Sometimes, we receive a book at the store that piques my curiosity. Sometimes, we get something I’m excited about, and occasionally there’s a book I’m ready to immediately shuffle onto the shelves. On some rare and wonderful occasions, we get a book I’m so excited about that I push it on anyone and everyone who will listen to me.
Penguin 75 is that last kind of book.
This hefty collection, edited by Paul Buckley and with a forew0rd by Chris Ware, is a look at 75 of the good, bad and ugly covers Penguin Group has produced over the last decade. Each of the 75 books is accompanied by prospective and final jacket artwork, along with commentary from a member of the design staff (either an editor, art director or the actual artist) and the author. Many people judge books by their covers, and it is absolutely fascinating to read about all the thought that goes into every book’s final design.
There’s a fantastic variety in the authors whose covers were picked for the collection, as well as the artists who have done work for Penguin. Among the choice comments in Penguin 75 are thoughts from Garrison Keillor, Paul Auster, Tony Millionaire, Elizabeth Gilbert, seth, TC Boyle and Art Spiegelman. Though the covers in the book are only from the last decade, the books include some Penguin Classics and other less recent books that were re-released since 2000.
I’m a sucker for book covers, and great and terrible artistic choices entrance me equally. Not every jacket is beloved by everyone involved, and that’s where some of the most engaging entries in this book come from. Take Garrison Keillor’s novel Love Me, for example. The illustrator’s comments are short and sweet; basically, Jamie Keenan thought that the original scribble he did for the book worked the best as a cover. Keillor, on the other hand, really spends some time tearing into the cover. His commentary starts “This cover gives me a bad case of the yips” and ends “it’s a funny book, but you’d never know it from this.”
It’s tough to sell this book virtually, if only because the real fun of Penguin 75 is picking it up and flipping through the dozens and dozens of covers you’ve probably seen on the shelf. If you trust me enough to bite the bullet and buy the book sight unseen, you won’t be disappointed by the wealth of great art and remarks on books from Please Kill Me to Eat Pray Love. If you’re not yet convinced, check out the preview below or look at the book at your local bookstore. If you happen to shop at my store, don’t worry about finding Penguin 75 – it’ll be the book I push into your hands when you walk in the door.
Penguin has a lengthy preview of Penguin 75, which includes Chris Ware’s foreword, on their website.