Sunday, November 8, 2009

Judging Books By Their Covers

After determining through trial and error that seemingly every movie even remotely worth seeing in NYC was sold out, I stopped by a local neighborhood Barnes & Noble retail store. I collected about half a dozen books to purchase, carried them all over the shop, and settled on three that I would take home. (I sometimes feel bad buying new books because I usually have a healthy stack of books that I have not yet read. Including last night's troika, I now count ten: six novels, two memoirs, one short story collection, and one anthology. I justified the new three by their official B&N Bargain Priced stickers.)

In between the collection of six books and the selection of three, a small end-of-aisle section caught my eye. These books all belonged to a series called Penguin Classic Deluxe Editions, and deluxe they are. In addition to the jagged page construction, these books also include French flaps. But by far the coolest thing about these titles is the cover illustration.

Here's one as an example, drawn by Ruben Toledo, an artist who works most regularly in fashion.

I love the extension of the scarlet theme to the Prynnes' hair color.

It's not quite my favorite book cover ever, but this--and two others that Toledo designed, in addition to the other titles of the series--do a great job at making a classic more accessible. Toledo, in fact, identifies this as the goal of his project:
My only command from Penguin was to make art that would make youngsters want to read — to introduce these stories to a new public no matter what age. That’s why I think the fact that I had never read them was an asset, [combined with] the fact that they are all period stories, clearly set in another time and ruled by the mode of their time in history, yet are totally relevant to this Twitter world we live in.
I like how Twitter now defines our era. But besides for that, I'd say that Toledo succeeds.

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