A lousy or insipid cover won’t turn me off from reading a good book, but a great wrapper heightens my appreciation of the book as an object. And a superb jacket — one that brilliantly conveys what the book is about in a single compelling image — can be enough to tempt me to buy an additional copy for display. Such is the case with a new series of covers for six Oliver Sacks titles from Vintage Books. Each cover deftly conveys in graphic shorthand the neurological abnormality Sacks describes; arranged together, the jackets form a powerful tableau of a cutaway view of a human head.
Pentagram has unveiled lovely new covers for seven Vladimir Nabokov titles. Far from the somber, desolate images that gum up many of Nabokov’s books — something we’ve never understood, given the playfulness of his prose — Pentagram’s designs introduce a gentle blast of whimsy. Each features an illustration, with a background pattern that riffs off a game, sport or an illusion relevant to the book.
Social media — "friends," "likes," status updates, check-ins — forces us to live in a perpetual present tense with no long-term memory. Tweets that get pushed down too far into the past get lost; god knows what happens to Facebook status updates. But if these digital scintillae are ever going to become a real basis for forming emotional memories, we need to be able to "fix" them somehow.
Film-edition books are always awful. As much as we love Vanessa Redgrave, we don’t want to look at her gauzy face every time we reach for Mrs. Dalloway. Which makes Penguin’s latest copy of The Little Red Riding Hood a sort of freak of nature. It’s got a movie tie-in, to be sure (note the unfortunate "inspiration for the major motion picture" tag on the cover), but it’s also completely awesome design — something we’d happily display on our bookshelf.
People love to jaw about the so-called "death of print" brought on by the Internet, but from where we're sitting, book design has never been more interesting. And Maria Fischer's "Traumgedanken" ("Thoughts on Dreams") goes one step further with a breathtaking design that uses delicately stitched thread to summon not just the skewing, unpredictable logic of dreams, but the connections of the web itself.
Infographic nerds: Put away your iPad and prepare to slobber all over your desk. Edward Tufte is auctioning off rare books from his private library.
Tufte, for people who don’t worship at the altar of the Y-axis, is the high priest of modern information design — the man behind texts like Envisioning Information and Beautiful Evidence and a resolute PowerPoint hater. His library is a polymath’s trove (and, more to the point, a peek inside his incredible mind). It has first-edition Galileos, esoteric Russian space charts, and stunning Picasso etchings.