IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Pop Culture

Judge by their covers: Classic book designs reimagined

Not feeling drawn to that paperback with a museum painting on the cover? These new designs might make you think again. Here are some of the cool covers being reimagined for 50 great works of fiction as part of the “Recovering the Classics” project.


New life for old works

Not feeling drawn to that paperback with a museum painting on the cover? Well, the eye-catching book covers from an innovative, crowdsourced design collective just might grab your attention. Keep clicking to see some of the covers being reimagined for 50 great works of fiction as part of the “Recovering the Classics” project.

Wade Greenberg submitted this book cover for Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle.”

Girls just want to have fun

“Recovering the Classics” is the brainchild of folks who are determined to help a new generation of readers connect with “The Scarlet Letter,” “Robinson Crusoe,” “The Brothers Karamazov” and other classic books. Anyone out there can submit book-cover creations for the 50 literary classics selected. Readers can then custom-order “artisanal” e-books or paperbacks complete with the book covers that speak most to them.

Lia Marcoux created this reimagined “Little Women” cover.

Personality and perspective

“We’re trying to show that these books are still alive and vibrant and an important part of our culture,” said Justin Keenan, managing editor of DailyLit, the publishing platform behind the effort. “We want to give them some of their personality back.”

J.D. Reeves dreamed up this evocative cover for “Robinson Crusoe.”

A generous cut for artists

The project’s crowdsourcing approach comes from the Creative Action Network, which connects artists with causes that matter to them. Illustrators, typographers and designers are encouraged to share as many book covers as they want. Artists receive 40 percent of all revenue from every digital and physical book sold.

Jeff Walter’s cover for Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book” is pictured here.

Brilliant color

Dozens of cover designs have been submitted so far for the “Recovering the Classics” project, which will continue for six weeks or more. “We really had no idea what we were going to get when we put this out there, and we’ve been bowled over by it,” said Keenan of DailyLit. “Some books already have five or six covers available, and they’re all so different.”

Wedha Abdul Rasyid created this cover for Miguel de Cervantes’ “Don Quixote.”

More than one vision

Here is another cover submission for “Don Quixote” that has a completely different feel. This one was envisioned by Luis Prado.

It's 'elementary'

Ioannis Fetanis submitted this clever cover for “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. “You don’t even have to see those words coming out of the pipe and you’d still know it’s a ‘Sherlock Holmes’ cover,” said Keenan of DailyLit.

Modern monster

In addition to providing inviting book covers, the “Recovering the Classics” project is trying to clean up typography inconsistencies and other problems that can make it difficult to dig into classic works. “There are some lovely and perfectly readable editions of these classics out there now, but there are also a lot of bad ones that are hard to read and are not really produced well,” Keenan said. “We just think these books deserve special treatment.”

Elena Ospina submitted this cover for Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein.”

The letter 'A'

Many of the books considered to be in the public domain — that is, available for public use because their intellectual property rights have expired — were published in the United States before 1923. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter,” for instance, was published in 1850. An artist known as Mr. Furious reimagined this book cover for it.

Double vision

In order to make custom paperback editions available for readers, the “Recovering the Classics” project teamed up with Harvard Book Store, which prints the books on demand on a special machine. “We wouldn’t have been able to do this part of it otherwise,” Keenan explained. “It would have been absurdly expensive to try to do a traditional print run, but printing on demand made the economics make sense.”

Roberlan Borges’ cover for “A Tale of Two Cities” is pictured here.

An idea so wild it works

Readers who opt to buy electronic versions of classic works via DailyLit can receive them in small installments that many find easier to fit into their schedules. In February 2013, DailyLit was acquired by Plympton, a digital publishing company run by former New York Times reporter Jennifer 8. Lee.

Michael Van Kekem created this cover for “Call of the Wild” by Jack London.

'Colorful and weird'

Roberlan Borges submitted this cover for “The Brothers Karamazov” by Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky. “I really like this one because it’s really colorful and has a circus-y vibe to it,” said Keenan of DailyLit. “It’s a reminder of how playful and colorful and weird (Dostoyevsky’s) writing is.”

'Darkness was here'

Here is one striking cover submission that came in from Louise Norman for Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness.”

'The horror! The horror!'

And here is yet another vision for “Heart of Darkness” shared by mafMOVE.

Got your attention?

mafMOVE also submitted this arresting cover design for Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.”

To learn more about the “Recovering the Classics” project and find out how to submit a cover yourself, click here.