Welcome to the first installment of Top Six Thursday, a (hopefully) weekly event in which I rank books, music, movies, television shows, episodes of television shows . . . whatever. I am a compulsive list maker; I love it. I have wanted to do something like this for a while, and now that I am using WordPress regularly, I thought it was time to start. Why six? you may ask. Because five and ten are so boring!
I thought it would be appropriate to begin this series of posts with the ranking of my favorite author’s books — specifically, said books’ covers. Let it be known that this is not my top six favorite Stephen King novels. This is a list of my favorite Stephen King novel covers. I am currently in the process of rereading King’s works in chronological order, and I’m sure I will post a ranking of them when I’m finished. But this list ain’t that.
To keep things simple, I stuck to American first editions only. No foreign editions, no paperbacks, no special rereleases. I will probably post a list of my favorite Stephen King paperback covers at some point; for today, however, I am sticking to the hardcovers. Making the selections for the top six was very hard. Though there are definitely bad King book covers out there, I tend to like most of ’em. I had to leave out several I really like, but that’s the appeal of making a list like this, I suppose: being forced to winnow things down to the absolute best.
And so, without further ado . . .
6. Bag of Bones
Honestly, this cover doesn’t make much sense. Yeah, you’ve got Cara Laughs — the lake house at which Mike Noonan, the novel’s main character, spends a season of mourning — but it’s much smaller than how it is described in the story. And is that girl supposed to be Mattie? I think so, though she appears to be much older than the Mattie that appears within the pages of this 1998 tome. So, yeah, the artist who rendered this cover didn’t read the story. Okay, fine. It certainly grabs the attention, though, doesn’t it? I just love the aesthetics of this one; it was King’s first novel with Scribner, and its jacket and font have a certain classiness his previous releases lacked. I will freely admit my affection for it is purely sentimental. I recall shopping at an outdoor flea market on my sixteenth birthday and coming across a battered bookcase, in which were a few Stephen King hardcovers. Five bucks a pop, if I remember correctly. Being a relatively new Constant Reader at the time, I didn’t have many King hardbacks in my collection. I’d spent most of my birthday money already, so funds were pretty low; my choice was between The Tommyknockers, Different Seasons, and this. I chose Bag of Bones — and only for that cover.
5. Mr. Mercedes
Truthfully, I wasn’t expecting to put a modern King release on this list. It’s no secret most of the artwork for his books released in the last fifteen years or so has sucked (aside from a few exceptions). This one, like Bag of Bones, simply arrests me. It’s minimalistic in the best kind of way: the color scheme works magically. The font works; the blood drops and umbrella, too. And don’t forget that smiley face button! This cover manages to feel modern while retaining a certain edge new releases often lack.
I have almost no love for this novel, but isn’t that artwork sick? This is a big, gritty, nasty story; the cover gets that message cross quite clearly. Of course, it gets bonus points for linking up perfectly to its sister release, Richard Bachman’s The Regulators. I almost considered the Bachman novels for this list, but decided against it. Why? ‘Cause thems the rules.
Unlike other King books, this one’s font isn’t make-or-break (as in, sometimes a font can catapult a cover from lame to okay. Case in point: The Dead Zone), but it certainly doesn’t hurt.
This one is a classic. ‘Nuff said.
For some reason, this almost didn’t make the list. That would’ve been borderline blasphemy, methinks. I must first comment on the font used for King’s name: I don’t know the name of it, but isn’t it grand? It was first used on the cover of Different Seasons and was employed through Nightmares and Dreamscapes. If it were to come back, I certainly wouldn’t mind (of course, that is highly unlikely as those books were published with Viking and King is now, of course, signed on with Scribner). Like Bag of Bones, this cover has sentimental value. I was a newcomer to the world of King at that time (summer 2010). I owned a few battered paperbacks I’d bought from a used bookstore, but hadn’t had much luck getting on with them. I wanted to like Stephen King, as he seemed so popular and I was desperate to find a favorite author. One day, I was browsing the shelves of my local library and stumbled across the hardcover edition of Misery. The artwork — that bloody, dripping title and the ax-wielding silhouette — grabbed me. The goofy author photo on the back clinched the deal. Because of its cover, Misery was the first King novel I read in full.
1. Pet Sematary
I mean, could the number one spot be anything else? The delightfully creepy (and oh-so memorable!) font, the exquisitely dirty earth tones, the yowling cat in the foreground, the country cemetery in the background . . . this cover is in a class all its own. It captures the menace and dread of the novel so perfectly, without being kitsch or hokey. It’s ’80s horror artwork at its pinnacle. Is that hyperbolic of me to say? Maybe a little, but . . . I really think it’s not.
That’s my list, imperfect though it may be. I had to leave several favorites (Cujo, Under the Dome, Duma Key, Needful Things, Dolores Claiborne) off, but the six featured above are the ones I find myself coming back to most often.
What are your favorite Stephen King book covers?