Best book covers of 2016 – My pick of New Zealand’s finest

2016 has seen the publication of a bunch of great and interesting New Zealand books, with plenty of strikingly attractive covers. Here are my picks for New Zealand’s best book covers of the year:

Number one is Mansfield and me: A graphic memoir by Sarah Laing, published by Victoria University Press. The cover, as drawn by Sarah, is a thing of beauty. It also draws you into the compelling counterpointing of Sarah and Katherine Mansfield – the very heart of the book.

mansfield_and_me_final_cover__50890-1467692638-1280-1280

Here’s what Sarah had to say about her cover design:

It’s quite a different proposition designing your own book cover as opposed to designing for others. I had a couple of other options but it was pretty easy to settle on the one I liked the most. I took Mansfield’s profile from a famous 1915 photograph, and tried to draw my own to match it. I wanted to echo the vase/profile illusion, and also to have us facing each other, when, in so much of the book, our stories run in parallel. Later in the book, Katherine and I share a cup of coffee, and I used to print from my coffee cup as a motif in the background.

Katherine Mansfield. Ref: 1/2-003106-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23065921
Katherine Mansfield. Ref: 1/2-003106-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23065921

A close runner up is Can You Tolerate This? Personal Essays by Ashleigh Young. It’s also published by Victoria University Press. The difficult second cover on Ashleigh’s blog Eyelash Roaming explains how the cover came to be:

Well, for my second book, I asked Elliot Elam to draw me a picture, though I didn’t know what the picture should be … Maybe more importantly, a stranger is picked out of the anonymous crowd and made knowable. Without getting too lofty… in a way that’s what I wanted to do with this book of essays: attempt an impression of things that otherwise would have rushed by.

Can you tolerate this?

Bronze medal goes to Hera Lindsay Bird’s eponymous book of poetry. An interview with Hera by Ellen Falconer in The Wireless has a bit about how that distinctive cover came to be:

Ashleigh Young [my editor] has a friend called Russell Kleyn who is a really great photographer and she set me up with him. I had quite a different idea; I have quite a funny portrait of myself and I wanted a really Dorian Gray thing, where there was a portrait of me holding a dorky portrait of myself, but it actually didn’t turn out that well.

He saw this yellow raincoat in this weird attic I was living in and he just wanted to take a few photos of that, so it was kind of a random shot. But I really like the way it turned out and that it obscures my face. What I told him was that I kind of wanted [it to have] an Yvonne Todd vibe about it – feminine but also a bit creepy and off.

Hera Lindsay Bird

Fergus Barrowman, VUP publishers comments on the triple victory:

The books make the covers (that is, if the books weren’t great and successful no one would be noticing the covers); all three were ferociously art-directed by the authors with only gentle pressure from the publisher.

So my three picks for best book covers also happen to be books I loved inside and out. They also are all published by Victoria University Press. So I think I can officially say it – VUP gives good cover. They have cannily produced postcards to show off them fine looking jackets. Next stop, VUP badges and tshirts??

More standout covers from 2016

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Cool covers for kids

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Special mentions

Let’s take a walk

C1 Book launch
Artwork from Let’s take a walk

A Christchurch book that deserves a special mention is a picture book produced by C1Espresso, and edited by owners Sam and Fleur Crofskey. Let’s take a walk looks at Christchurch places before and after the earthquakes. It was written by Nicole Phillipson, and the exquisite illustrations are by Hannah Beehre. The design and layout – with all its fascinating fold outs – is by Alec Bathgate & Tahlia Briggs.

Have a read of Moata’s interview with Sam Crofskey about this poignant pop-up book.

Gecko Annual

The cover of the Gecko annual is a zingy orange red with a dash of gold on the cover. But it’s the contents that are a symphony of beaut design work. Have a look at Kim’s blog post for some pics from inside the annual. It’s a stunner.

Best book covers of previous years

For more book cover and design, see the PANZ Book Design Awards.

Best book covers of 2015 – My pick of New Zealand’s finest

We are told not to judge a book by its cover, but a title’s jacket performs an important role. It signals what is within, and it entices you to pick it from a shelf. Here’s my picks for New Zealand’s best book covers of 2015:

#1 First to the top by David Hill, illustrated by Phoebe Morris. This is a clever, cool picture book about Sir Edmund Hillary, and Phoebe’s illustrations are so crisp and character-filled I kept going back and looking again.  Find out more about Phoebe on the Penguin Random House website and visit Phoebe’s website.
Cover of First to the top

#2 Work by Sarah Jane Barnett. Why is it that books of poetry often have superfine covers? I don’t know, but this typographic beauty is so strong and potent, I can’t look away. Love that blast of yellow too. Find out more about Duncan Forbes’ cover design work on Sarah Jane Barnett’s blog.
Cover of Work

#3 For someone I love: A collection of writing by Arapera Hineira Blank. A joyously beautiful photo makes a brilliant book cover. This is Arapera Blank and her Swiss husband, photographer Pius Blank. Their son Anton Blank has more info on this selfie of his parents.
Cover of For Someone I love

Here are some more of my favourites:

New Zealanders

Plenty of titles make the most of New Zealand characters.

Cover of Zizz Cover of Stuff I forgot to tell my daughter Cover of Rugby Cover of James K. Baxter Cover of Busby Cover of Face to Face Cover of Visual memories Cover of Kahawai Cover of Real Modern Cover of Maurice Gee Cover of Hocken Cover of The Good Doctor Cover of In the hands of strangers Cover of The Invisible Mile

Poetry

Artful, creative, eye-pleasing – here are volumes of poetry that capture attention.

Cover of Wonky Optics Cover of Thuds underneath Cover of This must be the place Cover of Shaggy magpie songs Cover of Half Dark Cover of Jerusalem sonnets Cover of Miss Dust Cover of Dear Neil Roberts Cover of Being There Cover of Failed Love poems Cover of Trifecta

For kids

Here’s three bold covers, including a new picture book by Vasanti Unka.

Cover of Whiti te rā Cover of Stripes! No, Spots! Cover of Havoc

Colours and patterns

Striking uses of colour and texture make for standout covers.

Cover of In the neighbourhood of fame Cover of I have in my arms both ways Cover of The lives of colonial objects Cover of Democracy in New Zealand Cover of How to grow an addict

Special mention

BWB texts – The book design of these texts is plain, but much like Penguin Books there is virtue in that simplicity. This distinctive design signifies the quality thinking to be found within.

Cover of Generation Rent

For more book cover and design, see the PANZ Book Design Awards.

Outlandish kilt addiction

Cover of OutlanderThe things you find when trawling through the library catalogue.

I was just trying to fill the hole that the conclusion of the first season of the Outlander TV series, based on the books by Diana Gabaldon, had left in my leisure time.

I found a blog post about the source novels, and an If you like… Diana Gabaldon book list. It seemed I wouldn’t have to wait until the next series to get some more 18th century kilted historical-time-travel-romance in my life. Very good.

But then I idly went searching to see if we had any copies of Highlander (either the movie, or the TV series) and shove me in a sheep’s gut and call me haggis, I stumbled upon… a bunch of shirtless kilt-wearing cover-boys. And not just a couple, but legions of them. Well hello, Jamie Fraser!

It must have been warmer in Scotland in days of yore if this lack of upper body garments is anything to go by. Will ye nae put a vest on, lad?

After rigorous research I can confirm that covers in this particular genre fall in to three categories in which the muscular hero can be –

holding a lady,
Cover of Rogue with a brogueCover of Mad, bad, and dangerous in plaidCover of to marry a scottish lairdCover of In bed with a highlanderCover of Never seduce a Scot

holding a sword, either pointy side up…
Cover of To wed a wicked highlanderCover of The chieftainCover of Sins of the highlanderCover of The guardian

…or down,
Cover of Temptation in a kiltCover of The stone maidenCover of Moon awakeningCover of The hellion and the highlander

or at least, wearing some kind of armband (face optional).
Cover of awaken the highland warriorCover of The immortal highlanderCover of The dark highlanderCover of Sweet revenge

And am I allowed to say that some of the titles are AMAZING? For my money Mad, bad and dangerous in plaid is a standout, though Temptation in a kilt must surely get an honorable mention.

You’ll be pleased to know that almost all of these titles are available in eBook format, possibly as a result of the “embarrassment factor” that does apparently influence choice of format for recreational reading. Though why you’d be whakamā about reading In bed with a highlander on the bus, I can’t imagine (okay, yes I can).

Which of the above is your favourite Caledonian cover-boy?

Kids’ Books – picks from our November newsletter

Some great new titles and staff picks in our November Kids’ Books newsletter, including When Lunch Fights Back – “An awesomely gross book about weird wildlife”.

Cover of When Lunch Fights Back Cover of Dragons at Crumnling Castle Cover of The Iron Trial Cover of Colour Illusions Cover of How They Choked Cover of Space Case Cover of Teddy One-Eye Cover of Out of My Mind Cover of El Deafo

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For more great reads for kids, check out our Fun to Read page – it links you to reading lists, if you likes, interactive quizzes and lots more.

Biography and Memoir: picks from our November newsletter

Our November Biography and Memoir newsletter brings you a bumper crop of biographies and memoirs for your reading delectation.

Cover of Fatherland Cover of Born into The Children of God Cover of Daring Cover of Henare Wiremu Taratoa Cover of Carsick Cover of Love My Rifle More Than You Cover of Duchamp Cover of My Grandfather's Gallery Cover of Wild Westie

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For more great biographies and memoirs, check out our lists of winners of  the Costa Biography Award.

Fiction A to Z: picks from our November newsletter

What’s your pick from our November Fiction A to Z newsletter?

I am particularly intrigued by A Bad Character, which, as the title indicates, promises to be a departure from the cosier novels set in India which I have enjoyed in the past. The Telegraph describes it as a “a poignant and impressionistic portrait of the end of adolescence and a changing world”.

Cover of Henna House Cover of Full Measure Cover of The Zone of Interest Cover of Bathing the Lion Cover of The Ghost Apple Cover of We Are Called to Rise Cover of The Lost Art of Mixing Cover of Wide on the Run Cover of A Bad Character

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Best book covers of 2014 – My pick of New Zealand’s finest

This awards ceremony starts with the winners. My two favourites of the year:

Cover of Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen

Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen by Dylan Horrocks. I could have picked any of Dylan’s four covers represented below. The man is a massive New Zealand talent, and deserves all the kudos. Onya Dylan.

Cover of Creamy Psychology

Creamy Psychology
A survey of the work of photographer Yvonne Todd. Artists and photographers – like cartoonists – often have a head start when it comes to good covers. They have the images. And this is hypnotically creepy and yet alluring. Love it, and the title.

Let’s continue the awards ceremony with two strong Christchurch-focused titles. Potently distinctive, and both representing well what is inside.

Cover of Shigeru Ban Cover of Once in a lifetime

Last year I praised the array of fantastic cartoony covers on New Zealand books. I’m pleased to see more goodies this year. I feel like a Dylan Horrocks cover is so damn good, and generally indicative of an excellent book too. Two of them this year are his own collections.

Cover of Wake Cover of Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen Cover of Empty Bones Cover of Incomplete Works

More proof that artists give good cover. As do poets.

Cover of Creamy Psychology Cover of Waha Cover of Cinema Cover of Edwin's Egg Cover of There's a medical name for this

Beautiful fiction.

Cover of Of things gone astray Cover of The Drowning City Cover of Landscape with Solitary Figure Cover of Where the Rehoku bone sings

Some super covers for kids and teens.

Cover of Construction Cover of Doctor Grundy's undies Cover of NZ shore and sea Cover of Dappled Annie Cover of Sage. Cover of While we run Cover of A treasury of NZ poems

Very New Zealand. And evocative.

Cover of Reach Cover of Autobiography

Typographical delights.

Cover of How to be dead Cover of Arms race Cover of Infidelities Cover of Vertical Living Cover of Tell you what Cover of The Bright side

There is a boom of publishing in the area of First World War history. This has an appropriate solemnity and gravitas. As do some others employing black and white photography.

Cover of How we remember Cover of Prendergast Cover of Berry Boys Cover of Deadline Cover of Frank Worsley Cover of Iggy's airforce tales Cover of Patient Cover of The Mighty Totara

I love this one. Love love LOVE.

Cover of Peter Smith

A lineup of stuff can make for an attractive cover.

Cover of Pills and Potions

Book of the year. But though the cover is distinctive and recognisable (it looks a bit like the Shroud in Turin?), I kind of wish it had a Sharon Murdoch cartoon on the cover. She is on Twitter as @domesticanimal and is all kinds of awesome.

Cover of Dirty Politics

For more book cover and design, see the PANZ Book Design Awards.

Thrillers and Suspense: picks from our November newsletter

In our November Thrillers and Suspense newsletter : Agent Scully from the X-Files debuts as an author and Sophie Hannah brings Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot back to life in a brand-new mystery.

Cover of Bitter Remedy Cover of The Day of Atonement Cover of A Vision of Fire Cover of The Golden Hour Cover of The Monogram Murders Cover of Hostage Cover of A Demon Summer Cover of The Prophet Cover of Trust Your Eyes

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For more great crime and thriller reads, check out our lists of winners of  the Crime Writers’ Association Awards and of the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Novel.

Picture books: picks from our latest newsletter

Some picks from our October Picture Books newsletter:

Cover of Ivan Cover of Hug Machine Cover of Draw Cover of Creature Features Cover of Monsters love colours Cover of Don't call me sweet

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Have you read any of these books? If so, we’d love your feedback!

Spring is sprung!

Have an eyeful with this bouquet of blossom reads:

Book cover of Blossom street brides Book cover of Rose harbour in bloom  Book cover of The blossom sisters