All terms

What is a book jacket?

The cover or outermost layer of a book.

The Clothes Make the Book: A Brief Guide to Book Jackets

A book jacket, a book cover, a dust jacket, a dust cover: it goes by many names but one thing is certain - it is the book’s clothes, its fashion statement if you will.

Often featuring eye-catching typography, illustrations, or photographs, the book jacket adds visual appeal to the book, a crucial factor in making it stand out on the shelf or screen. The jacket also offers valuable information about the title, author, publisher, and awards, making it a handy reference for potential readers.

Interestingly, book jackets only became popular in the 19th century when publishers began to use them as marketing tools to advertise their titles. Before that, books were mostly sold in plain bindings.

However, a good book jacket is more than just a sales pitch. Sometimes, the jacket design reflects the mood or theme of the book, providing clues or hints to the reader. At other times, it may also be a collector’s item, especially if it features limited-edition artwork or rare signatures.

So, the next time you pick up a book, take a moment to appreciate its jacket. Who knows, you might just find your next favorite read!

Cover Stories: Two Examples of Book Jackets in Literature

Book jackets can often provide important insights into the book's themes as well as serve as a visual marketing tool. Here are two examples where the book jacket was used creatively in literature:

The Great Gatsby

The cover of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is an iconic image of the roaring 20s, featuring a pair of disembodied eyes staring out from a navy blue background. This cover art is not only hauntingly beautiful, but it also serves as a metaphor for the themes of the book itself: the hollowness of the wealthy elites who cannot see beyond their own excess and the disillusionment that comes with failed dreams.

The Hunger Games

The cover of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins features a striking image of a fiery mockingjay pin against a black background. This cover art highlights the book's dystopian themes of revolution, oppression, and the struggle for survival. It also became an iconic and recognizable symbol of popular culture in the early 2010s.