Prize covers on the Man Booker shortlist

Two first time novelists and titles from four independent publishers make up this year’s Man Booker Prize shortlist and, encouragingly, in a sign that printed book design continues to up its game, the covers are in rude health too

bookercovershome388_0.jpg - Prize covers on the Man Booker shortlist - 3664

Two first time novelists and titles from four independent publishers make up this year’s Man Booker Prize shortlist and, encouragingly, in a sign that printed book design continues to up its game, the covers are in rude health too…

Take Suzanne Dean’s design for The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes (published by Jonathan Cape/Random House). Despite the presence of new life in the floating seeds, the cover bleeds off towards a foreboding darkness with the ends of the book’s pages blackened, too.

A striking graphic approach from Dan Stiles works well on the cover for The Sisters Brothers by Patrick De Witt (published by Granta and Ecco/Harper Collins). The book design is by Suet Yee Chong at Ecco.

The placing of the title is what makes the hardback cover of Snowdrops by AD Miller (published by Atlantic Books) that little bit more interesting. The title is Russian slang for a corpse that is buried in the snow (revealing itself as it thaws), so the blood red type seems to suggest a supine position, heightened by the image of the trees as seen from the point of view of a body lying on the ground.

Perhaps the most conservative cover on the shortlist, Peter Dyer’s design for Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan (published by Serpent’s Tail) employs an elegant typeface for the book’s title.

Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman (published by Bloomsbury) has a cover by Holly Macdonald, who makes good use of negative space to evoke the outline of a young boy and, also, some pigeons.

Finally, and possibly our favourite on the list, is the first edition cover for Jamrach’s Menagerie by Carol Birch (published by Canongate). Thanks to Tom Gauld in the comments below who let us know that it’s the work of the excellent John Gray at Gray318. More of his covers at

So while the Booker shortlist once again provides an interesting snapshot of the contemporary fiction market, the strength of the cover design in this year’s crop is surely also something worth celebrating.

The winner of the Man Booker prize 2011 will be announced on October 18. Read more about the shortlist, here.


CR in Print

Thanks for reading the CR website, but if you are not also getting the printed magazine, we think you’re missing out. This month’s issue has a superb feature on the Sainsbury’s Own Label packaging of the 60s and 70s, a profile of new Japanese creative supergroup Party and our pick of this year’s top graduates. Read all about it here.

If you would like to buy this issue and are based in the UK, you can search for your nearest stockist here. Based outside the UK? Simply call +44(0)207 292 3703 to find your nearest stockist. Better yet, subscribe to CR for a year here and save yourself almost 30% on the printed magazine.


  • The US edition of Jamrach’s Menagerie, published by Random House, has a different, but also brilliant cover by Silja Goetz:

    Best regards,

    Jami Giovanopoulos
    Vice President
    t h e i s p o t . c o m
    Toll Free 800.838.9199 ext. 3

  • SORRY- this is the correct link to the cover:

  • Jason


  • That ‘Jamrach’s Menagerie’ cover is by Jon Gray.

  • Mark Sinclair

    Many thanks for that, Tom, I’ve amended the text accordingly

  • bookselector

    The Sense of an Ending makes you feel like you’re reading on a Kindle with all that blackness around the edge.

  • Hats off to Canongate once again – proving that cover design is not just a commercial concern.

  • Ha. I did a cover with text to the edge as per The Sense of an Ending.’ The cleint insisted I moved the text away from the edge :-) Lovely work though.

  • Great selection of art. (Didn’t really like the pastel US version though. Sorry Jami G!)

  • I just finished reading The Sisters Brothers last night. The cover image’s theme is continued nicely inside with similarly illustrated pages dividing the book’s sections. There are also two chapters labeled as ‘intermissions’, which are set in a different typeface to set them apart from the main narrative. It’s an interesting idea, but comes off here as a little too cute.

  • I feel that The Sisters Brothers type-setting is terrible and makes the book really difficult to read. The font is too weak on the horizontals and not good for people with less than perfect eye-sight. I’ve commented extensively on this at my review of the book here

  • rodger stanier

    I used to love CR but I’ve become increasingly irritated by the amount of ads and the prommenance they get in the magazine. I know you have to pay for the publication but is there not a way to minimise the intrusion?

    It beggars belief that an industry that’s all about good design can so often produce such poor ads for its self.