Best Books Covers of 2010

Book covers are a special kind of art that lines the shelves of bookstores, giving readers an eye dazzling display of literary shopping possibilities. In a big way, part of the fun of shopping for and reading books includes looking at the image on the cover. While we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, a good cover will sure help sell a book.  The question is what makes a good book cover? What catches your eye and draws you into the story upon the page?

I may not be an artist or an art critic, but I know what makes me stop walking down an aisle to pick up a book, wanting to know what’s inside. Here are 10 of my favorite covers from 2010.

The Replcement by Brenna Yovanoff
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
Date: September 21, 2010

I love everything about this cover, but what sticks with me most is the mobile of deadly instruments hanging over the baby carriage. The antique carriage, the lone tree limb, and the mysterious fog all work together to create a mysterious landscape that hides even more mysteries just out of sight.

Mackie Doyle is not one of us. Though he lives in the small town of Gentry, he comes from a world of tunnels and black murky water, a world of living dead girls ruled by a little tattooed princess. He is a Replacement—left in the crib of a human baby sixteen years ago. Now, because of fatal allergies to iron, blood, and consecrated ground, Mackie is fighting to survive in the human world.
Mackie would give anything to live among us, to practice on his bass or spend time with his crush, Tate. But when Tate’s baby sister goes missing, Mackie is drawn irrevocably into the underworld of Gentry, known as Mayhem. He must face the dark creatures of the Slag Heaps and find his rightful place, in our world, or theirs.
Edward Scissorhands meets The Catcher in the Rye in this wildly imaginative and frighteningly beautiful horror novel about an unusual boy and his search for a place to belong.

Behemoth by Scott Westerfield
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing
Date: October 05, 2010

Here’s a cover that is truly eye-catching. From the contrasting green, white, and black colors to the wonderfully elaborate designs that focus your eye up to Deryn’s face. It’s a great example of an artist blending imagery from the past and present together in high steampunk style.

The behemoth is the fiercest creature in the British navy. It can swallow enemy battleships with one bite. The Darwinists will need it, now that they are at war with the Clanker powers.
Deryn is a girl posing as a boy in the British Air Service, and Alek is the heir to an empire posing as a commoner. Finally together aboard the airship Leviathan, they hope to bring the war to a halt. But when disaster strikes the Leviathan’s peacekeeping mission, they find themselves alone and hunted in enemy territory.
Alek and Deryn will need great skill, new allies, and brave hearts to face what’s ahead.

Incarceration by Catherine Fisher
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
Date: January 26, 2010

The form of the key along with the layering of clocks, locks, gears, and trees leaves a lot to the imagination. The look and feel of this cover is especially effective with the muted shades of black and blue that draw your eye up the stem of the key to its head and further up where it lands upon the title of the book.

Incarceron is a prison so vast that it contains not only cells, but also metal forests, dilapidated cities, and vast wilderness. Finn, a seventeen-year-old prisoner, has no memory of his childhood and is sure that he came from Outside Incarceron. Very few prisoners believe that there is an Outside, however, which makes escape seems impossible.
And then Finn finds a crystal key that allows him to communicate with a girl named Claudia. She claims to live Outside- she is the daughter of the Warden of Incarceron, and doomed to an arranged marriage. Finn is determined to escape the prison, and Claudia believes she can help him. But they don’t realize that there is more to Incarceron than meets the eye. Escape will take their greatest courage and cost more than they know.

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing
Date: August 31, 2010

The cover for Clockwork Angel captivated me at first glance. From the dashing hero to the historic London background to the faded clockwork images in the sky and the golden angel in the center of the design, this cover made me want to know the story that inspired the art.

When sixteen-year-old Tessa Gray crosses the ocean to find her brother, her destination is England, the time is the reign of Queen Victoria, and something terrifying is waiting for her in London’s Downworld, where vampires, warlocks and other supernatural folk stalk the gaslit streets. Only the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the world of demons, keep order amidst the chaos.
Kidnapped by the mysterious Dark Sisters, members of a secret organization called The Pandemonium Club, Tessa soon learns that she herself is a Downworlder with a rare ability: the power to transform, at will, into another person. What’s more, the Magister, the shadowy figure who runs the Club, will stop at nothing to claim Tessa’s power for his own.
Friendless and hunted, Tessa takes refuge with the Shadowhunters of the London Institute, who swear to find her brother if she will use her power to help them. She soon finds herself fascinated by—and torn between—two best friends: James, whose fragile beauty hides a deadly secret, and blue-eyed Will, whose caustic wit and volatile moods keep everyone in his life at arm’s length . . . everyone, that is, but Tessa. As their search draws them deep into the heart of an arcane plot that threatens to destroy the Shadowhunters, Tessa realizes that she may need to choose between saving her brother and helping her new friends save the world. . . . and that love may be the most dangerous magic of all.

The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
Publisher: Night Shade Books
Date: May 01, 2010

Skyscrapers, blimps, elephants. What more can you ask for in a cover? Beautiful artwork and detail? Well, it has that, too! The scene depicted on this cover gives you a fantastic idea of the world within this story, and it’s one that I want to know better.

Anderson Lake is a company man, AgriGen’s Calorie Man in Thailand. Under cover as a factory manager, Anderson combs Bangkok’s street markets in search of foodstuffs thought to be extinct, hoping to reap the bounty of history’s lost calories. There, he encounters Emiko…
Emiko is the Windup Girl, a strange and beautiful creature. One of the New People, Emiko is not human; instead, she is an engineered being, creche-grown and programmed to satisfy the decadent whims of a Kyoto businessman, but now abandoned to the streets of Bangkok. Regarded as soulless beings by some, devils by others, New People are slaves, soldiers, and toys of the rich in a chilling near future in which calorie companies rule the world, the oil age has passed, and the side effects of bio-engineered plagues run rampant across the globe.
What Happens when calories become currency? What happens when bio-terrorism becomes a tool for corporate profits, when said bio-terrorism’s genetic drift forces mankind to the cusp of post-human evolution? Award-winning author Paolo Bacigalupi delivers one of the most highly acclaimed science fiction novels of the twenty-first century.

Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse edited by John Joseph Adams
Publisher: Night Shade Books
Date: January 01, 2008

All you have to do is look at this image and you know what you’re going to get with this book. The desperate, desolate scenery keys into our worst fears of what might be waiting for us in the future – and it looks bleak. Yet, it’s an image that I can’t turn away from. I want to know what these writers have in store for us when the apocalypse comes.

Famine, Death, War, and Pestilence: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the harbingers of Armageddon – these are our guides through the Wastelands… From the Book of Revelations to The Road Warrior; from A Canticle for Leibowitz to The Road, storytellers have long imagined the end of the world, weaving tales of catastrophe, chaos, and calamity. Gathering together the best post-apocalyptic literature of the last two decades from many of today’s most renowned authors of speculative fiction, including George R.R. Martin, Gene Wolfe, Orson Scott Card, Carol Emshwiller, Jonathan Lethem, Octavia E. Butler, and Stephen King, Wastelands explores the scientific, psychological, and philosophical questions of what it means to remain human in the wake of Armageddon.

Surface Detail by Iain M. Banks
Publisher: Little Brown & Company
Date: October 28, 2010

The thing that I love about this cover is how the details of the planet’s surface are reflected within the character’s eyes. I also really like the author’s name printed in bold, white colors because it makes the mysterious face and eyes stand out against the darkness. Also, the gold and black colors create a dazzling background that grabs and holds my attention, making me wonder, “What’s down there?”

It begins in the realm of the Real, where matter still matters. It begins with a murder. And it will not end until the Culture has gone to war with death itself.
Lededje Y’breq is one of the Intagliated, her marked body bearing witness to a family shame, her life belonging to a man whose lust for power is without limit. Prepared to risk everything for her freedom, her release, when it comes, is at a price, and to put things right she will need the help of the Culture.
Benevolent, enlightened and almost infinitely resourceful though it may be, the Culture can only do so much for any individual. With the assistance of one of its most powerful – and arguably deranged – warships, Lededje finds herself heading into a combat zone not even sure which side the Culture is really on. A war – brutal, far-reaching – is already raging within the digital realms that store the souls of the dead, and it’s about to erupt into reality.
It started in the realm of the Real and that is where it will end. It will touch countless lives and affect entire civilizations, but at the centre of it all is a young woman whose need for revenge masks another motive altogether.

Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Date: November 09, 2010

A lone figure, hiding her face with one arm and reaching down with the other – it’s a striking image that is reminiscent of the best of King’s fiction. The simplicity of the human figure alone against the dark background is a sad and disturbing image, not to mention eery when paired with the bright red author’s name and the lighter colored book title.

“I believe there is another man inside every man, a stranger . . .” writes Wilfred Leland James in the early pages of the riveting confession that makes up “1922,” the first in this pitch-black quartet of mesmerizing tales from Stephen King. For James, that stranger is awakened when his wife, Arlette, proposes selling off the family homestead and moving to Omaha, setting in motion a gruesome train of murder and madness.
In “Big Driver,” a cozy-mystery writer named Tess encounters the stranger along a back road in Massachusetts when she takes a shortcut home after a book-club engagement. Violated and left for dead, Tess plots a revenge that will bring her face-to-face with another stranger: the one inside herself.
“Fair Extension,” the shortest of these tales, is perhaps the nastiest and certainly the funniest. Making a deal with the devil not only saves Dave Streeter from a fatal cancer but provides rich recompense for a lifetime of resentment.
When her husband of more than twenty years is away on one of his business trips, Darcy Anderson looks for batteries in the garage. Her toe knocks up against a box under a worktable and she discovers the stranger inside her husband. It’s a horrifying discovery, rendered with bristling intensity, and it definitively ends a good marriage.
Like Different Seasons and Four Past Midnight, which generated such enduring films as The Shawshank Redemption and Stand by Me, Full Dark, No Stars proves Stephen King a master of the long story form.

The Amazing Spider-Man 5: Marvel Masterworkd, Nos. 41-50 & Annual No. 3 by Stan Lee & John Romita
Publisher: Marvel Enterprises, Incorporated
Date: November 10, 2010

This cover is one of my favorites. It does an amazing job of contrasting the hero and the man as the hero faces the light and the man walk off, head down, into the darkness. What I love most are the bold red rays of light that illuminate the darkness, reflecting the colors of the Spiderman suit. Plus, the general design harkens back to art forms of the 1930s and 1940s that reflected the political activism of the time.

We finally meet Mary Jane! After months of hints and failed setups, Mary Jane Watson jumps into Peter Parker’s life with a bang – leaving him unsure who he likes more, MJ or Gwen Stacy! And while Peter gets a motorcycle and his fi rst apartment with friend Harry Osborn, Spider-Man faces villains deadlier than ever! The Lizard! Kraven the Hunter! A new Vulture! The Kingpin! And introducing the Rhino and Shocker! What’s a web-slinger to do? Plus: The Avengers try to recruit Spidey by sending him after the Hulk! And weary of public mistrust, Peter decides he’ll be Spider-Man no more!

Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing
Date: September 21, 2010

This three-color cover is as lovely as it is tragic. The figure of the falling angel in near silhouette, the grey cloudy sky with light shining down from above, the loose bright red wing feathers – all of these details create instant drama and an unforgettable image.

Romance was not part of Nora Grey’s plan. She’s never been particularly attracted to the boys at her school, no matter how hard her best friend, Vee, pushes them at her. Not until Patch comes along. With his easy smile and eyes that seem to see inside her, Patch draws Nora to him against her better judgment.
But after a series of terrifying encounters, Nora’s not sure whom to trust. Patch seems to be everywhere she is and seems to know more about her than her closest friends. She can’t decide whether she should fall into his arms or run and hide. And when she tries to seek some answers, she finds herself near a truth that is way more unsettling than anything Patch makes her feel.
For she is right in the middle of an ancient battle between the immortal and those who have fallen — and, when it comes to choosing sides, the wrong choice will cost Nora her life.

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Date: August 31, 2010

This cover his all of the high points for attracting the eye: a mysterious background, a hot blond girl, and a delicate pink dress – not to mention the look of distress on her face. This cover makes me want to read the book to find out who she is and if she’s going to be okay.

Evie’s always thought of herself as a normal teenager, even though she works for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, her ex-boyfriend is a faerie, she’s falling for a shape-shifter, and she’s the only person who can see through paranormals’ glamours.
But Evie’s about to realize that she may very well be at the center of a dark faerie prophecy promising destruction to all paranormal creatures.
So much for normal.

Possessions by Nancy Holder
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
Date: September 03, 2009

Granted, Possessions was originally published in 2009, but it was reissued this year with this new cover that is OMG creepy. While the cover may look simple with an eery shadow-eyed girl coming out of the water, it is the reflection of the girl in the pool that tingles my spine. What’s down there in the water? What’s coming out? What’s getting left behind? It’s a perfect reflection of the story beneath the cover.

The It Girl meets The Exorcist in this chilling, haunted boarding school tale.
New-girl Lindsay discovers all is not right at the prestigious Marlwood Academy for Girls. Ethereal, popular Mandy and her clique are plotting something dangerous. Lindsay overhears them performing strange rituals, and sees their eyes turn black. It doesn’t help that the school itself is totally eerie, with ancient, dilapidated buildings tucked into the Northern California woods, a thick white fog swirling through campus. There are hidden passageways, odd reflections in the windows at night, and scariest of all is the vast lake rumored to have captured the ghost of a girl who drowned many years ago.
What Lindsay doesn’t yet realize is that Mandy and her cohorts are becoming possessed by spirits who have haunted the school for two hundred years. Spirits who want someone dead…
And that someone is Lindsay.

About Erin Underwood

BIO: Erin Underwood is the senior event content producer for MIT Technology Review’s emerging technology events. On the side, she reads, writes, and edits SF.
This entry was posted in Books and Literature, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Uncategorized, Young Adult Literature and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Best Books Covers of 2010

  1. Terri-Lynne says:

    (Both links on LJ went to the same book cover, btw. I got here through the link on my favs.)

    We like VERY different cover art! I do love the Clockwork Angel cover, though. One of my favorite covers of last year is Nora Jemison’s 100,000 Kingdoms. I tend to like land/cityscapes. If there’s a person on the cover, I don’t want to see a face. (And now you know how I ended up with MY cover!)

    • There are so many amazing covers that it really is difficult to choose the best ones.

      I do really like that one a lot. There are a lot of fantasy cityscapes lately, and this one is really beautiful. It kind of reminds me to Cloud City in Empire Strikes Back. And the dark shadowy image of the face in the background is great.

      Let’s see if I can post the image here….

Leave a Reply