There is much to be said for the cover of a book. We all know what lies within may, or may not, bur well-written. However, when the two match up, cover and content, and in a good way, it is a joy not to be taken for granted.
Here are some of my best loved books, in no particular order, that are as pretty as they are wonderful reads. In fact, sometimes I just go gather them up, together or on their own, to look upon their loveliness.
In an English bookstore somewhere in Prague, maybe, or Krakow, I picked up “The Miniaturist” by Jessie Burton. I needed something for the flight home, and the cover just compelled me. I would describe it to you, but the book is long gone. I gave it to my friend, Alice, to read. She refuses to give it back, doesn’t even act sorry that she won’t return it.
Talks about how it will hurt the book’s feelings and other such nonsense—although she actually believes this, I think—but trust me, the cover is beautiful and the story, set in a 1600s Amsterdam, is wonderful. So much better than the mini-series.
Jessie Burton has written a sequel, “The House of Fortune,” and I was so eager to get it I ordered it from London. This cover is beautiful, too, the end pages like elegant wallpaper and the text block and foot bands, too. I haven’t read it yet, so I keep it tucked out of sight for those times Alice visits.
“The Essex Serpent” is another book with a beautiful, flowery and mysterious cover. My pal, Silas, pulled it from the shelf when a bunch of us were book shopping, just to show me the cover. He said I didn’t have to buy it, he just wanted me to see it. So, of course it came home with me and sits with my other chosen few, on a bookshelf all by themselves. I’ve read it twice now, maybe three times, mostly to hold it in my hands. A hardback book is as comforting as a blankie, all warm and the hefty, but not too heavy. Engaging the senses, the way it smells, the way it feels, the way the words make images in your head.
Perhaps my favorite book is “Kristin Lavransdatter,” by Sigrid Undset. This book is not so easy to hold, as it runs 1124 pages in the paperback edition. But it is a trilogy, three novels in one, so I can forgive the length. The first of the books was written in 1920, and they follow the life of the title character from her adolescence into her adulthood. Set in 1300s Norway, it fascinating and yet relatable.
My friend, Charlene, recommended the book and she would never steer me wrong. I am so glad she told me about it. Everyone I know who has read it loves it, and vicariously loves Charlene for the recommendation, too.
Get the Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition. It is beautiful and is translated by the award-winning Tina Nunnally. Oh, and Sigrid won the Nobel Prize in Literature for it, too. This might be the one book I would recommend also in the Kindle edition, just because of the size of it. But at least look at and admire the cover.
The hardback edition, the one with the feather, is my favorite edition of “Hamnet,” by Maggie O’Farrell. It will break your heart—the cover and the book. A fictionalized telling of Shakespeare’s family life, and his son, Hamnet is beautiful written, compelling and fascinating. It is really a story of the plague, but so much more.
I needed a copy of “A Tale of Two Cities,” for my book group. I settled on a copy from Penguin Classics for only one reason. The cover is blanketed in knitting needles and yarn all done up. Now, who could pass that up, when one of the most iconic images in literature is Madame Defarge sitting by the guillotine, knitting? The print is minuscule, and I mean, fine print tiny, but I don’t care. I upped the magnification on my cheaters and off I went.
“A Tale of Two Cities” is hard on me, fine print notwithstanding. But I like knowing it is there, on the shelf, with my other pretty books, and that any time I want I can take it down and pretend to read it. Or actually read it. We will both look good, however it goes.