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The art of the yellow book cover. Ever given it some thought?

16th April 2020

The art of the yellow book cover. Ever given it some thought?

Lockdown in the time of Coronavirus has seen many people sharing their creativity on Social Media. And bookish folk have been no exception. With no particular agenda, we started being creative with books stacks, organised by colour and it wasn’t until we came to the paucity of yellow book covers in our TBR pile (To-Be-Read pile), that we decided to highlight our findings on Social Media. The responses came in thick and fast.

The art of the yellow book coverNow, judging by the feedback not everyone has struggled to find yellow book covers on their shelves: with thanks to Nat Barnes it seems that books on cycling have yellow as the predominant colour, which left me wondering why that would be? Inspired by the yellow jersey, perhaps?

However,  I would say the majority of interactions served to underline that yellow is not an altogether popular choice at the moment for books (our point of reference in general are fiction titles from the last couple of years).

Our fabulous Twitter friend and author Gregory Dowling pointed out that in the second half of the 19th Century, the yellow-back novels were the cheap go-to reads (sometimes also referred to as mustard plaster novels). They were created to compete with the penny dreadfuls. This then left me wondering whether in the deep, dark recesses of the publishing world there is an unconscious bias against novels with a yellow cover? (Anyone from the world of publishing have thoughts on this hypothesis?).

Another wonderful Twitter friend, author Philip Gwynne Jones (whose latest novel “Venetian Gothic”, set of course in Venice, will be the #TFBookClub read for May/June 2020)… flags the Classici del Giallo in Italy. The name came about in the pre-war years where Mondadori started publishing reprints of British/American crime novelists in cheap paperbacks with lurid yellow covers. Other publishers followed suit and so ‘giallo’ became identified with a whole genre.

When I studied German at university, most of the books on the reading list were produced by Reclam Verlag who did a nifty job of publishing small pocket-size books (we are not talking voluminous and capacious pockets here at all!),  which were all yellow, with a simple title and the author. The covers were only marginally thicker than the content and so the could be rolled to fit the smallest of spaces. They were a thing of functionality, not beauty – as books tend to be today – and I think I have to admit they possibly put me off reading for quite a few years. The typeface was just so small and, well, worthy.

The art of the yellow book cover

Way back in 2015 there was one truly memorable and eye catching book cover – Tigers in Red Weather (set in Martha’s Vineyard) – which had a stunning yellow cover. Back then we talked to Lee Dibble, the Marketing and Communications Director responsible for the cover, who said that when he had proofs on his desk: I knew it was special when every woman who walked past my desk would pick up a copy and stroke it. It has set the benchmark for great book cover design. And it was YELLOW!

Of course a more recent book, with a striking yellow cover is Lucy Foley’s The Hunting Party (a no.1 bestselling crime thriller set in the Scottish Highlands). That has gone down a storm both for book cover design and content!

Jane Mosse, who incidentally is the world’s most recognised Camilla Duchess of Cornwall lookalike and much to her credit, had no struggle finding a large pile of books with yellow covers and kindly went to the trouble of sharing her #bookstack photo of yellow jackets with us on Twitter.

Dorothée Lefering, who hosts #TravelChatSA, pointed out that books set in Greece, for example, more often than not appear in shades of blue and surely someone somewhere has researched the importance of colour!

Over on Facebook, the discussion followed a similar trajectory. Kristin Campbell agrees that yellow covers are hard to come by! And then delightfully digresses into guest bedroom territory. She says: I once read that read that yellow is the colour a guestroom guest room should be painted, because , while it’s lovely and inviting initially, it subtley suggests not staying too long . . . So, there you have it!

What are your thoughts on yellow book covers? Do you have a plentiful supply on your bookshelves or a paucity? What’s your favourite book cover in yellow?

And why not give our Twitter friends a follow and join the conversation?

Nat Barnes

Gregory Dowling

Philip Gwynne Jones

Jane Mosse

Dorothée Lefering

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  1. User: Jessica Norrie

    Posted on: 17/04/2020 at 9:57 am

    Have listed this post in my book games post on my own blog -https://jessicanorrie.wordpress.com/2020/04/17/bookplay/

    It really cheered me up!


    1 Comment

    • User: tripfiction

      Posted on: 17/04/2020 at 11:05 am

      Oh, thank you so much… I (Tina) had a lot of fun writing it, and it was lovely that so many people shared their thoughts. Hope all ok-ish with you!!


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