Comparing US and German Book Covers

We all know the saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” and while most of us will probably agree that it’s the content that matters, book covers are not completely irrelevant either. If I’m in a bookstore and browsing for something new, I’m not going to pick up a book that has a very cheesy or ugly cover. And even if someone recommends a book to me, I’ll be very skeptical if it has, say, half-naked people on the cover.

So covers matter! Mind you, I’ll still buy a book if the cover is ugly and the story is great. But if the book looks pretty on my shelf, it’s an added bonus.

So today, I’ll be comparing the covers of ten books: US version vs. the German one. Hope you enjoy!

1. City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

Okay, so there’s really no competition here. Germany wins this, fair and square. Honestly, the old US cover is so awful, I used to be embarrassed to be seen reading this out in public. Whereas the German one is stunning – instead of that weird bare chest in the background, we have beautiful architecture and no people at all. Even the newer US version, which is definitely a lot better than the old one, can’t compete. So one point to Germany.

2. Rubinrot by Kerstin Gier (English title: Ruby Red)

So – I’m pretty sure most people will agree with me that the first US cover is quite hideous. In my opinion, it suffers very badly from both the person-on-the-cover and girl-in-a-dress syndrome. The second US cover, in contrast, is actually really pretty, and I do like that one. However, I still like the German cover more. Maybe that’s partly because that’s the cover I’m used to, but I also just like the design. It’s cool how many details you can find in the vines surrounding the cover.

3. Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard (German title: Die Rote Königin)

Contentwise, Red Queen may not have been overwhelming. While the story did show promise, it did not really manage to become much more than an assembly of various popular YA tropes. But. That cover. The US designers certainly did a great job with that one and I absolutely love it. The German one – not so much. I mean, it isn’t terrible either, but why did it need to have that person in the background? The US definitely win here.

4. Tintenherz by Cornelia Funke (English title: Inkheart)

Honestly, both the US and the German cover designer deserve commendation here, because both these covers are stunning and really capture the essence of this book. Still, I like the German cover slightly more. Again, it might be the nostalgia, but I also really like the idea of having the old-fashioned letters and the book on the cover, as well as several scenes from the story itself. That just really captures the plot and the feel of the book, which is about a girl, Meggie, whose father has the ability to make objects and characters out of books become alive by reading out loud.

5. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver (German title: Wenn Du Stirbst, Zieht Dein Ganzes Leben an Dir Vorbei, Sagen Sie)

Sadly, I have to say that I don’t think either of these covers is particularly pretty. The US one has a face on the cover, something I really don’t like, and it looks much more than a fluffy summery contemporary romance book than the rather dark story it actually is. The German one conveys the idea of death and a car accident a little better – those light spots coming from the text and the dark letters kind of give off that vibe. But, in all honesty, the German cover could also belong to a self-help book. And what were they thinking, squeezing in Lauren Oliver’s name next to the title in that weird pink and curly font? I am not a fan. Still, I do think the German cover is a lot better than the US one. So, very reluctantly, I’ll have to give the point to Germany for this one.

6. Krabat by Otfried Preußler (English title: The Satanic Mill)

This was one of my absolute favorite books growing up, and to this day, I still love it dearly. Since it’s very popular here in Germany, there are actually several covers, and there’s also another US version, so I just decided to go with what I think are the most common ones. Though I think both covers fit the story quite well, I do prefer the German one. I really like the simplicity of its design, with just the mill and the ravens in front of the blue background. I guess the US one is okay, too, but somehow, I can’t quite get on board with the yellow writing in front of the green background. And while drawn people are definitely better than photographs of people, no people are still better. So, again, Germany wins.

7. Graceling by Kristin Cashore (German title: Die Beschenkte)

I love, love, love the US cover here, and I’m still kind of bummed that I own the UK versions for these companion novels (especially for Bitterblue, where the US version is just gorgeous). The German cover however – not so much. I guess it’s good that if there has to be a person on the cover, at least they’re not showing her face. But this person also does not fit the story at all! Katsa is definitely not ladylike and for most of the book, her hair is as short as a boy’s. And even before that, I doubt she’d have been wearing a relatively neat bun. And what is up with that swirly red thing? Maybe the designers took inspiration from the German Twilight covers? I guess we’ll never know. But the point here goes to the US. Hands down. Even the UK versions are stunning compared to the German ones.

8. Skogland by Kirsten Boie (English title: The Princess Plot)

Suffice it to say – if I had seen the US cover in a bookstore, I would never have picked this book up. It looks like such a rebellious girly-girl story that I would have been ashamed to be seen with it. This is such a great coming of age story with so much intrigue, friendships, and, of course, politics, that I think the German cover sums up much better, in addition to being much better looking…

9. Percy Jackson and the Lighting Thief by Rick Riordan (German title: Percy Jackson: Diebe im Olymp)

I actually think that both of these covers are quite nice and capture the essence of the story really well. However, I do slightly prefer the US cover here. Maybe because Zeus’ huge face isn’t in the background (that is supposed to be Zeus, right??). I also really like the simplicity of it, as well as the fact that Percy is wearing his orange Camp Halfblood t-shirt and carrying the minotaur horn. And the Empire State Building in the background is a nice touch – it really captures the idea of ancient Greek gods in our modern-day world. While the German cover is by no means bad and the font is definitely pretty awesome, I do think the US does it slightly better here.

10. Die Unendliche Geschichte by Michael Ende (English title: The Neverending Story)

Again, I have to go for simplicity here. While I do think that the English cover represents the story well, I also think it is extremely crowded and looks more like something I’d expect from an old book of fairytales. And while I don’t necessarily think the German cover does more justice to the story, it just looks more appealing, somehow. I guess I’m just a fan of more simple covers.

So – I guess this is the end of this cover battle. The final score is

so I guess Germany is the clear winner!

Don’t take that as a given, though. There are plenty of ugly German covers out there, so I might have to do this again someday to give the US a fair chance – let me know if you’d be interested.

Also, let me know your thoughts on these covers! Do you agree with my decisions? I’d love to know!

7 thoughts on “Comparing US and German Book Covers

  1. Anonymous says:

    You need to compare the Obsidian covers. The German book covers are a thousand times better in my (biased) opinion!!! I would not be seen reading the US version in public but the German one is stunning!

    Liked by 1 person

    • abookowlscorner says:

      Oh gosh, yes! The US Lux covers are horrifying!! I don’t know how any cover designer ever could have thought they looked good 🙈 The German ones are definitely a million times better – and I feel pretty confident in saying that without even having read the books 😂


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