Best book covers of 2021 – My pick of New Zealand’s finest

Kia ora to writers, publishers, and especially to the designers, artists, photographers, and models who work on making book covers look so very enticing! I keep an eye out during the year for cool covers and flash-as book production.

Let's go for 2021's Numero Uno first shall we? Well, my favourite book cover in 2021 is Things I learned at Art School by Megan Dunn. I've been obsessed with it since I first spied it on social media, well before it was published. I'm very pleased to report the contents of the book are as splendid as the cover: "My favourite type of book, this - Episodes & Incidents, Arty & Artful, Family, Truthbombs, Antics. This book made me very happy. Also, very sad."

Here's some information on the cover:

  • Photographer Yvonne Todd (Megan's best friend ) took the cover photo of Alice in Wonderland.
  • The model dressed as Alice is Claudia Miles of Unique Models, marketing student from Hamilton. This was her first job.
  • The painting behind Alice is Wheatfield with Crows by Vincent Van Gogh.

Why I like it so much:

  • The cover is a total reflector of the contents.
  • ORANGE! Zingiest colour on the planet.
  • Alice's eyelashes.
  • The deliciously serify font.
  • The big papier mache pencil.
  • The details - Alice in the spine looks like she's about to pop out of the book and get bigger.

Is this the best Bookstagram ever? Why yes, it is.

Megan kindly gave me a comment:

I've always wanted an Yvonne Todd book cover AND I've always wanted to be the woman in an Yvonne Todd photograph. Two birds, one giant paper mache pencil on loan from the Waitakere College Art Department, where Yvonne was working on an artist in schools project...that's how we did it. Yvonne and I have been close friends ever since we met in the 1990s and I showed her work in my gallery Fiat Lux then on Hobson Street, in Auckland. We were both emerging artists and young feckless women in our twenties at the time, and I cover some of our early art capers and what it's like to be under the influence of cask wine, Sweet Valley High covers and one another in my book. And more. (There's always more.) We shot the book cover one day in April at Yvonne's house. It was the model's first ever photo shoot, and we dressed her up as everything from a redheaded Alice in Wonderland to a dodgy smurfette and a low-rent mermaid.The model was wonderful and smouldered as though she was an art school student with a chip on her shoulder and a burning desire to write a memoir about it later. 

Behind the scenes photos courtesy of Megan and Yvonne Todd:

Kia ora Megan, Yvonne, Claudia, and the team at Penguin Random House New Zealand. Love your mahi!

More Megan


Here are the rest of my top 5 covers. Woman with potato. Bunch of flowers. Coolest car and poet. Weather bombed.
Shoutout to Victoria University Press who name the cover designers on their website.



Here are some of the best with faces front and centre (or sideways).



Sometimes the font or typeface gives that wow moment.



I love that The Gosden Years has as its cover the New Zealand International Film Festival 2017 poster by Ocean Design.



Foliage and flowers - always a winner on a cover.



An intriguing painting or a striking illustration, with a fancy bit of typography on top? Winning.



Some covers just feel like they are moving.



Some bold and more subtle paletted beauties. Chef's kiss to that yummy multicoloured dollop of paint on the cover of Out There and the rowdy 70s wallpaper on Everything Changes. The refined pinks on Greta & Valdin and Dressed are eyecatching too.


Lovely Rita

Three views of Rita Angus.


Best book covers of 2022?

I've started my list for 2022 with this beauty. To be published 10 February 2022 by VUP Books, here is the cover of Museum by Fiona Samuel. This amazing paper cut cover by Keely O'Shannessy.


More best book covers

Best book covers of previous years