TTT: 10 Books with Birds on the Cover

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. Be sure to check out different takes on this week’s freebie topic on her site!

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“Gee, I wish I were outside.” – Gizmo

We are currently bird sitting for one of my partner’s coworkers. Gizmo is an adorable green-cheeked conure, but goodness birds are so much work! We’ve learned a lot about her though in the time we’ve spent together. She loves sunflower seeds and grapes, makes the cutest noise when she finds a tunnel, and is generally too smart for her own good. Although my partner was hoping he’d bond with the bird more, the bird has definitely glommed onto me. So needless to say, I haven’t gotten all that much done except entertain this little lady and birds have been on my brain. Since this week is a freebie, I thought we could do 10 books with birds on the cover.

I went through my to-read list on Story Graph, and there were 36 books with birds featured prominently on the cover. So to make this list a little more interesting (and to narrow it down, quite frankly). Here’s 10 books each featuring a different bird/s. Let me know if any of these covers intrigue you to read more–which is the greatest compliment you can give to a cover in my opinion.

The Book of Goose by Yiyun Li

I think this cover is quite stunning.

The angles of the birds heads are unusual (though not totally unnatural) and intriguing.

The detailed birds contrast so beautifully with the stark orange semi-circle representing the sun. And that handwritten font is just perfect.

genre: fiction

mood: dark and fairy tale-esque

Parakeet by Marie-Helene Bertino

Don’t you love the way they did the typography on this cover? Like a bird’s screech, the title grows larger, impossible to ignore. I also really like the plain background and the bird impossibly sitting atop and upside down elevator button.

In the book, a young woman is about to be married and is visited by the spirit of her dead grandmother in the form of a parakeet. In my family, we say we’re being visited by departed family members whenever we see a hummingbird–so this feels like a really intriguing take on that idea.

genre: fiction

mood: funny, heart-warming, offbeat

The Wild Hunt by Emma Seckel

I don’t know if it’s just because I read so many fantasy books or if ravens and crows are just popular books for covers, but there were sooooooo many corvids to choose from. I really liked this cover, which showcases the beautiful iridescent feathers–just enough to clue you in on what bird it is, but still showcasing the beautiful abstract patterning.

Also that ‘H’? Gorgeous. And I love the way the wing partially obscures the title just like the way the bird is obscured. You can tell from the cover that this book is going to look at things a little differently.

genre: historical fiction

mood: mysterious & transporting

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

A deceptively simple cover– a white, textured silhouette of a bird on an ombre backdrop. But don’t you love how the feathers look like drips?

I really like the way the typography fits within the silhouette and looks hand drawn. It feels very playful and artisitic.

genre: young adult (YA)

mood: emotional (first love)

The Genius of Birds by Jennifer Ackerman

I didn’t choose a lot of nonfiction books about birds for this list, but this one has such a beautiful scrub jay on the cover that I couldn’t resist. The detailed Audobon-like rendering of the scrub jay is so lifelike, but then you have the sketched perch underneath, which makes the cover feel more self-aware and interesting.

genre: nonfiction

mood: informative, lyrical

Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng

I’m not sure what type of feather this is (if anyone knows you should definitely leave it in the comments), but I love the way it dissolves into the birds who fly off onto the cover). It’s an especially appropriate cover for a protagonist named Bird and which takes inspiration from Dickinson’s “Hope is the thing with feathers” poem.

genre: literary fiction

mood: reflective, family drama

Other Birds by Sarah Addison Allen

A lot of books with magical elements use a raven on the cover, often intertwined with other gothic elements, so it’s nice to see a treatment of birds on a cover in such a bright blue. I like the midair flight layered on top of the bird cage and the way the typography echoes the colors. Very simple and elegant.

genre: magical realism

mood: whimsical, mysterious

When We Were Birds by Ayanna Lloyd Banwo

What’s better than one bird on the cover? Lots! And they blend so beautifully into this foliage–you have to hunt for them. Then you have the typography and the silhouettes intermixed…I just think this one is gorgeous.

genre: literary fiction, magical realism

mood: emotional, mysterious

Mostly Dead Things by Kristen Arnett

I think this spring green and hot pink combination is really striking. Maybe I’m just partial to it because I threw my aunt a baby shower in these colors. The title creates an interesting little puzzle for the viewer. If the things in the novel are mostly dead–does that mean the flamingo is alive or dead. Is it taxidermy on the cover?

Also I think there’s always something fantastical about a flamingo. They make me think of Alice in Wonderland. I like the fluid, bendy bird contrasted with the rough, all caps, poster like lettering.

genre: fiction

mood: dark comedy

Owls: Our Most Charming Birds by Matt Sewell

Not a groundbreaking cover, I’ll admit. But the owl illustrations are just too stinking cute. Plus I love owls. They’re the cutest little sky killers. If you like adorable bird illustrations, I think Sewell actually has several books. This would probably make a lovely little holiday gift for someone who enjoys owls. Which is probably almost everyone.

genre: nature, nonfiction

mood: informative

The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century by Kirk Wallace Johnson

Okay–so I couldn’t narrow it down to 10. But I think 11 is pretty good! Here’s another feather close-up. The museum-y label is the most distinctive thing about the cover, but feathers themselves have so much color and texture that it doesn’t matter. The type is simple, but I like how it’s woven around the featherrs.

I like true crime books most especially when they’re about thefts and heists, and this one seems like it’ll have all the thriller aspects you could ask for.

genre: nonfiction, true crime

mood: adventurous, mysterious

Did any of these covers catch your eye? Have you read any of these books? Share about books or bird stories in the comments!

TTT: An Ode to Jessica Hische’s Book Covers

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

The prompt for today was to talk about book covers that either were solely composed of type or used mainly typographic elements. I cannot think of many designers that design more beautiful covers than Jessica Hische.

Jessica Hische, Penguin Drop Cap Series

Hische is a letterer, author, and a Brooklyn transplant to the Bay area. I think I probably discovered her work in/around 2010 when she was working on her popular Daily Drop Cap series as a way to keep motivated and keep designing between freelance gigs. Everyday (or at least regularly), she’d publish a different letter in a different style. I think all told there were 12 complete alphabets between 2009-2011, as well as a guest illustrated series.

Buttermilk font: https://jessicahische.is/makingherfirstfont

Within months, it was being talked about all across the far reaches of the internet. I encountered her while I was just starting to dip my toe in the calligraphy waters and looking for alphabet inspiration. I found, and still find, her forms to be so beautiful. Somehow even the ones that are supposed to be kind of creepy and gothic are still approachable, full of gorgeous curves. The fonts on her site that you can buy have names like Buttermilk and Brioche, words calculated to show off her ascenders, show off the forms of the letters, but also words which covey mood and tone. Everything looked different, but still had undeniable style. And the fact that the style was fun, often bubbly, and vintage inspired makes everything she does feel like a glass of champagne–worth toasting.

“If you feel like you know Jessica Hische a bit from her output, you might not be all that off-base, and you certainly wouldn’t be alone. It’s been written that her work has “personality,” but it might be more accurate to say that her work has presence—her presence. In my experience, what you see is really what you get.”

Zachary Petit, Design Matters Media Editor-in-Chief
“After working with Dave Eggers on Hologram for the King I was pumped to be brought on board to design his new book, The Circle. It was especially fun to design this cover, as I’ve spent the last two years living in San Francisco surrounded by the tech industry (my husband works for Facebook) and the story is set in an influential social media company. I also had to design a logo for the fictitious company, The Circle, and was inspired by the interweaving connectivity of social media sites and also knots that once tight are difficult to untie.” – Hische, for Knopf https://jessicahische.is/joiningthecircle

Even though I was primarily doing calligraphy, I found a lot more of my inspiration looking to lettering artists than calligraphers in particular. Calligraphers often had absolutely spellbinding mastery of the technique and medium, but they were largely working in older, established styles, and I wanted to work in more of the tone and mood that other letterers use.

See more of her work here: https://jessicahische.is/working

Now she’s gotten much, much more recognition, such as being named in Forbes’ 30 under 30 list in design, she’s become a children’s book author in her own right, and she’s worked with some of the biggest names you can work with across a huge spectrum of industries.

Hische for Barnes & Noble

Besides doing the design work for her own books, she’s also designed the drop cap series of Penguin classics, worked on the probably familiar range of classics for Barnes & Noble, and has designed work for numerous other books.

Book covers are somewhat unique in design industries, I think, because the artist’s name actually goes on the book. While most design products don’t give their designers credit, book covers do. I’m sure that must be an attractive aspect of doing lettering work–because if someone likes the cover of a book they know exactly who to commission. And it adds an element of pressure because if you don’t capture the book, well…. your name lives on it forever. But I don’t think Hische really needs to worry about that.

Hische designed the cover and did the original embroidery for this guidebook from The Little Bookroom. https://jessicahische.is/embroideringabookcover

“reading the book I’m doing the cover for gives me more conceptual and visual inspiration than spending a day in a rare books library”

Jessica Hische, in an interview with The Everygirl
Hische for Barnes & Noble, my photograph

Taking just her cover for Oscar Wilde into consideration, we can see some of the direct inspiration for the text. Everything is beautiful, but it still has hard, even sharp edges (the little triangles on the capitals as well the serifs) while still staying true to the Victorian aesthetic the book cultivates and critiques. The paisley flourishes call to mind peacock tails (and their associations with beauty and vanity). Also, while all the covers feature some kind of border, this cover is one of the only in the series that can be said to have a frame.

Even though I haven’t touched a calligraphy pen for a while now, I still find lettering and typography to be intensely interesting. It’s just another way to make you feel something when you look at a word or a phrase and I’m fascinated by how forms and art influence our perception of words and things more generally. And seeing how lettering can bring books to life is so inspiring to me. I encourage you to seek out Jessica Hische’s work–there’s so much more than I could possibly show here and I love how they all take direct inspiration from the books themselves.

Do you have a favorite typographic cover? Let me know in the comments.

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Books with Hands on the Cover

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

I actually have two TBRs. I have the one that I keep on my phone through Story Graph and the stack of books I own. When I buy a book off of my digital TBR, I take it off the list. This is the easiest way I’ve found of making my TBR available for my family to browse for gifts–they don’t have to worry about buying me a book I already own. And it means that at the library or when shopping I don’t have to sort through it either.

That does mean however, that there is always wayyyyyy too much to read. So for this cover prompt I decided to see what commonalities I could find between the covers I own. The answer was not that much, but after some sorting I realized that there are a lot of covers with hands. Some are disembodied, some are suggestions (gloves for example), but these are covers that have hands featured in some way.

I wanted to write a short discussion/analysis of what’s on the covers and what they’re achieving because although you maybe shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, you can still learn a lot from it!

Portrait in Sepia by Isabel Allende – The cover photo by Marcia Lieberman features a young woman holding a garment of some kind in one hand and the control for a camera in the other. As if this is the moment before a photograph rather than a moment captured in one. She’s the subject of the reader’s gaze but clearly the reader is the subject of hers as well. It’s a creative and arresting image.

Cleopatra Dismounts by Carmen Boullosa – The stylized art deco version of an Egyptian painting really draws attention to the hands with the stiff, geometric angles. This photo was taken by E. O. Hoppé, who was a German-born British photographer starting in the early 1900s. Egyptian revival and costume were becoming more popular in the 1920s, which makes total sense if you think about how Art Deco and Egyptian painting both value a stylized geometric and decorative style. On the cover this is echoed by the golden suns. The archival photo lets the reader know that the story is likely to take place in the past, but that the subject is a living, breathing person in three dimensions.

Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter – Angela Carter’s novel features what we can only assume to be an aerialist, but with no visible means of support, an almost fluid grace (that reminds me of Elastigirl from The Incredibles), and her position within a decorated frame, we seem to be looking at a circus poster rather than the performer herself. I think this cover adds to what I’m sure will be the magic of the book, and the sharp edges of the performer’s nose, feet, wings, and fingers let us know that the story will not be as light in tone as the effortless pose and fluffy cotton candy pink might suggest.

¡Caramba! by Nina Marie Martinez – In what looks like an old travel poster or postcard, a woman hold a red bird in the palm of her hand. It even matches her fingernails. Because of the way the blue splash is positioned, her hand almost looks like it’s been severed from her body. It adds a little bit of surrealism to the cover and mystery. Especially when coupled with the blue bar that’s been put across someone’s eyes in the bottom corner. From this picture I definitely get a sense that nothing is exactly as it seems.

The Medieval Kitchen: A Social History with Recipes by Hannele Klemettilä – Interestingly, although the title mentions the kitchen, the cover painting chooses to focus on an important feast, showing that medieval kitchens probably would rarely have been the focus of art or commemoration. This is a reproduction of a page from a medieval Book of Hours, produced in about 1380 for the Duc Jean de Berry. This page illustrates Jesus’s first miracle, turning water to wine at the wedding at Cana. Hands had special status in medieval art (you can learn more from this pdf from a Getty exhibit) and the hands here can be read symbolically, but I won’t go into it or we’ll be here all week. I especially like the hands that mirror each other on the left hand side of the portrait. This picture illustrates the centrality of religion and feast in a lord’s medieval kitchen.

Poemcrazy by Susan Goldsmith Woolridge – The photo on the cover was taken by Lincoln Clarkes in 1988, and it manages to feel much older than that as if a Victorian or Edwardian woman has simply decided to take flight. It’s a not entirely carefree pose, as with one hand she reaches up to grasp her hat. Her look is less joyful and more enigmatic, but her limbs are powerfully stretched. This is a woman who has made a leap–perfect for a book on writing where you are taking a leap into your imagination and then taking another leap onto the page.

Now for the disembodied hands!

Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey – This cover has a lot going on. The image of the hand echoes the title in a really beautiful way. You’ve got the disembodied hand with this interesting multicolored aura and an all seeing eye. It’s not on the palm like we might expect from a hamsa, this makes it feel more unexpected and fresh, and of course it allows the hand to be partially closed to cross the fingers in a lie. In this book we might expect an unreliable narrator, some play with genre, and a little irreverence. And we learn all that from a fairly simple but striking graphic.

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro – You might be wondering, if this hand is attached to a body, why did I put this hand here? It’s because of the way the photograph has been disassembled and surreally reassembled. There are actually three hands on the cover and they don’t appear where you’d expect them to be. The left gloved hand is almost in the center, and the high contrast means your eye is drawn to it right away. It shows a hint of this person’s identity but also shows that something is fractured or fracturing. It’s super intriguing to me, especially the way part of the image is flipped.

True Biz by Sara Nović – The attention to the hand on this cover makes total sense when you know that it’s about sign language in the deaf community. I really like the patterns and different colors on the fingers echoing the different colors of the letters, as the hand is really representing those different letters in the alphabet. It draws attention to the meaning of each hand position and each gesture. I’m not sure what conclusion to draw from the fact that it’s the right hand on the left side of the cover. I didn’t expect that and only discovered it when I made the same shape with my hands.

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters – A dark vignette reveals an empty pair of white kid gloves, photographed by Jeff Cottenden. The emptiness really suggests a kind of absence or loss, even as the gloves seem to be embracing each other. The gloves also hint that this is a historical novel as gloves haven’t been in vogue for some time. It’s a fairly simple image but it’s very evocative.

Do any of these covers catch your eye? Do you have a favorite cover that features a hand? Have you read any of these? Let me know in the comments!

Goodreads Cover Guessing Challenge

We all know that we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but it’s extremely difficult not to do just that. Rosema from A Reading Writer (check out her blog!) nominated me for this fun challenge where we see if the prejudice can work in reverse–can you know the contents of a book just by looking at its cover?

So here’s how it works:

I pick a few (5) books from my Goodreads recommended list (feel free to add me as a friend on Goodreads), and I guess what the contents are from the cover. Then I compare it to the blurb Goodreads puts down for the book and see what comes up.

In keeping with my women writers challenge, I’ll only look at books by female authors. And hopefully I’ll find some things to add to my to-read list.

Weight by Jeanette Winterson

weight

The figure fending off the snake carries either a weapon or a rolled up paper in (his?) hand. The title could refer to literal weight, but I think it’s more like that the weight references a more figurative kind of burden. The snake could also be literal or (more likely) figurative danger to the protagonist. Given the cover, I think the protagonist is a male who has to overcome extreme psychological burdens in order to become a self-actualized human being. His struggle probably has something to do with success vs. failure, possibly with crime, and not love or family issues.

“When I was asked to choose a myth to write about, I realized I had chosen already. The story of Atlas holding up the world was in my mind before the telephone call had ended. If the call had not come, perhaps I would never have written the story, but when the call did come, that story was waiting to be written. Rewritten. The recurring language motif of Weight is ‘I want to tell the story again.’ My work is full of cover versions. I like to take stories we think we know and record them differently. In the retelling comes a new emphasis or bias, and the new arrangement of the key elements demands that fresh material be injected into the existing text. Weight moves far away from the simple story of Atlas’s punishment and his temporary relief when Heracles takes the world off his shoulders. I wanted to explore loneliness, isolation, responsibility, burden, and freedom, too, because my version has a very particular end not found elsewhere.” — from Jeanette Winterson’s Foreword to Weight

So… if I had seen the cover in a larger picture, I probably could have picked up more on the whole Atlas/Heracles thing, since it’s printed on the cover. The thumbnail doesn’t do that much justice. But I feel like I vaguely sensed the mood of the story, if not its plot. At all. Still–I love adaptations of myths–so this probably will make my to-read list.

The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean

madonnas

“Madonnas” is an interesting description that could mean anything from great beauties to some sort of holy order to even a tongue in cheek description of prostitutes. Leningrad helps to suggest a time period close to the time of the revolution in Russia, so my guess would be this book is set in the 1920s-30s. I think that the book has to do with the relationships between a group of misunderstood women who are set apart from others because of either a higher or lower status–but they are definitely “other.” It’s probably a little bit sad, but (hopefully) has uplifting and beautiful moments that make you newly identify with the time and the characters.

Bit by bit, the ravages of age are eroding Marina’s grip on the everyday. And while the elderly Russian woman cannot hold on to fresh memories—the details of her grown children’s lives, the approaching wedding of her grandchild—her distant past is preserved: vivid images that rise unbidden of her youth in war-torn Leningrad.

In the fall of 1941, the German army approached the outskirts of Leningrad, signaling the beginning of what would become a long and torturous siege. During the ensuing months, the city’s inhabitants would brave starvation and the bitter cold, all while fending off the constant German onslaught. Marina, then a tour guide at the Hermitage Museum, along with other staff members, was instructed to take down the museum’s priceless masterpieces for safekeeping, yet leave the frames hanging empty on the walls—a symbol of the artworks’ eventual return. To hold on to sanity when the Luftwaffe’s bombs began to fall, she burned to memory, brushstroke by brushstroke, these exquisite artworks: the nude figures of women, the angels, the serene Madonnas that had so shortly before gazed down upon her. She used them to furnish a “memory palace,” a personal Hermitage in her mind to which she retreated to escape terror, hunger, and encroaching death. A refuge that would stay buried deep within her, until she needed it once more. . . .

I was definitely wrong about the book having multiple protagonists, and though normally being within a decade of the setting would make me happy, the fact that it’s set in WWII gives the whole book an extremely different feeling than it would have in another era. Also, the madonnas referred to are works of art, so that’s way off too. Still, it sounds like a pretty good book.

The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz

spellman

The group sitting on the bench is completely obscured by the newspaper they’re reading, with the exception of their eyes, which peer through the pages. This suggests some sort of deception to me, so I would say that this book is a mystery in which a main character is solving…maybe not a murder because there’s a child in the picture too (which is not to say that children can’t be murderers, but it leaves me to suspect otherwise). It could be a matter of family inheritance or something equally innocuous. It could just be a novel about one person trying to find a role in their particular family drama…

Meet Isabel “Izzy” Spellman, private investigator. This twenty-eight-year-old may have a checkered past littered with romantic mistakes, excessive drinking, and creative vandalism; she may be addicted to Get Smart reruns and prefer entering homes through windows rather than doors — but the upshot is she’s good at her job as a licensed private investigator with her family’s firm, Spellman Investigations. Invading people’s privacy comes naturally to Izzy. In fact, it comes naturally to all the Spellmans. If only they could leave their work at the office. To be a Spellman is to snoop on a Spellman; tail a Spellman; dig up dirt on, blackmail, and wiretap a Spellman.

Mystery–check. Family drama–check. Suspicious family–check.

Seven Daughters and Seven Sons by Barbara Cohen and Bahija Lovejoy

daughters

The young person in the picture is fairly androgynous. Based on the headdress, I would hazard a guess at male, but the veil he lifts in front of his face could suggest some sort of cross-dressing going on, or perhaps just an air of mystery. I would guess that the book takes place either in the middle east or in the India/Pakistan area. As for plot, it’s probably a retelling of some sort of myth, possibly from the Arabian nights. From the tiny thumbnail, I can’t tell what the writing underneath says. That would probably give me more clues. There’s probably some sort of magic involved, possibly some mysticism.

In an ancient Arab nation, one woman dares to be different. Buran cannot—Buran will not—sit quietly at home and wait to be married to the man her father chooses. Determined to use her skills and earn a fortune, she instead disguises herself as a boy and travels by camel caravan to a distant city. There, she maintains her masculine disguise and establishes a successful business. The city’s crown prince comes often to her shop, and soon Buran finds herself falling in love. But if she reveals to Mahmud that she is a woman, she will lose everything she has worked for.

Well I consider that a check for cross-dressing. It’s not a play on the Arabian nights, but it’s set in a similar setting, so that’s something. The close up of the cover reveals that the jewel looking thing in the protagonist’s turban is actually a man. So that’s interesting.

The Woman Reader by Belinda Jack

reader

A book about a woman who loves to read–possibly at the risk of being (gasp) more intelligent than her male counterparts. She’s probably better educated than many of her peers and set apart because of this, which will either bring her opportunity or despair.

This lively story has never been told before: the complete history of women’s reading and the ceaseless controversies it has inspired. Belinda Jack’s groundbreaking volume travels from the Cro-Magnon cave to the digital bookstores of our time, exploring what and how women of widely differing cultures have read through the ages.

Well. It’s about reading. Actually, this is even more interesting–a non fiction book about the history of literary women. Definitely on the to-read list.

A book’s cover is meant to capture interest and convey mood. These are the easiest things to gauge from a cover. While a picture may be worth a thousand words, it’s certainly not worth 300 pages worth of them. Would you read any of these books? If you have read them, what did you think of them?

So in keeping with the spirit of the challenge, here are my nominees. If you’ve already done the challenge, or you don’t want to, don’t feel obligated. And if you’d like to give this challenge a try, and you haven’t been nominated, consider yourself nominated by me.

Cora from Smalltown Bookworm

Amanda from Book Recs and Paperweights

Vive la Books

the lovely ladies at Tumbling into Wonderland