The 12 Best Book Covers of 2018

The year 2018 was only four days and 90 push alerts young when I abandoned all prior delusions that it could be a quieter, more nationally introspective sun cycle than 2017 had been. Subtlety and nuance might be in fashion again in some distant future, but probably not this year. Confrontation would remain the default setting.

To the (trivial) extent that book covers ought to reflect the spirit of the age, this year demanded that they be confrontational if not out-and-out blunt, topically and conceptually. Stylistic subversion was for the most part off the menu. A book about jazz standards would not be confused, visually, with a book about failing democracies. A memoir would, perhaps rightfully, look precisely like an internal odyssey. A romance between a woman and a fish would be unambiguous. Several of the covers that stood out to me featured inventive variations on the human face, as if the whole of publishing altogether sought to remind anyone shopping for books that humans who are not famous still do, in fact, exist — and that they matter. It’s an idea that seemed to be gaining the tiniest bit of traction at the end of this year. Perhaps I’m still deluded, but I’m hopeful that notion will continue to gain momentum as we head into 2019.

How Democracies Die

by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt

Designed by Christopher Brand



by Madeline Miller

Designed by Will Staehle

Little, Brown


by Nico Walker

Designed by Janet Hansen


My Year of Rest and Relaxation

by Ottessa Moshfegh

Designed by Darren Haggar

Penguin Press


by Lisa Margonelli

Designed by Rodrigo Corral

Scientific American / Farrar, Straus & Giroux

The Pisces

by Melissa Broder

Designed by Rachel Willey
Illustration by Tim O’Brien



by David Sedaris

Designed by Peter Mendelsund

Little, Brown

The House of Impossible Beauties

by Joseph Cassara

Designed by Sara Wood


Playing Changes

by Nate Chinen

Designed by Kelly Blair


The Condition of Secrecy

by Inger Christensen

Designed by Joan Wong

New Directions

Certain American States

by Catherine Lacey

Designed by Na Kim

Farrar, Straus & Giroux

I Will Be Complete

by Glen David Gold

Designed by Tyler Comrie


Matt Dorfman is the art director of the Book Review.

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