At its bluntest and most general, the current directive in book design is that covers be, above all else, legible. So that when they’re viewed online (which, for many people buying books, means Amazon), both their text and imagery are immediately eye-catching and recognizable, even when shrunken down to minuscule thumbnails. As a result, a lot of covers end up looking overwhelmingly the same, especially those from bigger publishing houses. This often means an outsized sans serif font, paired with a similarly bold, colorful image.
While some of the covers on this list do fit this general description, they’re instances in which the designers did something interesting within those confines—gently subverting the form, rather than being beholden to it. Other covers ignore the recommendations altogether. Either way, these books, chosen by associate editor Laura Adamczyk and graphic artist Natalie Peeples, are all intriguing or just plain good-looking. Consider putting them on your shelf—face out.