Judging Books by Their Covers with Karen Joy Fowler

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covers

Karen Joy Fowler’s We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves was the pick this month for a city-wide reading experience called Nashville Reads. (It’s also up for the PEN/Faulkner award and was named a Best of 2013 pick by The New York TimesSlateChicago TribuneLibrary Journal, and BookPage, among others. Obviously we’re not the only ones who liked it.) Originally published in America last summer, it’s now being released in the UK and in the US as a paperback. As we admire the colorful variety of these three editions, Fowler talks with Musing about book covers — her own and others — that have left an impression on her.

Do you have a favorite of the covers for Beside Ourselves?

I like the colors in the US hardcover the best, but I like the texture – the leaves are raised though that may not be obvious from an image – and the more ambiguous hanging figure on the UK cover. Both are very easy to see in the bookstore, although perhaps that’s just me – I can spot my own book across any crowded room.

Unlike some of my friends (I name no names) I’ve never had a cover I didn’t like and many that I loved. I’ve no good sense of marketing strategies, so my judgments are only about what pleases me aesthetically. The original cover of my first novel, Sarah Canary, remains my favorite. But I’ve had a bunch of good ones.

 

What are some of your favorite covers of books written by others? Maybe 10 or so?

I’m traveling, which means I can’t go look for choices, which is maybe a good thing since I’m restricted to what I remember and remembering seems like as good a way of evaluating a cover as any. Here are a few:

Wonderbook
The most recent cover that left an impact is Jeff VanderMeer’s Wonderbook, an anthology in which I do have an essay.  There is a lot of artwork in the Wonderbook and it’s all pretty amazing.  A beautiful, beautiful book.
"There was a fad for empty shoes a while back that I liked while it lasted.  I liked the red shoes on Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie, but my favorite of these was Dan Chaon’s You Remind Me of Me, which is also such a fantastic title.  The shoes on the Chaon cover are tied together."
There was a fad for empty shoes a while back that I liked while it lasted. I liked the red shoes on Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie, but my favorite of these was Dan Chaon’s You Remind Me of Me, which is also such a fantastic title. The shoes on the Chaon cover are tied together.
"I loved the peach on John Lanchester’s The Debt to Pleasure."
I loved the peach on John Lanchester’s The Debt to Pleasure…
"The sky and upside down buildings on Helen Oyeyemi’s The Opposite House."
…the sky and upside down buildings on Helen Oyeyemi’s The Opposite House…
"The mirrored images in Borge’s Labyrinths."
…and the mirrored images in Borge’s Labyrinths.
"Small Beer Press does a wonderful job of packaging their books.  I particularly like the floating clouds of face and city on Kalpa Imperial by Angélica Gorodischer, the monster on Nathan Ballingrud’s North American Lake Monsters, and the clock on Maureen McHugh’s After the Apocalypse."
Small Beer Press does a wonderful job of packaging their books. I particularly like the floating clouds of face and city on Kalpa Imperial by Angélica Gorodischer, the monster on Nathan Ballingrud’s North American Lake Monsters, and the clock on Maureen McHugh’s After the Apocalypse.
"Short story collections must be very hard to encapsulate in an image, but I thought Eileen Gunn’s Stable Strategies with its tiny bomb was really wonderful and also the ring of images on Jonathan Lethem’s The Wall of the Sky, the Wall of the Eye."
Short story collections must be very hard to encapsulate in an image, but I thought Eileen Gunn’s Stable Strategies with its tiny bomb was really wonderful and also the ring of images on Jonathan Lethem’s The Wall of the Sky, the Wall of the Eye.

Wow. You have a quite a memory for covers. Thank you!

Thank you for this! It was different and fun. And that’s more than the 10 I was asked for though probably less than I need to be thorough. I will, of course, remember the covers I should have remembered shortly after this gets posted.

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Karen Joy Fowler will discuss We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves at the Nashville Public Library on April 1, 2014, at 6:15 p.m. The event, part of the Salon@615 series, is free, although seating is limited and tickets are required. (Note: Advance online tickets are no longer available. A limited number of free tickets will be available on-site on the day of the event. We recommend that you arrive early for the on-site ticket line.) 

For more with Karen Joy Fowler, enjoy the interview she did with our friends at Chapter 16. 

And speaking of covers… Tomorrow is April 1. You’re going to want to check out the special selections on our Staff Recs shelves. They’ll also be up on our tumblr, Lucky Stars. 

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Load up your shelves with beautiful covers:  

$16.00
ISBN-13: 9780142180822
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Plume, 3/2014


Wit’s End (Paperback)

$15.00
ISBN-13: 9780452290068
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Plume, 4/2009


$16.00
ISBN-13: 9780452286535
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Plume, 5/2005


Sarah Canary (Paperback)

$14.00
ISBN-13: 9780452286474
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Plume, 8/2004


Sister Noon (Paperback)

$16.00
ISBN-13: 9780452283282
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Plume, 5/2002
$12.00
ISBN-13: 9781604868258
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 days
Published: PM Press, 11/2013


$16.00
ISBN-13: 9781931520485
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 days
Published: Small Beer Press, 5/2012

$13.95
ISBN-13: 9780385722209
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 days
Published: Anchor, 10/2002

$24.95
ISBN-13: 9781419704420
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 days
Published: Harry N. Abrams, 10/2013

You Remind Me of Me (Paperback)

$15.00
ISBN-13: 9780345441409
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 days
Published: Ballantine Books, 4/2005

The Debt to Pleasure (Paperback)

(This edition has pears on the cover.)
$16.00
ISBN-13: 9780312420369
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 days
Published: Picador, 12/2001

$13.95
ISBN-13: 9781400078769
Availability: Special Order – Subject to Availability
Published: Anchor, 6/2008

$15.95
ISBN-13: 9780811216999
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: New Directions Publishing Corporation, 5/2007

$16.00
ISBN-13: 9781931520058
Availability: Special Order – Subject to Availability
Published: Small Beer Press, 8/2003

$16.00
ISBN-13: 9781618730602
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 days
Published: Small Beer Press, 7/2013

$16.00
ISBN-13: 9781931520294
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 days
Published: Small Beer Press, 10/2011

$14.95
ISBN-13: 9781892391186
Availability: Special Order – Subject to Availability
Published: Tachyon Publications, 9/2004

(Different cover on this one.)
$16.95
ISBN-13: 9780156032483
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 days
Published: Mariner Books, 3/2007