Judging a book by its cover: the beautiful books of 2023

Discover our pick of the most eye-catching book covers from 2023. 

They say you should never judge a book by its cover, but sometimes you just can’t help it! A stunning jacket is a real work of art and you might well find yourself picking up a book thanks to a striking and unforgettable cover before you know anything about the plot. Here, we share some of the stunning books published this year that you’ll be dying to display on your bookshelf. 

The Ghost Ship

by Kate Mosse

Book cover for The Ghost Ship

The sumptuous bronzes and blues that billow over the cover of Kate Mosse's latest novel make this tale of piracy, romance and revenge in the seventeenth century even harder to resist. 

For months, the crew of a mysterious vessel has been hunting pirates in order to liberate those enslaved during the course of their merciless raids. But now, what has become known as the Ghost Ship is itself under attack and at risk of capture, and the stakes could not be higher. Its captain, Louise Reydon-Joubert, is fleeing a miscarriage of justice. Her lover, Gilles Barenton, is forced to masquerade as her brother. If discovered, they will be hanged for their crimes. This sequel to The City of Tears is a sweeping story of defiant women in a man's world.

Young Mungo

by Douglas Stuart

Book cover for Young Mungo

Technically this book was published in 2022, but we couldn't resist featuring it again for the 2023 paperback release. Booker Prize-winner Douglas Stuart's second novel, Young Mungo, uses the bold and unapologetic photograph The Cock (Kiss) by Wolfgang Tillmans, creating a cover just as unforgettable as the story within. 

Mungo is a Protestant and James is a Catholic, both inhabiting the hyper-masculine world of two Glasgow housing estates, split violently along sectarian lines. The two should be enemies but, finding sanctuary in the doocot James has created for his racing pigeons, they grow closer and closer. Dreaming of escape and under the constant threat of discovery, Mungo and James attempt to navigate a dangerous and uncertain future together.

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Homecoming

by Kate Morton

Book cover for Homecoming

Don't be fooled by the cheerful brights of this appealing jacket – dark mysteries reside within.

From the bestselling author of The Clockmaker's Daughter comes a breathtaking mystery of love and lies told with trademark intricacy and beauty. The story begins in the Adelaide Hills in 1959 when a local delivery man makes a terrible discovery. Sixty years later, when Jess returns to her family home in Sydney, she discovers a true crime book that reveals a shocking connection between her own family and this once-infamous crime. An epic novel that spans generations, Homecoming asks what we would do for those we love and the healing nature of truth. 

Sparrow

by James Hynes

Book cover for Sparrow

Laura Middleton's delicate illustrations, subtly adorned with gold foil, beautifully capture the fragility of James Hynes' protagonist, Sparrow, one of the most powerfully affecting and memorable characters of recent fiction.

Raised in a brothel at the edge of a dying empire, a boy of no known origin creates his own identity. He is Sparrow, who sings without reason and can fly from trouble. He spends his days listening to stories told by his beloved ‘mother’ Euterpe, running errands for her lover the cook, and dodging the blows of their brutal overseer. A hard fate awaits Sparrow, one that involves suffering, murder, mayhem, and the scattering of the women who have been his whole world.

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Promise Boys

by Nick Brooks

Book cover for Promise Boys

This distinctive cover was created by multidisciplinary artist Ken Nwadiogbu (whose work The Red Migrant is featured in the Royal Academy's 2023 Summer Exhibition).

Nick Brook's YA novel offers a contemporary take on the campus murder mystery, perfect for fans of Ace of Spades. Set in a prestigious prep school, students J.B., Ramón and Trey must find out who killed the school's Principal in order to clear their own names. It's an exquisitely taut thriller which shines a glaring light on how the system too often condemns Black and Latinx teen boys to failure before they’ve even had a chance at success.

Atlas: The Story of Pa Salt

by Lucinda Riley

Book cover for Atlas: The Story of Pa Salt

A stunning night sky shimmers across the front, back and spine of the finale to Lucinda Riley's epic Seven Sisters series.

Paris, 1928. A boy is found, moments from death, and taken in by a kindly family who gives him a life he could never have dreamed of, but he refuses to tell anyone who he truly is. As he grows into a young man, an evil is rising across Europe and he knows he must soon flee again. The final novel in the Seven Sisters seriesAtlas: The Story of Pa Salt, reveals how the sisters came to be adopted by their beloved, mysterious father, drawing the epic series to a stunning, unforgettable conclusion. Finally, readers will know the answer to the ultimate question: who is Pa Salt?


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Elderflora

by Jared Farmer

Book cover for Elderflora

Confounding our sense of scale – are we looking at enormous tangled roots or a close-up of knotted bark? – the full-page photograph of twisting, aged wood on the cover of Jared Farmer's history of ancient trees captures the enigmatic nature of its subject and its quiet, constant, dignity. 

In the eighteenth century, naturalists embarked on a quest to locate and the oldest living things on earth. And so the science of tree time was born. Spanning Lebanon to New Zealand and California, Farmer takes us through this science and surveys the complex history of the world's oldest trees. Combining rigorous scholarship with lyrical writing, he shows how amidst a changing climate we need old trees now more than ever. 

Before We Say Goodbye

by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

Book cover for Before We Say Goodbye

Before the Coffee Gets Cold fans will love adding this delightful new pink iteration of the series' stylish, highly covetable covers, to their collection (and look – the cat's moved again).

In a small back alley in Tokyo, there is a cafe which has been serving carefully brewed coffee for more than one hundred years. But this coffee shop offers its customers a unique experience: the chance to travel back in time. The fourth book in Toshikazu Kawaguchi's bestselling series introduces four new visitors to the cafe: the husband with something important left to say, the woman who couldn’t bid her dog farewell, the woman who couldn’t answer a proposal and the daughter who drove her father away.

Jane Austen special editions

Yes, OK, these books came out in the nineteenth century but these beautiful new editions, featuring heritage wallpaper patterns from Jane Austen's own home in Hampshire, are new for 2023. 

Book cover for Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice

Jane Austen

Book cover for Emma

Emma

Jane Austen

Book cover for Sense and Sensibility

Sense and Sensibility

Jane Austen