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Penguin

It’s one of the oldest adages in, well, the book: never judge one by its cover. And yet covers are crucial to our experience of choosing, buying and reading books, and are often a huge part of why we treasure them as much as we do.

Hours of conversations, ideas and designs go into honing the cover design for every single book brought out – not to mention the imaginative reprintings of beloved classics. Here are some that won us over at first sight. Which are yours?

Great Goddesses by Nikita Gill

As soon as I saw the gold foil on a white background, I knew I had to have Nikita Gill’s Great Goddesses. The Medusa with her snakes whirling around her, the tridents at the top and bottom of the design, the hand beckoning you forward: everything about the cover for this book draws you in. And it’s lucky it does, because you’ll want the words inside as much as the delicious beauty of that jacket. Gill sweeps us to the worlds of gods, goddesses, monsters and mythical creatures of times past, but brings their stories bang up to date. From the Me Too movement to war and motherhood, Gill’s collection of prose and prose is consuming and thought-provoking, and both the words and cover keep giving the more you study them.

Sarah Shaffi

Selfie by Will Storr

Selfie by Will Storr

Picador

It was a book, but it was also a mirror. Like a magpie, my eye was drawn instantly to it, glinting in the bookshop's strip lights. Selfie: How We Became So Self-Obsessed and What It's Doing To Us, read the cover, which I read noticing a new pimple on my face in its reflection. It was a clever cover for what I thought was a clever book about identity and the psychology of self-esteem. Also, Storr is a brilliant storyteller, weaving personal introspections around a parade of extraordinary characters to reveal how modern culture has mechanised narcissism on an industrial scale. Having read it, I definitely saw myself differently, which is the genius of the cover: it changes, slightly, with ever chapter you read.

Matt Blake

On Beauty by Zadie Smith

It's not like I needed any encouragement to read a new novel by Zadie Smith – like most followers of British fiction, I'd fallen for White Teeth five years earlier – but even without the famous name, 2005's On Beauty had a brilliantly striking cover. An elegant tangle of floral print, silhouette and rich, contrasting colours, it scatters your attention in a multitude of rewarding directions – a bit like the prose inside – and contains enough clever allusions to the story itself to reward another look when you're done. On Beauty remains my favourite of Smith's novels, and the spine my eyes always seem to alight on whenever I'm glancing over my bookshelf.

Sam Parker

The Wrong Place by Brecht Evens

The Wrong Place

Jonathan Cape

I can’t say I’ve ever picked up a novel based on a cover alone – I usually go to the bookstore with a title in mind already, then pick the edition of that book whose cover is nicest – but I do it all the time with graphic novels, where the cover (drawn and designed by the author almost every time) is typically a more reliable clue about the book’s contents. One of my best-ever finds was The Wrong Place. The flamboyant, vivacious watercolour cover not only caught my eye but promised exactly the colourful story of life’s bright possibilities Evens tells within. A beautiful book, in every way.

Stephen Carlick

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

I remember wandering idly through Waterstones with one goal in mind; to find something both historical and about magic. I stumbled across Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus. I'd never heard of the book before, or the author, but the cover reminded me straight away of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, with its simple colour palette and curlicued text. I'm a sucker for a top-hatted silhouette, so I picked up a copy, and I’m so glad I did. The story follows Le Cirque des Rêves and the people that inhabit it, namely two young magicians locked in a fierce competition, of imagination and will. Part coming-of-age love story, part time-hopping magical fantasy, there are so many different things to love about this novel. And with its soothing, lyrical prose, I can't think of a better place to revisit right now.

Francesca Pymm

Supper Club by Lara Williams

Keen-eyed observers might have noticed how book covers have become a little more ‘Instagram-friendly’ in recent years: bold text and clean lines help a book make a splash on the internet’s most image-focussed platform. And it was there that I first spotted Supper Club, with its aquamarine border around a clenched fist brimming with ripe blackberries, juice dripping down the wrist bloodily. It’s an arresting image, and Lara Williams’s debut is similarly so: lust, languor and appetite collide in a ferocious examination of femininity free of constraint. Supper Club’s cover isn’t beautiful, but it makes me feel almost deliciously uncomfortable – just as its contents did.

Alice Vincent 

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