The Odyssey by Homer
The Odyssey is one of my favorite stories because of the epic scale of adventure in it. So, for my cover, I decided I couldn’t just pick one part of the adventure to illustrate and instead tried to give a sense of the plethora of bullshit Odysseus encounters, including my take on the Scylla, the whirlpool, Circe turning his men into pigs, visiting the underworld and talking to spirits, Poseidon’s trident, a saucy siren, and a cyclops. I just wanted to give someone looking at the book the idea that they’re in for an awesome adventure.
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
For this literature classic, I sought to convey the chaos and division that happens in the story. In my design, the flies are acting as the children, grabbing what they can (in this case, the words that make up the title) and starting to break up into groups and section themselves off.
The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pène du Bois
Another one of my favorite children’s books, The Twenty-One Balloons is an adventure tale that I’ll let Wikipedia set up: The story begins with the rescue of Professor William Waterman Sherman, who was picked up by a steamship whilst floating among a strange wreck of twenty deflated gas balloons in the North Atlantic. Sherman, a recently retired schoolteacher, was last seen three weeks ago leaving San Francisco on a giant balloon, determined to spend a year drifting alone. The world waits breathlessly to find out how he could have circumnavigated the globe in record time and landed in the ocean with twenty balloons rather than the one with which he began his journey. After several days’ rest and a hero’s welcome, the professor recounts his journey before a captivated audience.
In my dream world, this would be a limited edition of 100, with each of the 21 balloons on the cover hand-pressed (in differing places each time) making each of the covers unique.
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
After the popularity of my Shades of Grey cover, I thought I’d take on another Jasper Fforde book, so I turned to his first novel: The Eyre Affair.
The first in a series, it centers around literary detective Thursday Next, who lives in a world where the line between literature and reality becomes increasingly thin, allowing characters in the books and those in “real life” to jump in and out of novels.
When a madman, Acheron Hades, enters the original text of Jane Eyre intent on changing the story forever, Thursday follows him in and tries to contain the chaos he causes.
For my cover, I portrayed a prim and proper copy of Jane Eyre with the story being torn apart and changed by Acheron as Jane Eyre hightails it out of there…
Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde
Jasper Fforde writes some awesomely fun fiction. He creates these slightly (or sometimes drastically) different versions of our world that border on the geniusly bizarre.
In his Thursday Next series, the main character is a literary detective for the Jurisfiction department, which patrols the law inside books. Another of his series is the Nursery Crimes books, which features the investigations of DCI Jack Spratt, where he investigates what really happened in classic nursery rhymes. For a book nerd like me, they’re sort of perfect.
For his latest series, Shades of Grey, Fforde has created a future version of our world where social class is determined by one’s ability to perceive color. No one can see more than their own color, and no one knows why— there are many unknowns ever since The Something That Happened. It follows the main character of Eddie Russett, a Red, as he beginnings to discover the truth behind the world he lives in.
In the book, when a person turns 20, they take the Ishihara to determine what color and how high of a percentage of it they can see (the more you can see, the higher your rank will be).
Because the Ishihara is an actual test created to determine color-blindness, I used that as the basis for my design, having the title appear in red as Eddie would see it, among a sea of grey.
You can find out more about the book here.
UPDATE: Jasper posted the cover on his website, which you can view here. Awesome!
2nd UPDATE: Jasper is using the artwork from my cover to print out postcards that he signs and hands out at his book-reading tours across the world! Insanely cool!
Packing for Mars by Mary Roach
Mary Roach is one of my favorite non-fiction writers. She picks a topic and then explores every aspect of it in a humorous and scientific way. Her past books include: Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife and Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Sex and Science.
In her latest, Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void, she takes a look at the strange science of space travel, and the psychology, technology, and politics that go into sending a crew into orbit. She has an impeccable way of finding absurd and stranger-than-fiction tales to share that make it a hilarious and educational read.
You can find out more about the book here.
A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
Looks like it’s turning into SPACE month here as I post my latest cover, another book having very much to do with the universe: A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking.
Definitely an interesting and mind-bending read, I can’t say that I completely understand everything he lays out in here, but it’s certainly cool to think about.
My cover uses the awesome desktop background artwork of Jon Ashcroft, which I encourage you to check out here.
Playing with the title text, I wanted it to serve as a staircase of sorts for the obsessed stargazer to get down into his telescope viewing room…
The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut
Kurt Vonnegut is amazing. I remember tearing through most of his books in high school after reading Slaughterhouse-Five for English class. And although it’s hard for me to pick a favorite, The Sirens of Titan would have to be it.
The book follows Malachi Constant, the richest man in 22nd-century America, on his journey back and forth across the universe, where he ultimately ends up on one of Saturn’s moons, Titan.
If you haven’t read any Vonnegut, go do it now. You can find out more about The Sirens of Titan here.
A Dead Bat in Paraguay by Roosh Vorek
A Dead Bat In Paraguay is about a 28-year-old man who decided that the best way he could deal with his existential crisis was to sell his possessions, quit his job as a scientist, and hop on a one-way flight to Ecuador in order to visit every country in South America. Along the journey he chronicles the friendships, the women, and the struggles, including one fateful night in Paraguay (referring to the title) that he thought would lead to his end.
For my cover, I took a modern approach to a map with the colors and the zig zag waves of the ocean. The dotted travel line represented both the author wandering around South America and the flight path of the soon-to-be-dead bat, each ending up in Paraguay.
Milk Winter by Elizabeth McConaghy
My friend Beth writes essays and short stories. As a surprise to her, Kyle, her husband, wanted me to design a cover for her most recent collection of essays.
The title story, Milk Winter, deals with an unsavory spoiled-milk smell that’s lingering in their car throughout the winter. The cover depicts one of Kyle’s several attempts to purge the car of the smell, with his light footprints being printed (in my dream world) with an aqueous coating to give them a little sheen when tilted in the light.
Manhunt by James L. Swanson
In honor of the first issue of best-comic-concept-ever, Time Lincoln, arriving in the mail this past week, I thought I would make a new cover for one of my favorite nonfiction books: Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer.
As the title implies, it follows the days after Lincoln was assassinated and the hunt for John Wilkes Booth. You can find out more about it here.
Battle Royale by Koushun Takami
Battle Royale is a book that has been on my to-read list for quite a while. Last weekend, I finally had a chance to sit down and watch the movie that came out based on the book and it was definitely interesting.
The basic gist of the story is that in the near future, Japan’s society is crumbling as their economy and job market are drying up. Because of this, students in Japan start neglecting school and treat their teachers and other adults with extreme disrespect. As a result, the Japanese government creates the Battle Royale Act. In order to restore fear into the students and get them to respect adults, each year a random classroom of students is chosen to compete to the death.
Sent to a deserted island, they are each given a small bag of food, water and a random weapon. They have 3 days to compete and there can only be one remaining student. If there are more than 1 remaining after 3 days, all that remain are killed. Pretty grisly.
If you’ve heard of the recently completed Hunger Games trilogy, those books pull heavily from the premise established in Battle Royale.
Getting back to my cover, I wanted to do something clean and concise…so I gave a gruesome twist to the Japanese flag. My darker interpretation of the flag features a blood spatter in place of the normal simple red circle on white.
Find out more about the book here.
The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean
Admittedly, this is one of the nerdier books I’ve taken on, but if you were ever a fan of Bill Nye the Science Guy, you should check this one out. In The Disappearing Spoon, Science magazine reporter Sam Kean takes on the periodic table and tells short funny and interesting tales associated with each of the elements.
For my cover, I used the periodic table as inspiration and flooded the space with random elements, leaving white space to fill in the shape of the disappearing spoon of the title.
You can find out more about the book here.