Posted by: Lisa Hill | February 22, 2021

2021 Australian Book Design Awards Longlist

Today brought the announcement the 2021 Australian Book Design Awards Longlist.  I think they’re mostly a rather lack-lustre lot.

These are the nominees for the Literary Fiction category.  I’d choose Jenny Grigg’s design for A Body of Water because it’s artistic and because it represents the book very well.

Then there are the nominees for Commercial Fiction:

None of these designs make me want to pick the book up off the shelf at the bookshop, but The Night Letters hints at an interesting book because of the Middle Eastern iconography.

However it’s the chosen designs for Fully-illustrated NF over $50 that most bemuse me.  What is it about those two by the NGV that qualifies them as design??


You can see the rest of the nominees here.  The most interesting ones IMO are the ones by students, which are designs for books that have been around for a long time. Have a look at Chelsea Smith’s design for Watership Down and you’ll see what I mean.


  1. Lisa, a topic I have really strong feelings about – I do love a beautiful book cover and so many of them now are uninspiring. When I shop online I actually purchase the edition with the loveliest cover, and the books I refused to cull in my recent big cull were overwhelmingly the ones with covers I adore. The fashion seems to be rather ugly now. I can’t see where the Watership Down cover is on the link, but that may be my eyes playing up, I am seeing less well on the computer screen unfortunately.

    I’m not on here as often as I used to be as I’m so busy with music (playing harp again after over a decade of not playing, and it’s lovely) – my sight is becoming a bit of an issue for reading – but i do come by regularly and check what you’re up to here – and Sue and Bill. Hope you are keeping well there in Melbourne!


    • To see the Watership Down design, you need to scroll right down to the bottom of the page to the student design section—there are two, for books, and one for series. Watership Down is the first one, and it’s in the second row on the RHS.
      Agree entirely about how uninspiring most covers are. I think I was most indignant about Richard Flanagan’s book… if ever a book deserved good cover design that one does instead there’s silly photo riffing on the title.


  2. They are indeed uninspiring. Found nothing that would cause me to pick that book up off a table rather than any others in a shop. So many seem just derivative or literal. I’m sure I’ve seen that design for The Morbids used fir another book.


    • You could be right, it wouldn’t be the first time a design has been ‘recycled’.


  3. I have to say nothing jumps out at me either. I really don’t like photographs on book covers. I’ll have a look at the student designs.


    • Yes, I rarely like photos, though a recent reading of The Ogre which featured a photo of three child soldiers in Hitler’s army still wrings my heart.
      *chuckle* Every now and again I come across old Penguins with those 1960s mini-skirt covers and they make me wince.


  4. I’ve read several of these books despite the covers! I wonder how many authors look at the covers of their books and feel disappointed. After Australia’s cover would appeal to me if not for the scribble on the faces, although I suppose that is the point.


  5. I just saw the Literary Hub list of best book covers for the month – some interesting ones here


    • Hmm, I don’t know, Anna, they mostly seem to have come from the same mould too. The Slaughterman’s Daughter is clever, so is The Delivery and We Had a Little Real Estate Problem, but they don’t make me want to pick up the book.
      I’ve got a long-held draft of a post about book covers, I should finish that off and publish it!
      Update, a while later… I’ve done it, thanks for the prompt. There are some of yours there too, and I swear, they were chosen over a year ago.


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