Underneath It All: Books Where The Hardcover Has a Clever Design Beneath Its Dust Jacket

Are you looking for hardcovers out right now with a clever design under the dust jacket? You have come to the right place. The excitement of buying a hardcover book, bringing it home, and realizing it is even more gorgeous under the dust jacket is unmatched. I want to be shocked, awed, amazed, and bewildered. The assignment was to wow me, and these books did not mess around.

Book cover design has become a vital part of book sales. Although there was a time in print history when you would go to your local binder, drop off the loose pages of your new book, and come back to find them bound per your specifications, now we expect our books to come with the bindings. Although beautiful books can come in all shapes and sizes, today we are talking about the hardcovers out right now with the cleverest designs under the dust jacket that I could find.

My methods were chaotic but as comprehensive as possible. Because most online listings for books do not include what is underneath the dust jacket, I had to conduct some field research — the field in question being my local Barnes & Noble where I proceeded to look at the design under the dust jacket of every hardcover book they had in stock. I took pictures of the interesting covers and narrowed my list down when I got home.

What makes the best design under the dust jacket?

Let me tell you, YA really shines in this category of book beauty. While many adult hardcovers had wonderful color combinations, I was looking for them to have a design under the dust jacket that stood out. The science fiction and fantasy section did a bit better with their designs under the dust jacket, but proportionally, did not hold a candle to the sheer number of books in YA with interesting reveals. I wanted to cast a broad net and hoped to reel in a fine set of books across genres. These are the final 15 books.

Three main categories drew my eye when it came to the design under the dust jacket. First, we have the embossed stamp design, where designers created a clever design pressed into the hardcover and perhaps added some foil to enhance the contrast. Next, we have the flat graphic design, where the cover has some kind of drawn, painted, or printed image that lays flat on an almost silky cover underneath the dust jacket. Finally, we have a small but visually impressive group, the repeating print design, with a pattern that creates a textile-like pattern.

The Embossed Stamp Design Under the Dust Jacket

The Atlas Six by Olivia Blake Book Cover

The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake

Jacket design by Jamie Stafford-Hill

This dark academia novel delivers a magical secret society that guards knowledge lost to time. Six magicians have been recruited. It is up to them to prove their worth over the next year, and if they succeed, the world is theirs — they just have to be one of the five selected. The embossed image mirrors the sword stabbing through an eye seen on the front cover with gold foil. It is a perfect example of a simple and well-executed design.

Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher Dust Jacket

Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher

Jacket art by Sasha Vinogradova

When you wait long enough for someone to save you and no one comes, you learn how to save yourself. Marra, the third-born daughter, has seen the way the prince abuses her older sisters and is determined to kill him, once and for all. A series of legendary companions help her perform the three tasks that will free everyone from a prince too cruel to live. The golden embossed skeleton creature pops against the vibrant green cover, daring you to read the first page.

Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher Book Cover
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab Book Cover

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

Jacket art by Will Staehle

In the 1700s, a Faustian bargain leaves Addie with eternal life and the inability to leave an impression on anyone she meets. Over time, she has tried her best to subtly inspire artists even if they cannot remember her. But one day Addie meets a bookseller who remembers her after she left the room. There are many collectors’ editions of the book out there with variations of embossed art, but even the traditional cover has the embossed image of a bird taking flight over five images, a subtle reference to a piece of art in the book.

Rule of Wolves by Leigh Bardugo Book Cover

Rule of Wolves by Leigh Bardugo

Jacket illustration by Hedi Xandt

Jacket design by Natalie C. Sousa

The second book in the King of Scars duology answers the question: How the hell are they going to get out of this one? Nikolai is a king without control of himself, his inner demon, or his kingdom. Zoya is grasping at straws as her friends and found family fall to an unwinnable fight. Nina is still undercover in Fjerda, doing her best to get revenge and free her country. They all need to succeed if they want to survive. Can I just say, underneath the dust jacket the cover is gorgeous? The silver embossing fills the cover with corner work that crawls toward a center tree that has more branches than leaves and the classic Grishaverse GV in a center plaque.

I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston Book Cover

I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston

Cover design by Kerri Resnick

Cover Illustration by Allison Reimold

Kisses case stamp illustration from Shutterstock.com

It all started when Chloe kissed her high school rival, Shara, right before she disappeared. Left with more questions than answers, she breaks into Shara’s room only to find there are two other people Shara kissed — her boyfriend, and the boy next door — and she left letters for all three of them to follow her clues and find her. This is another book with many additions, each having its own clever design under the dust jacket. The regular edition, however, is nothing to scoff at. Twelve pink foiled embossed kisses mimic someone kissing the book with lipstick on. It is very fun.

Very Bad People by Kit Frick Dust Jacket

Very Bad People by Kit Frick

Jacket illustration by Gee Hale

Jacket design by Debra Sfetsios-Conover

Ghost illustrations by Mike Hall

Tipton Academy and their secret society are not ready for Calliope’s investigation. The elite boarding school has everything Calliope needs to uncover the real reason why her mother drove her car into a lake six years ago and she will not give up until she knows the truth. Under the dust jacket, the red spine matches the red-painted x on the cover. The silver words and ghost look like a hand-carved note from the secret society that reads “You don’t know us but we know you.”

Very Bad People by Kit Frick Book Cover

The Flat Graphic Design Under the Dust Jacket

A Snake Falls To Earth by Darcie Little Badger Book Cover

A Snake Falls To Earth by Darcie Little Badger

Jacket art by Mia Ohki

Jacket Design by Jade Broomfield

Nina, a Lipan girl, and Oli, a cottonmouth shapeshifter from another world, come together to uncover the climate-based threat to both their lives. Nina believes her great-grandmother’s stories about shapeshifting animal people, so she is willing to go to great lengths to help Oil and his friends. The orange cover underneath the dust jacket has a character line up along the spine so when you put the book spine side down, it looks like they are standing in a line.

The Last Cuentista by Donna Barba Higuera Dust Jacket

The Last Cuentista by Donna Barba Higuera

Jacket art and design by Raxenne Maniquiz

A storyteller is vital in a world that has forgotten its past. Hundreds of years ago, Petra and her family were chosen to escape a comet-destroyed earth for a new planet. When she wakes, no one else remembers Earth. She will have to embody her Abuelita’s storytelling prowess if she wants to defy the Collective that has been erasing human history. Beneath the dust jacket, a graphic snake cuts through a blue starry sky. Its head is highlighted in red and points to the bottom right corner as if it is trying to escape the cover. Everything about it is brilliant.

The Last Cuentista by Donna Barba Higuera Book Cover
Steelstriker by Marie Lu Book Cover

Steelstriker by Marie Lu

Jacket illustration by Novans V. Adikresna

Jacket design by Aurora Parlagreco

Book two of the Skyhunter duet resumes after a perilous cliffhanger. Talin must figure out how to rebel from within the Federation, even as a series of experiments threaten her very autonomy. Although freedom is far away, she lives with the hope that one day the rebellion will destroy the tyrannical rulers who have defined her life. The cover underneath the dust jacket has three sweeping yellow beams that move across a bright pink cover. The bright white title is arranged in a large block four letters across, three letters down. It is a perfect artistic continuation of book one with Skyhunter in a three-by-three block. It reads as cleanly dystopian and I am a fan.

A Rush of Wings by Laura E. Weymouth dust jacket

 A Rush of Wings by Laura E. Weymouth

Jacket illustration by Kim Ekdahl

Jacket Design by Debra Sfetsios-Conover

This Scottish mythology-inspired retelling of the seven swans takes flight in a book that asks us who the real monsters are in a world where magic exists. Rowenna’s mother never taught her how to harness her magic, and she loses the chance to when she dies. When she resurrects, she is more a monster than a mother, and Rowenna is forced to take control of her magic if she wants to save herself and her loved ones. This cover blew my mind because it is stunning, but the thing that put me over the top was the fact that her eyes are closed in the dust jacket and open underneath. Need I say more?

A Rush of Wings by Laura E. Weymouth Book Cover
The Last Laugh by Mindy McGinnis Book Cover

The Last Laugh by Mindy McGinnis

Jacket art by Corey Brickley

Jacket design by Erin Fitzsimmons

The final book in The Initial Insult duology follows Tress who is coming to grips with her new reality. She is a murderer hiding from her town and her haunting thoughts. Meanwhile her cousin Ribbit is looking to stop Tress from reaching her 18th birthday. This dark novel has an even darker surprise underneath the dust jacket. The split face is taken over by the grayscale portrait with the red flames taking over the cover’s background.

Burn Down, Rise Up by Vincent Tirado Dust Jacket

Burn Down, Rise Up by Vincent Tirado

Jacket and case art by Charles Chaisson

Raquel doesn’t know if she will be able to solve the disappearances that are occurring in the Bronx, but when Charlize’s cousin goes missing, she knows she has to try. After all, the police are not looking into it and her crush needs her help. Raquel and Charlize begin to discover a horrifying urban legend that may be closer to reality than they could have ever imagined. Although you can only see the legs of the creature on the dust jacket, when you peel it back, the image of a long, many-limbed bug appears. This sapphic horror book has a clever cover underneath in the same pink as the inside of the subway car, as if you are stepping inside when you lift the dust jacket.

Burn Down, Rise Up by Vincent Tirado Book Cover

The Repeating Print Design Under the Dust Jacket

Wahala by Nikki May Book Cover

Wahala by Nikki May

Jacket Design by Mumtaz Mustafa


This contemporary fiction novel explores the boundaries of female friendship when a group of three Anglo-Nigerian women are suddenly faced with the proposals of an impossible woman. Isobel is impossibly charismatic, impossibly professional, and impossibly wealthy and none of their lives will be the same after she is done with them. The subtle purple marble print underneath the dust jacket is simple, yet extremely effective. The pattern has the same movement energy you see on the dust jacket. Chef’s kiss.

The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta Book Cover

The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta

Jacket art by Adriana Bellet

Jacket design and lettering by Jenna Stempel-Lobell

A YA verse novel that explores the societal pressures that come with growing up gay and mixed race in the UK. Balancing his Greek-Cypriot and Jamaican heritage with his queer identity is difficult at best. But as Michael discovers queer communities like the Drag Society that affirm aspects of his identity and help him grow into his adult life, he begins to discover how to take up space. If you want a bright pink cover with columns of outlined flamingos standing in a Hawaiian-shirt-esque pattern, this is the book for you. It is simply fantastic.

A History of Wild Places by Shea Ernshaw Book Cover

A History of Wild Places by Shea Ernshaw

Jacket design and illustration by Danielle Mazzella Di Bosco

Jacket Images from Adobe Stock and Shutterstock

A lone abandoned truck on the outskirts of a reclusive community leads one family down a road of impossible mysteries and secrets. Travis’s truck has been there for years, but no one knows how the man who had a knack for finding missing people with a single touch disappeared himself. The print is a collection of embossed objects in gold that scatter on top of a forest green cover. The smoking pipes, wedding rings, high heel shoes, shells, and ties are not complete without additional assorted items including, but not limited to, cupcakes. When I say I squalled when I saw what was beneath this dust jacket, I am not exaggerating.

So, Why Design Under the Dust Jacket?

A large group of people goes into a book’s success, including the designers. They are wonderful and deserve so much praise and respect. In these cases, they have truly succeeded in catching my attention. They are the best books where the hardcover has a clever design under the dust jacket right now. So, I hope you end up taking a few of these gorgeous books home.


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