East of Eden by John Steinbeck

Ever wondered why John Steinbeck’s classic American novel East of Eden has proved so popular over the decades since it’s release? Maybe it’s the cover art.

Recently, Publishers Weekly awarded East of Eden with the coveted prize of “Best Book Covers Ever.” PW looked back at the many editions of Steinbeck’s novel and declared it as the king of the hill where consistently great cover art is concerned. They also made some interesting observations about the effect cover art has a reader’s experience with a novel:

A book cover has to both draw you into the book when you first pick it up as well as stand as an aesthetic representation of the story’s heart. For many of us, book covers are a big reason why we’re still holding onto physical books, and there’s something about the best of them that conveys the transportive ability we find in our favorite books.

East of Eden has certainly had some wonderful covers in its tenure, and this had me thinking of some of the best runs of Fantasy and Science Fiction cover art in the past several decades. The clear winner, in my opinion, is The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Various covers for THE HOBBIT by JRR Tolkien

From John Howe to Peter Sís to the man himself, J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit has been illustrated and covered by some of the genre’s finest artists. Perhaps what strikes me most about the various covers is the sheer variety, a true testament to Tolkien’s vision and storytelling.

So, what single (Fantasy or Science Fiction) novel do you think has the best covers ever? On the flip side, which novel has had the misfortune of being covered, again and again, with terrible art?

Remember, this isn’t just the single best piece of cover art ever, but a continued excellence across several published volumes.

  • Hannah Spangler November 29, 2011 at 12:28 pm

    I’m particularly fond of the covers of The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury. Especially the Harper Perennial Modern Classics Reissue edition.

  • ces November 30, 2011 at 8:14 am

    The Valdemar series by Mercedes Lackey – terrible art.

  • alabrava November 30, 2011 at 3:33 pm

    I must say the Komarck Malazan covers are spectacular, but I love Martin Springett’s original covers for The Fionavar Tapestry.

  • Woodge December 1, 2011 at 12:23 pm

    My 14 favorites are here: http://woodge.com/artwork/bookcovers.html

  • Allison December 2, 2011 at 6:39 pm

    I’ve gotta say the Narnia books have had some pretty wonderful book covers!

  • Jennifer Kley December 4, 2011 at 6:31 am

    There’s no way I can pick a single cover for every time I do it gets sacked by another cover.