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It’s always good news when books fall into the public domain. They are no longer subject to copyright constraints, so they become freely available on various electronic libraries, like Serial Reader and Librivox, as well as digital stores like Kindle. But these classic gems are also becoming fair game for anyone to repost with all-new coverage and additional content. And these covers aren’t always the best. In fact, they are often the worst. Here we round up some of the worst classic book covers that will haunt us for the rest of our days.
I see the purpose of these reissues, of course: to bring classic texts to new generations of readers with fresh eyes to blend in with today’s market. But that doesn’t mean it has to fit in the young adult shelf of bright, illustrated covers with bubbly lettering.
What’s odd is that, since these are the classics, you’d think that the designers of the cover – or, at the very least, the people who decided to try and make some money distributing their version – would know what the book is really about. . That doesn’t seem to be the case, as you’ll find with many of these confusing interpretations. A sensual Lolita! A naked Elizabeth Bennet! A shark named Moby-Dick! Why! Who let this happen?!
The Worst Classic Book Covers
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Did we read the same book? Did I miss the part where Elizabeth rides a fancy horse through town while naked?
10 days in a madhouse by Nellie Bly
Someone thought this piece of investigative journalism was a young adult thriller. Someone made a mistake. They also got the title wrong.
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
The Wuthering Heightsbut do it Dusk. This seal says “Bella and Edward’s favorite book”, after all.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Hey kids, do you want nightmares for the rest of your life? Look no further!
Kate Chopin’s Awakening
It looks like the pamphlet you get from the hospice when your grandmother dies.
Middlemarch by George Eliot
She’s not even sitting on that fence! And I don’t know how outlook works? I do not know. The Photoshop here is amazing and hilarious.
The Sound and the Fury of William Faulkner
A literary classic, but make it a 2010s young adult. Because nothing says a tragic family saga like pastels and glitter.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Honestly, I had read some Gatsby crap with a cover like this. Put it on me, old sport.
The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
It’s like a movie poster for a teenage summer romantic comedy where the protagonist works in a bakery. Certainly not a downward spiral into madness while your husband locks you in a room alone, no!
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
“Is it about an old bearded man who falls asleep drinking?” Ok, I know exactly which stock image to use. —That cover designer, probably.
Henry James’ turn of the nut
The result of reading the title of a book provides all the information you need for your art search.
Moreover, it is not even a screw.
The Shining by Stephen King
You know those huge old barbershop books full of different eras of hairstyles? Looks like it could be the cover of it.
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita
Lots of love. You know it’s a book about an old man’s sexual obsession with a 12-year-old girl, right? Lolita should never be described as sultry.
Sylvia Plath’s bell jar
I don’t mean to be dramatic, but I think this cover is a crime.
And I definitely would have bought it mid-year, to fit in with the rest of my Teeny Bopper books.
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
Bram Stoker’s Dracula
When your little brother puts on makeup for Halloween and thinks he looks cool and scary.
Edith Wharton’s Age of Innocence
At first I thought it looked like a Gossip Girl cover, then I realized it was really awesome. The age of innocence is Gossip Girl of the 1920s.
Night and Day by Virginia Woolf
The last thing a Virginia Woolf novel should have is a photo that looks ripped from a fashion magazine, but here we are.
To purify your palate, be sure to check out this excellent collection of Pride and Prejudice covers, books with books on covers, books with sexy fruits on covers and the rest of our book covers content.