Judging a book by its cover

US vs UK book cover design

The other day I just happened upon the US book jacket for Stieg Larsson’s Girl with the Dragon Tattoo online and the design immediately shifted my perception of the novel.

After abandoning GwtDT at the 200 page mark (I know – it’s really supposed to pick up from page 201 onwards, but really…) I have always been firmly in the I don’t get it/emperor’s new clothes camp. But that literary fiction style cover almost got me reconsidering my opinion.

US vs UK Girl with Dragon Tattoo cover design

The US version is classy – especially compared to the slightly low rent UK version. So that got me thinking – are US designs better (very subjective I know) right across the board? Does the fact that American design, over the last 60 years at least, is so damn cool, mean that US book jacket design trumps British graphics every time?

Here are some more examples. I’ve tried to compare like with like – ie hardcover vs hardcover, paperback vs paperback.

The Affair - Lee Child

Mmm. Not sure about this one. Train track features heavily in both – I’m guessing there’s some railway action involved in the plot… but the golden UK version featuring, like, actual people (and the guy has to be Jack Reacher) evokes much more of an emotional response. Dare I say it, but the blue US design looks a little amateurish.

US 1 – 1 UK

Next up, a crime novel with out and out literary pretensions – the protagonist is even a novelist for gawd’s sake.

Before I Go to Sleep SJ WatsonNot sure I can take to either of these two. The US one looks like it could have been knocked up in Powerpoint and the UK version, though the typeface is attractive (Trade Gothic Light, maybe?) it reminds me of the cover for Cut Short by Leigh Russell.

So the score still stands at 1-1.

Last up is Kate Atkinson’s most recent Jackson Brodie adventure.

Started Early, Took My Dog Kate Atkinson

What the what? Who’s the geezer under the umbrella? And if it’s Jackson, where’s the ruddy dog? I know it has been known to rain in Leeds, but as the weather doesn’t play a huge part in the plot, I’m not really seeing the relevance. And was the comic font strictly necessary? UK version wins hands down. Which means the final score is:

US 2 – 2 UK

As it should be – I do like a happy ending.


About Eva Hudson
Eva Hudson is an author who specialises in writing crime thrillers featuring strong female leads. Eva was born and raised in south London and now splits her time between the Sussex countryside and central London. She’s been a government officer, singer, dotcom entrepreneur, portrait artist, web designer and project manager. In 2011 she won the inaugural Lucy Cavendish fiction prize for her first novel, political thriller, The Loyal Servant.

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