We know, we know. You aren’t supposed to judge a book by its cover. But, damn, if it isn’t fun sometimes. And we all know that we’re more likely to pick up a book if the jacket art holds a little appeal. Here, in no official best-of fashion (we’re not artists, after all), we present just a few of our editors’ favorite book covers:

Read more of our Editors' Picks for favorite books of the year.

Fiction

American Masculine 

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Shann Ray

Buffaloes head-butting! Stars and Stripes! America at its finest! What’s not to love about this hyper-masculine cover art? The team over at Stephen Colbert couldn’t have come up with anything more American if they tried.

buzz Buzz Aldrin, What Happened to You in All the Confusion? 

Johan Harstad, translated by Deborah Dawkin

In addition to just having a dreamy, spacy, wonderful depiction of the ocean on its cover, we said that this book, “a modern saga of rocketships, ice floes and dreams of the Caribbean” was “great fun to read.” 

 

games1 Games to Play After Dark 

Sarah Gardner Borden

In Borden’s debut novel, she tackles the ups and downs of a marriage, from the very beginning when the protagonists first eyeball each other, through having children. We said that this book was a “page-turner that will both haunt and spark discussion,” but the awesome image of the shattered vase on the jacket against a stark black background is a fantastic example of cover art at its simplest—and most powerful.

 

fang The Family Fang 

Kevin Wilson

The cover art isn’t the only thing that’s reminiscent of the ultra-cool, retro look of The Royal Tenenbaums. We said of this novel about a slightly eccentric family full of performers that the “subtlety of the comedy is flawless, channeling the filmmaking of Wes Anderson or Rian Johnson.”  

 

nightcircus The Night Circus 

Erin Morgenstern

In one of the year’s most buzzed-about debuts, Morgenstern’s story of intrigue, delight and magic is set against the elaborate imagery of a circus after dark. The jacket doesn’t disappoint—just as mystical, it’s art that’s worthy of framing and putting on your wall.

 

 

Nonfiction

maphead Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks 

Ken Jennings

Most maps are cool-looking anyway, but this take on Jeopardy! winner Jennings’ book is a clever take on something that could’ve looked pretty standard. A so-called “map geek,” the author takes readers on a journey to visit “many present-day ‘mapheads’ who make, use, collect, buy and sell or steal maps.” We said that the book is “fun and informative,” but it would probably look pretty awesome on your coffee table, too.

 

neil Everyone Loves You When You’re Dead 

Neil Strauss

How do you sum up the 3,000 or so interviews you’ve done with the likes of Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen and more? Stick to an old-school newspaper-looking cover and scribble out your face with red. This book is a great conversation sparker, inside and out.

 

intern Intern Nation: How to Earn Nothing and Learn Little in the Brave New Economy

Ross Perlin

As we’ve learned—or should’ve learned—from those Occupy Wall Street scamps, finding work sucks, but even getting your foot in the door ain’t what it used to be. Perlin takes us on a journey of the New World Order of the working world—where you are expected to work for free for the “experience,” most likely doing menial tasks that add little to your portfolio. It’s a system that benefits, duh, employers too cheap to pay workers a fair wage. This cover of little yellow people is just so cute we almost forget the book's topic is sad. Almost.

 

tiger, tiger Tiger, Tiger 

Margaux Fragoso

Like a night-vision shot out of The X-Files, this cover is stark, scary and surreal. It’s a great fit for a memoir of such heavy subject matter—a lengthy relationship between a child and the man who sexually abused her. We said the book was “A gripping, tragic and unforgettable chronicle of lost innocence and abuse,” and a better cover for it is hard to imagine.

 

smoking Smoking Typewriters: The Sixties Underground Press and the Rise of Alternative Media in America

John McMillian

Like the best concert posters, the jacket to McMillian’s account of the underground ’60s press makes us want to start a band, break something or set something on fire. In short, it’s a fitting image to a riotous decade that kicked off one of journalism’s most useful little bastards—the alternative press, which is sadly dying a painful death as we speak. Lest we only get our news from CNN or gossip sites, let us remember there was a time when hardscrabble rabble-rousers pissed off city hall.

 

Dishonorable Mention:

fey Bossypants 

Tina Fey

Hey, we know you were trying to be funny and keep on that whole “I’m not that attractive—really” spiel you got going, but the Man Hands thing was just too creepy.