They say you can't judge a book by its cover—but that hasn't stopped anyone from trying. An original and visually engaging cover can help make the difference between a flop and a smash, and over the years more than a few designers have taken the creative and mysterious process to levels of supreme beauty and imagination. Peter Mendelsund is that kind of designer and Cover is the story of his love affair with books.
Renowned and award-winning designer of many best-selling books, Peter Mendelsund has enjoyed years as a much-sought-after designer and art director. Amongst the many recognizable covers he has created are those for the American edition of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and the following books of the Millennium trilogy; collections of the works of Joyce, Kafka, Dostoevsky, de Beauvoir, Bernhard, and Camus; the contemporary works of Peter Carey, Martin Amis, Tom McCarthy, Ben Marcus, Rick Bragg, and James Gleick; and many more. All have greatly benefitted from the care and touch Mendelsund gave their jackets.
The entire story of a book cover—from the moment a book is initially acquired to when it finally appears on bookstores' shelves—is explained and illustrated in Cover. Cover abounds with Mendelsund's completed book jackets along with ephemera from his previously unseen creative processes, including jacket sketches, interior art and illustrations, editorial illustration, and scores of rejected drafts. These images are punctuated by Mendelsund's reflections on his work and his process, as well as by texts from writers with whom he has worked and designed for, including bestselling crime writers, Pulitzer and Booker Prize-winning fiction and non-fiction authors, well-known scientists, actors, and politicians.
Cover is a compendium of beautiful design and a beautiful design object itself; a profile and celebration of one of the publishing world's most talented and prolific contemporary creators, and a brilliant showcase of his deft touch for balanced and innovative design.
"There's the old adage, of course, about not judging a book by its cover, but in this case I'd be delighted to have people make that leap—I think I'd easily come out the better for it."
—Scott Smith, Bestselling author of A Simple Plan and The Ruins
"Among the most beautiful book jackets I have ever seen."
—Rick Bragg, Pulitzer-Prize-winning author of All Over But the Shoutin'
"Thanks for what was not only the most memorable day of my life as a writer but also the most fun."
—Tom McCarthy, author of C and Remainder
"A contemporary design genius."
—Craig Thomson, Bestselling author of Blankets and Habibi
About the Author
Peter Mendelsund is the associate art director of Alfred A. Knopf Books, and a recovering classical pianist. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and two daughters.
Praise for Cover…
"He suffers from a surfeit of ideas. In the past decade, Mr. Mendelsund has designed about 600 book jackets, ranging from a sober, sophisticated cover for Tolstoy’s 'War and Peace' to his whimsical Pop Art-like treatment of Kafka’s novella 'Metamorphosis,' to the hypnotic fluorescent swirls on Stieg Larsson’s thriller 'The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.'" -The New York Times
"'Cover' is foremost a visually enticing tour of some of the most important books of recent times, made even more memorable by Mendelsund’s daring covers. The beautifully designed volume is nicely paced with a mix of testimonials from authors whose book covers Mendelsund has designed, along with his own comments on various aspects of the design process." -The Washington Post
"Among book designers, Peter Mendelsund is the best reader of all. You always recognize one of his covers when you see it, and it’s not because he tends toward certain colors or typefaces—quite the opposite. Rather, it’s something about the way the cover illuminates the text. You can tell he didn’t just read the manuscript; he internalized it. The result somehow feels both inevitable and surprising: the only possible solution but one you could never dream up yourself." -Bomb
"'Cover' provides insight into the designer's process and pushes us to reconsider what we think we know about the graphic representation of words and ideas." -New Republic
“Once in a while I'm presented with covers that cross the barriers of cultural reference and visual language. That feel universal. That feel like perfect starts to stories. Covers that I don't want the reader to forget, but to carry with them throughout my books. Those covers are Peters Mendelsund's covers."—Jo Nesbø, author of The Snowman
“Upbeat and thrilling to look at, his designs are works of art, and at the same time they encapsulate the writer’s truest goal.”—Nicholas Fox Weber, author of Le Corbusier, and The Bauhaus Group
“Peter Mendelsund is a true artist.” —Ben Marcus, author of The Flame Alphabet
“Peter Mendelsund has the ability to visually and conceptually distill a narrative in such a way that it seems effortlessly inventive, striking, smart, fresh and yet classic. And he does it again and again and again. How I hate him.” —Chip Kidd
“He’s the exact visual correlative of what I think contemporary literature should be, but usually isn’t doing.”—Tom McCarthy, author of Remainder