Peter Mendelsund and David Alworth think about what a cover can do at Literary Hub, in an extract from their book The Look of the Book: Jackets, Covers and Art at the Edges of Literature published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House. That link takes you to Bookshop.org, where, like me, you may end up a little disappointed by their jacket design! The nub of their LitHub piece: “The cover functions simultaneously as an invitation to potential readers and as an entryway into the universe that the writer has created, whether fictional, historical, autobiographical, or otherwise.”

The execution of such a program is shown in another LitHub post — 89 Best Book Covers of 2020.

For me this Penguin cover is the wittiest on show.

At the other end of the design spectrum, I have to say I hate the dumb knee-jerk way the Cap K has been turned round on this cover (from a different source). The essence of good design is that it should be as invisible as possible. When you are hit between the eyes by a trite idea like reversing the K which this designer has obviously done just because the Russian alphabet includes a character, “ya”, which is written like a back-to-front R, then everyone can immediately see the designer’s thought process, and agree that it was a lousy idea. The silliness is then exacerbated by dropping the K out to white to draw even more attention to the “cleverness”.