Be Bold: Add Some Color to Your Bookshelves

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Jamie Canaves

Contributing Editor

Jamie Canavés is the Tailored Book Recommendations coordinator and Unusual Suspects mystery newsletter writer–in case you’re wondering what you do with a Liberal Arts degree. She’s never met a beach she didn’t like, always says yes to dessert, loves ‘80s nostalgia, all forms of entertainment, and can hold a conversation using only gifs. You can definitely talk books with her on Litsy and Goodreads. Depending on social media’s stability maybe also Twitter and Bluesky.

Have you seen the Puma Rise Tie-Dye Sneakers? They are rainbows for your feet! They’re fun and so colorful they are my favorite thing. I have been wearing them recently whenever I need a little soul lift. They just make me smile the second I look down at them. I’ve always been a person attracted to color and have early childhood memories of being infuriated that colors were gendered because it meant I was always automatically handed pink things instead of blue, my favorite color. I got very good at asking/arguing for the blue one — no shade (heh) to pink. And I know I’m not alone in having emotional responses to colors seeing as Color Psychology is a thing that exists.

As you can imagine I am absolutely drawn to the covers of books and have found myself lately reaching for colorful and bright covers. They can add a wonderful spot of color to your bookshelves, if your shelves aren’t already filled with color. But also leaving a colorful book out on your coffee table or on the corner of your work desk brightens up a space. If you wanted to go full color you can even go the route of rainbow bookshelves — of course this is how my shelves are organized! You don’t however have to go all color — I also love black, dark, and moody. You can just add one or a few very bright or colorful books to your collection for nice spots of color you can gaze at when you need a little color soul boost.

Yellow For Indoor Sunshine

Lemon cover

Lemon by Kwon Yeo-Sun, Janet Hong (Translator)

This South Korean crime novel may not be sunshine bright on the inside but the paperback’s minimalist cover in its pure yellow happiness is. It is sure to add a beautiful pop of yellow wherever it is displayed.

cover image for Speak by Tunde Oyeneyin

Speak: Find Your Voice, Trust Your Gut, and Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be by Tunde Oyeneyin

Being that Oyeneyin talks about “how she has successfully created an intentional, joyful life for herself” this one at least offers brightness inside and outside of the book. Plus, the pop of color is a perfect contrast to Oyeneyin’s beautiful dark skin and bright red lipstick. I can’t help but smile back when looking at this cover.

Rainbow Covers

The Book of Pride cover

The Book of Pride: LGBTQ Heroes Who Changed the World by Mason Funk

Let’s start with a rainbow cover representing the rainbow flag! Not only do you get history and biographies on LGBTQ movement activists, from the ’60s to present, but you get a cover for fans of color. For more rainbow covers for pride here’s 41!

Cover design: HarperCollins Cover Art: Vector FX | Shuttersock

cover of Crying in the Bathroom

Crying in the Bathroom: A Memoir by Erika L. Sánchez

This is a beautiful, swirly, messy melting of colors. Perfect for representing a memoir of life so-far lived with all its complexities. This could easily also have been an abstract painting and just begs to sit face out in all its colorful glory.

Designed by Amanda Dewey

cover image for If I survive You

If I Survive You by Jonathan Escoffery

Maybe you love color and the rainbow but prefer your colors to live between the bright and the pastel. You’re an “in the middle” kind of person. With a title that feels like a punch, the beautiful calm colors here offer a wonderful contrast and look lovely face out on a shelf.

Cover designer: Na Kim

Bright Pink For That Neon ’80s Nostalgia

cover image for paperback of We Ride Upon Sticks

We Ride Upon Sticks by Quan Barry

Here’s a graphic minimalist design that’s letting the bright colors do all the talking. While I am initially drawn to the hardcover because it’s a beautiful teal — seriously, all blues are my soul color — I am very excited by this pink. The ’80s neon vibe is on point and I can’t help but smile.

Book design by Anna B. Knighton

UK cover for Her Majesty's Royal Coven

Her Majesty’s Royal Coven (Her Majesty’s Royal Coven #1) by Juno Dawson

Confession: many times I wish that in the U.S. we could get the same cover release as the UK because often times it’s the one I prefer. In this case I am in love with the UK cover for Her Majesty’s Royal Coven. The yellow and white lettering have such a great contrast with the hot pink cover, this book beckons me.

Stop In The Name Of Read

illustrated cover of Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzalez, featuring a woman made out of collage

Olga Dies Dreaming by Xóchitl González

If red is your color of choice for a “pop of color” here’s a great one for fans of screen print art. Not only does the red stand out but the contrasting yellow adds an extra layer of bursting color.

Cover design by Lauren Peters-Collaer

How We Fight For Our Lives cover image

How We Fight For Our Lives by Saeed Jones

Here’s a shout of red on the hardcover edition of Jones’ memoir. It’s also a great cover for fans of playing “what’s the image of?” If on the other hand you’re a fan of black with the lettering in color (basically the inverse of this HC) check out the paperback edition.

Ocean To Land, Blue and Green

cover image for The Less Dead

The Less Dead by Denise Mina

This makes me think of the zinc sunscreen worn on the nose when I was a kid — and now I’ll have to go look up if that still exists. Anyhoo, if you’re a fan of green, neon, and a splash of shocking color this is your cover.

Cover design and artwork by Jim Tierney

The Spear Cuts Through Water cover

The Spear Cuts Through Water by Simon Jimenez

This gives me a hint of glow stick and I love it. It’s the kind of cover that the color choices make me instinctively want to pick it up without needing to know anything about the book.

Title page art: | Book design by Edwin Vazquez

Hopefully these colorful covers have given you some color therapy — a thing? Who knows, but I for one enjoy looking at colors. If you’d like to gaze upon more covers here are Rioters picks for The Best Book Covers of 2021.

*If a book is missing info on the cover designer I am truly sorry. I did my best to check the book’s copyright page, publishing website page, and did an internet search but came up empty handed sometimes.