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A cornucopia of book covers

November 21, 2009 | 10:30 am

The blog The Book Cover Archive has come up with a short, short list of its top 10 book covers of the aughts, with another 10 runners-up. There are special mentions for a handful of designers, but really, a group of 10  covers -- even 20 -- is not nearly enough.

This set has a heavy helping of covers that work as trompe d'oeil -- 2008's favorite, "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction," has a cover that appears to be the spines of a bunch of other books lined up in a neat row. But those lose some of their charm when reproduced digitally (it's hard to tell the difference between a clever cover made up of a picture of spines of books and a simple picture of the spines of books). And on balance, the top choices seem to be on the somber side, like a mix tape recorded on a gloomy day.

So there's good reason to go exploring the Book Cover Archive's archive. There are close to 1,200 covers on (cyber) display, sortable by publisher, designer, title. The archive is created with some serendipity -- generally, book covers are added around their publication date, but some are late additions.

But the sorting isn't the point so much as the gazing. Because the archive only includes those covers that merit appreciation, every one is worth a second look -- and displayed in arrays of 70 or more, they're a book lover's eye candy.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Image: Book covers for "Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth" by Chris Ware and Penguin's 70th anniversary reissue of John Steinbeck's "The Murder."