We’ve been told our whole lives not to judge a book by the cover. The thing is…that seems to apply more to people than to actual books, where we definitely, absolutely, judge books by their covers.
Crystal admitted as much. Saying she “absolutely won’t buy a book of [sic] the cover throws me off.” Same, girl. Same.
Because here’s the thing about avid readers: they want the real book. Yes, they read dozens on kindle unlimited, but they also want to fill their bookshelves with beautiful covers. They’re less likely to buy (and therefore read) the crappy covers.
But just remember that Amiee has the right idea.
Hide the cover! Care about what’s in the book! Or hell, just get the damn thing on your kindle, slide them in right next to the half-naked men on all those spicy erotica reads.
1. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
You wouldn’t think readers would hate this cover, considering this title was a National Book Award finalist. But some rankers have deemed it uncomfortable to look at, “like a constipated Jim Carrey”. We can’t aruge there.
Despite the cover, it’s ranked incredibly high. This book follows 4 college classmates as they move to New York to secure their futures. If you love brotherly bonds and love in a contemporary world with themes of the lives we’re born into, add it to your list!
2. Beach Read by Emily Henry
Many romance readers, despite still happily buying and devouring books like Beach Read, are actually tired of the animated or illustrated covers like this one here. They make these romances seem “silly” and immature when the stories and love woven between the pages are anything but.
In this crappily covered novel, two authors (romance and tragic literary fiction) are total opposites with a known thread to their childhood. January has writers block and wants to get away…when she becomes Augustus’s neighbor. With both writers completely blocked and frustrated with a lack of progress on their stories, January proposes a challenge:
He writes a romance story and she writes something without a happy ending.
3. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
Of course, with updates to the book and the movie adaptation, this has changed but when it first came out, the cover for The Hobbit was not good.
We’ve since seen many different versions of these covers, some great, and the one you’ll see most recently is more artistic and reminiscent of the modernized covers we’re seeing more of now. Despite its ugly early versions (which, who knows, could have been beautiful for the time), it’s incredibly popular for obvious reasons. If you haven’t yet dove into this book, try it out.
3. Mindf*ck Series by
Droves and droves of readers have claimed that not only are they in love with this series but that their obsession is only rivaled by how much they detest the covers.
And we all have to agree…this cover sucks. The author put all of these books into a single paperback, fitting 5 books into 692 pages and slapping this cover on it.
The covers for each individual book, when sold separately, are no better.
Enough so, it has 1801 ratings with a 4.8 star average—almost unheard of rankings by readers.
4. Pet Sematary by Stephen King
As with any older books, this one has had many different types of covers in its day. This version was agreed to be one of the worst. We’re not sure why it’s so bad; the drawn tear drop, the blurry real-person, or the writing inside the person’s mouth.
Despite the cover, it’s a strong story that follows Dr. Louis Creed as he moves his family to a town that seems to have an undercurrent of danger, what with the makeshift graveyard children have been burying their loved pets in for years.
Louis receives warnings in various forms, all with a very clear message: do not venture beyond the pet sematary. Under any circumstances.
5. The Love Hypothesis by
Once again the overly fake illustrated romance cover makes an appearance. It’s too simplistic and doesn’t do a good job of encompassing all that’s in this book.
This story follows third-year Ph.D. candidate Olive Smith. She doesn’t believe in lasting love. Or romance. Or any of that other lovey dovey crap. But her best friend will not have it, which means Olive now has to convince her love-obsessed bestie that she is, indeed, dating. Anything that’ll get her off her back.
But Olive doesn’t expect the young professor with a reputation for being a major dick to actually agree to be her fake boyfriend. And she definitely doesn’t expect what happens thereafter.
6. Killers of a Certain Age by
Compared to Golden Girls and James Bond, this thriller has a questionable cover for its contents. Older women feel invisible…but that can be extremely convenient when you don’t want to get caught.
Five women have worked for an elite network of assassins for forty years. When they’re sent on a retirement trip, they end up the target from their own people.
Now it’s time to put their skills to the test and survive in a world focused on technology when, in their time, it’s the people skills you have to rely on.
7. Dusty Series by Mary and Sarah Elizabeth
While these covers aren’t necessary bad, they just don’t fit the story, according to many readers. With 4.5/5 stars, readers rank it well and for good reason.
Everyone loves a forbidden love story. For this goodie-good girl, she knows she needs to stay away from him. Yes, him, the delinquent down the call.
Neither can stay away, though they aren’t allowed to be together.
8. The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton
This cover is, no doubt, outdated at best. There have been more than a few covers since, but for those who were first introduced to this cover…probably skipped the read.
It has a much better cover now, one that encompasses the story of Laurel as she witnesses a crime that changes everything she knows about her mother. Now, after fifty years, Laurel and her sisters return to the farm to celebrate their dear mother’s ninetieth birthday. This might be Laurel’s last chance to discover the truth about that day so long ago.
9. Master of Crows by Grace Draven
This fantasy romance might have had a cover that looks like it was pieces together in Microsoft Paint, but after selling enough copies to garner 1431 ratings with a 4.4/5 average, the cover has since been updated to fit its story.
Martise of Asher is a bondwoman on a dangerous path. She’s agreed to spy on the Silhara of Neith to expose treachery. The challenge isn’t in not being caught…it’s not falling in love with her target.
Oops…she’s already failed. That could make things messy.
10. On Dublin Street by Samantha Young
Unassuming covers are also considered bad. While this one keeps with the (already disagreed with) trend of illustrations for romances, readers point out that this book is much spicier than the cover lets on. The audiobook covers seems to do better.
This story follows Jocelyn four years after she left her tragic life in the States to start over in Scotland, hell bent on not getting attached. Forget that crap, that grief. Then she meets Braden, and for a while, he agreed to a no-strings attached life. But he seems insistent on getting to know her outside the bedroom just as much as inside.
11. Forever Never by Lucy Score
While Lucy Score’s more recent covers have been much improved, this one leaves too much to be desired. Despite that, with over 10,000 ratings and a 4.3/5 stars average, we can ignore the cover altogether.
This inconvenient love story of forbidden love focuses on one man and a girl he absolutely cannot be with because she’s his brother’s high school sweetheart. And his boss’s daughter. And his ex-wife’s best friend. A whole lot of should never happen ensues despite their attraction toward each other.
12. My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
It was good enough to get a show on HBO, that’s what we have to say. Despite these drab covers, the overall Neapolitan series have been a hit with fans.
Set in the 1950s in a poor neighborhood on the outskirts of Naples, this series spans 60 years as it follows the main characters through motherhood, becoming wives, leaders, and more. It’s focused on friendship and hardship, and life’s greatest lessons.
13. InCryptid Series by Seanan McGuire
Seanan McGuire has written plenty of wonderful books, including a highly rated portal fantasy series. This 12 book series is no different…except for the covers that are misogynistic at best, outdated at worst.
Despite the covers, readers rank this series highly, with the first book alone averaging 4.4/5 stars.
If you love urban fantasy and a capable female lead, dive into this series of things that go bump in the night.
14. Innkeeper Chronicles by Ilona Andrews
Ilona Andrews is a favorite author of many, but when it comes to her book covers, readers feel there’s a lot to be desired. Despite the covers, each of the books in this series average 4.6/5 stars or above.
If you’re into average ladies running Victoria Bed and Breakfasts…that just happens to be magic, then this series might be worth diving into.
15. A Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
These books have since been made over with some neon artwork but early fans of the series still have complaints about the original cover sitting on their shelves. While this cover isn’t necessarily ugly, it doesn’t really describe anything about the story.
But if you want to read the highly ranked story, it’s about a young art student in Prague as she’s pulled into a brutal otherworldly war with creatures she may or may not have been drawing in her sketchbook for years.
Not all authors get to choose their book covers. Sometimes there are reasons beyond the reader’s understanding for certain artwork to represent a book. But thanks to reader rankers everywhere, we know of the great books behind bad covers.
Happy reading, rankers 🙂