Staff Picks—Embiggen Books Favourite Book Cover Designs

The latest in a series of interviews where we ask staff at bookstores to tell us about their favourite book designs. This month we hear from Warren Bonett at Embiggen Books, 197-203 Little Lonsdale Street, Melbourne.


This is arguably the most competitive visual real estate in publishing. Fiction cover design  frequently depends on whether the sales will be genre driven. I read fairly widely – crime fiction, sci-fi, fantasy and literary – but I largely prefer the literary end of the spectrum design-wise.

My first fiction title is The Book of Dirt by Bram Presser (Text Publishing, design by W.H. Chong). The design is such that it could potentially be non-fiction, which given the subject and inspiration for the book is more than appropriate. I also have a bit of a soft spot for the breaking of the ‘fourth wall’ in that the cover text is treated like a surface that has three dimensional things sitting atop it, almost as if there’s something upon the book itself.

The next fiction title is A Fairy Tale by Jonas T. Bengtsson (Scribe, design by Allison Colpoys). I love this illustrative typographic style, you see it more in posters and magazines and it suits this book perfectly.

The third pick for fiction is published by Transit Lounge (and quite frankly most of their covers could feature here), The Pacific Room by Michael Fitzgerald (design by Peter Lo) – great use of illustration with a classic type arrangement. It’s bold and stands out against the usual sea of colour on the shelves.

The Pacific Room cover

Publisher Black Inc. produced my next choice, The Last Man in Europe by Dennis Glover. This book, which is about George Orwell whilst he was writing Nineteen Eighty-Four, was produced in conjunction with a special edition of that book (both covers designed by Peter Long). The two sit very well together on the display table.

Glover and Orwell covers

My last pick for fiction is from a couple of years ago, The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton (Granta). It’s a Jenny Grigg design and she’s always doing great work, if I ever wrote a novel I’d want her to design it.

The Luminaries cover


My first choice here is  Night Walking by Matthew Beaumont (Bloomsbury, design by Jamie Keenan). I would be quite happy for a dozen books to be published with covers like this a year. For me it’s the design equivalent of moreish.

Night Walking

My second pick is a travel writing title – Flights by Olga Tokarczuk (Text Publishing, design by Marek Pawlowski). The cover illustration is suggestive of the things that lie beneath the surface of our experiences and travels, while the type uses the colours of old aerograms.

Flights cover

I like the old-school collage style, as well as the overall cover composition of Things That Helped by Jessica Friedmann (Scribe, design by Allison Colpoys) and again it works really well with the content.

Things That Helped cover

My fourth non-fiction choice, Why I Am Not a Feminist by Jessa Crispin (Black Inc., design by Marina Drukman) isn’t a popular one amongst a few of my colleagues that I’ve spoken to, but I’m a big fan of this approach, and at least in our shop it’s been a very effective one for engaging people as it gets a lot of handling while also selling well.

Why I Am Not a Feminist cover

In the same vein, the Clementine Ford book Fight Like a Girl (Allen & Unwin) has had similar success and its bold, clear design by Catherine Donaldson works perfectly for the author and the book.

Fight Like a Girl cover

Coralie Bickford-Smith designed Reality is Not What it Seems by Carlo Rovelli (Penguin). She’s one of the few designers that can produce great science book covers without resorting to tried and tested standards of pictures of atoms, a nebula or a brain. And obviously she’s one of the best in the business!

Reality is Not What it Seems cover

I have two more books that make it into my top batch, the first being The Book by Keith Houston (Norton, design by David J High). This may be my favourite cover of all in recent years, it couldn’t be a better representation of the content and the spirit of the subject.

The Book cover

And lastly the fabulous illustration and type of The Matter of the Heart by Thomas Morris (Bodley Head, design by gray318) had me the moment I saw it.

The Matter of the Heart cover