existence of the town itself. The bottom white portion of the cover has a jagged shape, with the text too having a radioactive-like effect—foreshadowing the effects of the black hole on the town, perhaps?
Ah, romance. Books of this genre have been providing butterflies to readers’ stomachs for centuries. With so many books of this genre being released, book designers have to continuously step out of the box when creating covers. Here are some cover designs that we believe have managed to achieve that.
5. Bookish and the Beast by Ashley Poston
Bookish and the Beast—a young adult romance novel is a modern rendition of the classic French fairytale. The warm colors and the glittery font perfectly fit the genre and create a charming and beautiful cover. The illustrated characters lack too much detail and are simplified—an increasingly more popular graphic design trend of this year.
6. Camp by L.C. Rosen
This Penguin Books-published romance young adult novel is a progressive, LGBT, gender and race inclusive book. This is supported by the stunning and out-of-the-box cover, as the rainbow house and the text at the top insinuate the topic of the book. The various textures used in the cover design work incorporate a popular design trend to create an out-there and eye-catching book cover.
7. More Miracle than Bird by Alice Miller
This historical romance novel has the appearance of a painting, using various shapes and textures to give more dimension to the cover. The cutout in the shape of a bird subconsciously supports the title of the book.
Sometimes referred to as serious fiction, this form of writing is typically held to a higher literary regard than other types of fiction. The covers of this sub-genre are typically artsier to reflect the more stylistic and lyrical form of writing.
8. Natural History by Carlos Fonseca
The following book cover design uses a popular and innovative design trend for this year—combining real-life photos with drawings. This allows for the creation of a more artistic-looking and creative piece. The shape of the cover itself is made to resemble a folder or an archive, foreshadowing topics within the novel. The text written in handwritten letters further gives a more artistic appearance to the cover.
9. Topics of Conversation by Miranda Popkey
Another example of a cover design that incorporates genuine photos, this book cover does a great job of evoking similar emotions that a reader would experience reading the book. For a novel that is a compilation of conversations between women on raw and unfiltered topics, this cover is pretty close to perfect, as the serious facial expressions of the women and the pastel colors, as well as the stillness of the water, come together to portray that. The title of the novel written on top of the water has a slightly wavy texture to resemble ripples—a great stylistic touch.
10. Luster by Raven Leilani
This stunning cover design for the novel Luster is another take on the technique of focusing on a detail of an image—in this case, the hair of the protagonist, thus giving non-verbal cues to the audience what the focus or plot of the book might be. This design also serves as a wonderful example of a trend for book covers for this year, which is the use of rainbow colors, as book cover designers are getting bolder with their range of colors and design choices.
This sub-genre falls under the non-fiction category and involves a person directly retelling their life experiences or collections of memories from a first-person perspective. Covers of this sub-genre, therefore, typically feature photos/illustrations of the subject and have a more minimalistic, stylistic appearance as opposed to its more out-there fiction counterparts.
11. There I Am: The Journey from Hopelessness to Healing by Ruthie Lindsey
This cover is a true work of art and stunning in its simplicity. The muted pink color—a trendy color book cover designers will reach a lot for this year—as well as the illustration of the author with her eyes closed gives off an aura of calmness and tranquility. The paint strokes give a beautiful artistic touch to the cover design, as well as give the impression of assembling the illustration together, which is what the author essentially discusses in her book.
12. I’m Telling the Truth but I’m Lying by Bassey Ikpi
This last but certainly not least entry is a great representation of excellent use of unique typography to add dimension to the cover and catch the eye of the reader. The way how the letters interact with one another adds multiple dimensions to the cover. The upside-down portion of the text supports the nature of a lie—the things that remain between the lines and unsaid. The colors interact together to create a captivating cover that will catch the eyes of many readers.
13. The Lost Book of Adana Moreau by Michael Zapata (Miscellaneous entry)
Although technically not a romance novel, this historical/sci-fi fiction novel cover is simply too great not to include. Both the design cover as well as the book itself are a prime example of a book-ception, if we have ever seen one. The cover features another, smaller book on the cover, which mirrors the plot of the book itself, whereby the main character finds a lost manuscript written decades before. Wouldn’t you want to dive inside this book-ception?
Or, keep reading on for further inspiration on book cover design ideas.