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25 Worst Book Covers of All Time

Whoever said you should never judge a book by its cover clearly never dealt with the existence of Cooking With Pooh. Not even the presence of a lovable bear can make that title sound like anything other than, well, cooking with poo. Sometimes a book is done in by its title, other times by the artwork, and still others by some glorious combination of the two. The problems seem to pop up more frequently in genre offerings like romance and sci-fi — io9 has an entire category devoted to covers of all kinds — but they're not limited to any particular subject. College students and book collectors often find them while prowling the stacks at used book stores or flea markets, but lucky for you, the best are right here. Amazingly, they're all real:

  1. The Paradise War, Book One: Song of Albion, Stephen R. Lawhead: Multiple titles aside: What's going on here? Is the old man turning into vapor and entering that guy's chest? Why are they surrounded by crystals? Is that a kilt? Just: What on earth is going on?
  2. Forth on the Atari: Learning by Using Forth, E. Floegel: This is ostensibly a book about using your Atari to become more skilled at the Forth programming language, but it looks for all the world like a horrifying S&M novel set in space. Maybe that would've sold better.
  3. All My Sins Remembered, Joe Haldeman: Okay. Okay. Okay: I think it's a naked guy with fish hands hugging a giant snake perched near a skull while a dragon flies in the background. Also, why not, there's a tacky wall clock in the sky and some blue stuff. And "TBII" is carved into the ground. Just … wow. This book looks completely terrible, but somehow awesome.
  4. Shatnerquake, Jeff Burk: Jeff Burk's comedic novel involves a rip in the universe that sends every character William Shatner ever played into the same world, but the cover image looks like an old man who may or may not be Shatner being dumped into a pit of fire. Not exactly selling the concept.
  5. Anybody Can Be Cool … But Awesome Takes Practice, Lorraine Peterson: The world of Christian devotional lit is littered with bad images like this one, in which a square-jawed white dude lectures his ethnically diverse pals about how to be tubular. It's like a photographic version of "Pamela's Prayer."
  6. Breed to Come, Andrew Norton: Just what every kid wants: A book about green-suited aliens fighting the giant, glowing, disembodied head of a cat.
  7. Zombie Raccoons & Killer Bunnies, Martin H. Greenberg and Kerrie Hughes: No explanation needed.
  8. His Pregnant Mistress, Carol Marinelli: On one hand, you have to applaud the relative restraint displayed here by Harlequin. On the other, NUKE IT FROM ORBIT.
  9. Mind Pump: The Psychology of Bodybuilding, Tom Kubisant: You know what happens when you try and use telepathy to lift weights? They fall on your head. Guaranteed.
  10. Servants of the Wankh, Jack Vance: So the giant man with the trapezoidal skull is holding a tiny toad king up for all to see. Add that to the apparently unironic use of "Wankh," and the jokes become too many to count.
  11. The Frozen God, Richard Kirk: Even by the admittedly loose standards of fantasy lit, this is insane. This is porn for eighth-graders.
  12. Moment of Truth, Maggie Price: What's she doing with her hand?
  13. Dylan, Norah Hess: It's like his crotch is trying to jump off the page.
  14. Eat the Document, Dana Spiotta: Just plain creepy.
  15. The Dream Master, Roger Zelazny: The perilous story of a medieval knight and the giant green lady with a peephole in her forehead. It practically writes itself.
  16. The Far Arena, Richard Ben Sapir: I'm not sure if the naked gladiator was transported to modern day or if a jumbo jet got sucked into ancient Rome. Either way, it's a mess.
  17. Sewer, Gas & Electric: The Public Works Trilogy, Matt Ruff: This horrendous cover practically dares you not to read the book. Bizarre, awful colors, text going every direction, and a floating shark? Pass.
  18. Twilight of Briareus, Richard Cowper: This is significantly less awe-inspiring than the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey. It's mostly just eerie.
  19. A Song for Lya, George R.R. Martin: Martin's short story collection is being advertised with the image of a horde of faceless mouths flying across the desert, because why not.
  20. Strip Mauled, Esther Friesner: Every physical form on this cover looks equally fake and scary.
  21. Godsfire, Cynthia Felice: A naked cat-person, a giant cat-god (?), and an author name that's one letter away from "feline." I see the pattern.
  22. The World Swappers, John Brunner: When you see it, you'll laugh.
  23. Slave Ship, Frederick Pohl: "Slave ship" doesn't sound so bad if there's a puppy involved.
  24. Will-o-the-Wisp, Thomas Burnett Swann: A blatant attempt to sell the book to young teenage boys, which is why the topless redhead appears to be in the throes of physical ecstasy. Why this is happening on top of an enormous bug, we'll never know.
  25. Satan Burger, Carlton Melick III: I give up.

August 11th, 2010 written by Staff Writers

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