When you need a good laugh, check out these cringe-worthy, terrible book covers! These are the classics like you’ve never seen…or read!
Terrible Book Covers for Classic Novels
Publishers–and individuals–are constantly churning out new editions of the classics. Many classics are in the public domain, so anyone can repackage them and try to earn a buck or two by offering their specimens on Amazon.
As a book blogger, I’m constantly linking to excellent books here on the site, and I always try to link to a good edition. Believe me, it can be hard to find a good edition. I’ve run across numerous misleading and just downright ridiculous book covers, ones that certainly don’t give you an accurate picture of the book they’re trying to portray.
While I’ve avoided sharing these silly book covers in my “serious” blog posts, I have been saving up a nice little stash of them. Today I’m unlocking the vault to present you with some of the most hilariously bad book covers I’ve had the pleasure (misfortune?) to come across.
If you’ve been thinking about reading one of these classic novels, please don’t judge the following books by their covers.
Feast your eyes, and cringe.
The Very Worst Classic Book Covers
Imagine my surprise, for instance, when I was linking to The Great Gatsby and came across this:
The tagline says it’s “A story of decadence and obsession.” Well, that’s true…right? Let this cover be a monument to the importance of context.
I also found a number of cheap Kindle editions of public domain classics, put together by someone who obviously had not read the book. Look at how these cover designers attempted to pick up content clues from the books’ titles.
First, we’ve got Our Mutual Friend, by Charles Dickens:
This is definitely a book about a high school friendship between two besties, right? I mean, obviously. It has the word “friend” in it.
And Rudyard Kipling’s Kim? That couldn’t possibly be about an Irish beggar boy in India who ends up serving as a spy! Clearly, it’s about a girl with colorful tattoos who loves to dance in the street while wearing red heels, hoping someone will Instagram her.
I about died laughing when I saw someone’s interpretation of The Woman in White, by Wilkie Collins. They were probably thinking “okay, so we got Kim wrong. But The Woman in White? It HAS to be about a wedding! And I know just the stock photo…”
“…I scanned the Wikipedia article and someone definitely gets married.”
With these literal interpretations, I couldn’t wait to see what I would find for A Pair of Blue Eyes, by Thomas Hardy.
Purrfect. And not in the least terrifying like this rendition:
Now, one cover that should’ve been terrifying but somehow misses the mark is this copy of The Hound of the Baskervilles:
Why was everyone on Dartmoor terrified of this adorable pooch?
Of course, some Kindle editors are even less savvy when it comes to making covers. This edition of Moby Dick; or The Whale is just sheer laziness.
Or perhaps someone is just confused on their marine biology.
Kindle books aren’t the only books with terrible covers, though. Get an eyeful of this Wordsworth Classics paperback of Dracula:
This poor fellow looks terribly chagrined that his kids have caught him playing dress up again.
Somehow, the demon rabbit hovering in this picture of Alice in Wonderland is far more terrifying:
Wordsworth Classics certainly likes to play with Photoshop. The results may leave you feeling like something’s not quite right. How many awkward things can you spot in this cover art for Middlemarch?
Sometimes, you come across a foreign language edition of a book that clearly has cultural differences in interpretation. Like this Spanish copy of The Scarlet Letter:
I know Hester liked adornment, but I’m just not sure about that feathery plumage and the…nail polish? Not to mention that the “A” isn’t correctly positioned.
Other awful book covers just make you scratch your head and say “What?!” Like Peter Pan:
Clearly, this businessman is attempting to return to his reckless and carefree boyhood. That or he’s getting ready to fly to Neverland.
Here’s a version of Pride and Prejudice you haven’t read before:
Oh, wait! That’s Jane Bennet riding to Netherfield! Her mother certainly was determined, but it’s no wonder the poor girl caught a cold.
Is this how you always pictured Tom and Huck?
Aunt Polly would certainly be proud of how civilized these rascals have become! There’s no WAY these boys are chewing tobacco now!
There are other book covers that seem to re-write the narrative, too. Check out The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, geriatric edition. In which “Sleepy Hollow” is a retirement home where a headless Hessian soldier pushes medcarts up and down the hallways at night.
Well, you should never judge a book by it’s cover, I guess. Especially when it comes to this copy of Little Women:
But perhaps my favourite cringe-worthy cover I’ve seen is this one of the beguiling orphan Anne of Green Gables:
Perhaps we should just call her Cordelia. She isn’t taking “Carrots” from anybody, you can bet your currant wine on that.
Hey, at least she’s wearing Matthew’s pearls!
Well, that’s all for tonight, my friends. But stay tuned. That certainly is not all the awful book covers I’ve uncovered. You might be seeing more in this department(; Also, for more book nerd laughs, check out my Book Humor board on Pinterest!
Update 6/24: I have another bad book covers post for you! Here’s the L. M. Montgomery edition of terrible, no good, hilariously bad book covers.
Have you ever come across a ridiculous or misleading book cover? Do share your findings!