Three covers from the selection, pictured side-by-side

Penguin Designers on their favourite covers of 2020

From wartime thrillers to literature in translation, these books show why you should judge them by their covers. 

When should you judge a book by its cover? When it is offering something innovative, beautiful, creative and extraordinary. This year may have been a strange one, but 2020 was nevertheless a boon time for cover design. Here, designers from across Penguin Random House choose their favourite covers of the year, and explain how they came to be in a crucial reminder that books are made up of far more than just words.

Untold Night and Day by Bae Suah

Pine by Francine Toon

The Hungover Games by Sophie Heawood

Miss Austen by Gill Hornby

V2 by Robert Harris

Epitaphs for Underdogs by Andrew Szepessy

Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake

Night. Sleep. Death. The Stars. by Joyce Carol Oates

The cover of Joyce Carol Oates' Night Sleep Death Stars

Chosen by Richard Bravery, Art Director at Penguin General

I first saw this cover back in June and six months on it’s still just as annoyingly pleasing to the eye. Annoying because it’s one of those designs you can’t help but wish you had designed yourself.

The cover, designed by Jamie Keenan, is deceptively simple, and the more you look at it the more you see and the more it rewards you. On the face of it repetition and harmony are at the heart of the design – 7 rows of words with equal letters that harmonise with the space creating an almost perfect square for each letter. But the real beauty is in its craft and the imperfections – the woven ribbons of paper seem to speak for the lives and narratives of the family in the book, their characters and flaws are borne out in the dents and folds of the paper, and the heavy shadows tell you this is a book with huge emotional heart and depth. The final result is a tactile, intrinsically human, beautifully balanced, imperfectly perfect, envy inducing design.

Braised Pork by An Yu

Ottolenghi FLAVOUR by Yotam Ottolenghi

Another Now by Yanis Varoufakis

Letters from Lockdown, with a foreword by Evan Davis

Verge by Lidia Yuknavitch

The cover of Verge by Lidia Yuknavitch

Chosen by Ceara Elliot, Senior Designer at Cornerstone

With so many fab covers designed this year, I found it an impossible task to pick just one. However, a favourite of mine is Verge by Lidia Yuknavitch, designed by Rachel Willey. It always stops me in my tracks, which I think is a big achievement in the book cover world. The contrast and abrupt interruption of wolf meeting rainbow is so alluring and strangely beautiful. I also just love the abnormality of the whole package, it’s refreshing to see type twisting and turning. Its smooth, three-dimensional and somehow hypnotic quality always invites me to stop, stare and be inspired.

Image: Alicia Fernandes/Penguin

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