Comparing US and German Book Covers (Part 2)

Happy World Book Day, everyone!

Today we’re going to be talking about something rather superficial – but what book nerd doesn’t love a good cover? Compared to the story a book contains, it might not really matter much, but no one can deny the alluring power of a good cover in a bookshop, or how nice it can look on your shelves… Plus, I think it’s really interesting to see what designers from different countries come up with when they want to dress the same story!

So, finally, I am making good on my promise to eventually do a second part to this (if you missed the first one, you can check it out here). Basically, the idea is to compare a US cover to the German one of the same book and award a point to the country that I think did it better. I’ll alternate between originally English and originally German books and also try to give you the gist of what these books are about – maybe that way, you can find a few new recommendations 😉

So, without further ado, let’s look at the covers!

1. The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang (German title: Im Zeichen der Mohnblume: Die Schamanin)

I honestly can’t decide between these two, so I’m giving them half a point each. My game, my rules 😉 I’m a huge fan of the color scheme and the simplicity of the designs – they’re both gorgeous! I think I slightly prefer the typeset of the US cover – the smoke around the letters and the variation in color looks really cool, but the German cover portrays the Chinese-inspired setting much better. Then again, the girl on the US cover really gets across the protagonist Rin’s character. To sum it up: These covers are both great, and so is the book, so if you’re looking for your next high fantasy read, here is a good one!

2. Das Parfum by Patrick Süskind (English title: Perfume)

This book is about a serial killer who makes perfume out of the scent of dead women. I know. It sounds gruesome. It is. It’s also horribly disturbing, and I wouldn’t recommend it to the faint-hearted. But I couldn’t put this book down! I was creepily engrossed and grossed-out throughout it, and it’s definitely a book that sticks with you. Speaking of the covers, it’s a no-brainer. The US wins, duh. While the German one also fits the story, it’s just really ugly. Why would you want to look at a naked woman with her breasts hanging out every time you read this? – Okay, maybe if you’re a creepy pervert identifying with the serial killer, you would. But other than that? The US cover is just so stunningly pretty and also fits the story, those flowers getting the idea of perfume across really well, and the scissors and black background the more macabre undertones. One point to the US.

(In all fairness, the US also has editions of this book that look like the German one, but at least it has an alternative! I’ve never seen a different cover in Germany. So I think the US wins this fair and square.)

3. The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson (German title: Kinder des Nebels)

This is another one of my favorite high fantasy series out there, and I actually like both US covers (though I prefer the first one) and the German one. However, my appreciation for them is somewhat diminished because I own the UK edition, which is absolutely gorgeous. Other covers just can’t compete, so I had to sneak the UK in here, too. I can’t really pick between the US and Germany, though. They’re very different in tone and color scheme, but I think the covers all fit the story well and are reasonably pretty. I do kind of wonder why the US went with the title of the series rather than the title of the first book on the cover… But that’s not what’s getting judged here, and besides, the German title translates to “Children of the Mist”, which isn’t any better. Based on aesthetics alone, half a point to both countries.

4. Herr der Diebe by Cornelia Funke (English title: The Thief Lord)

This is a fantasy story following a gang of homeless kids in Venice, and it was one of my favorites as a child. And, while I do think that the German cover gets across the setting of Venice much better, I’ll have to go with the US here. It just captures the atmosphere of the book so well! It’s simple, yet mysterious, and that title font… Well, Germany can’t compete. Plus, the German cover is just plain unrealistic – why would a thief stand on one of Venice’s most famous bridges in open sunlight? That sounds like the dumbest thing he could have thought of. One point to the US.

5. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

In this case, I think both the US and the German covers are awful. They suffer from person-on-the-cover syndrome, look horribly cheesy, and do terrible injustice to the beautifully written fantasy story inside. Plus, the US cover barely reflects what this story is about, and the German one doesn’t do much better. All we get there is that we have a blue-haired main character, and a hint at the skyline of Prague, which is where this is set. Which is a shame, because the UK clearly shows it is possible to create stunning covers for this book… Trust me, I’m very bummed that I own the US one. Still, I’ll have to give a point to the US here. Though that cover is pretty ugly, the German one is so much worse that it deserves to go empty handed. I just can’t take that girl and the weird font seriously.

6. Homo Faber by Max Frisch

I laughed so hard when I saw the US cover for this book, because it is just sooo fitting. The story is pretty much about an incestuous relationship between a man and his daughter, and the US cover represents that perfectly. This book was one of the stupidest things I ever had to read for school – even putting the incest aside, the main character was utterly unlikeable and the writing style horribly dry and boring – so it fully deserves a cover like the US one. Still, speaking from an aesthetical standpoint, I think I’d be much more likely to pick up the German one. Not that it’s pretty, or anything, but at least it doesn’t have a weird picture of people on it. Plus, the monotonous style and the boat also get across aspects of this story well. So one point to Germany.

7. Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo (German title: Das neunte Haus)

This one is interesting, because both covers are so similar. I wonder why the German designers decided to add the blue and switch title and author, as well as the direction of the snake. If they stick that closely to the original, why didn’t they just keep that design? Still, I can’t deny that the blue sheen looks pretty cool, and that I really like that you get to see the snake’s head in more detail. However, I do slightly prefer the US cover here. I think the black just fits the dark undertones of this story much better – Ninth House is about secret magical societies at Yale and a murder case – and it also looks more alluring and mysterious. So one point to the US.

8. Momo by Michael Ende

I don’t even have to think here – the US cover is awful and doesn’t make this book look appealing at all. Which is such a shame, because I absolutely love it! It’s really hard to explain what this book is about to someone who hasn’t read it, so I suggest you just go ahead and do, but here is a feeble attempt: This is about an orphan who lives in an abandoned amphitheater, a magical turtle, a man who sweeps streets, and time thieves. Trust me, it’s great! And I think the German cover gets across that magicalness very well. So one point to Germany.

9. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer (German title: Bis(s) zum Morgengrauen)

I know you’re all dying for this comparison (See the horrible pun I made there? Sorry, I just couldn’t resist…). Anyway, I’m going to have to give the point to the US here. Not that I think it’s wonderful or anything, and it certainly doesn’t really fit the story that well – unless the apple is supposed to emphasize the paleness of Edward and his family’s skin or something – but I actually like the simplicity of it and I really like the font for the title. The German cover, however, just looks kind of weird. Like someone pasted part of an old Baroque painting and covered that with wallpaper. I mean, I guess the neck exposure is supposed to refer to the vampire thing and all, but is it appealing? Not really. I do appreciate the wordplay in the German title though (bis means ‘until’ and Biss means ‘bite’, so it can be read both as “Until Twilight” and “Bite at Twilight”) …

10. Silber: Das erste Buch der Träume by Kerstin Gier (English title: Dream a Little Dream)

These covers actually both represent the story well – it’s about a girl who discovers that people can enter doors to other people’s subconscious while they are asleep. Still, I think the German cover does it much better. It’s stunning and full of fun and magic, while the US one could also belong to a cheesy romance novel. So one point to Germany.

And we’re done! If I didn’t miscount, the final results are:

Which means that this time, the US is the clear winner and manages to make up for losing spectacularly against Germany last time I did this. I told you there were also some pretty bad German covers out there…

Anyway, let me know if you agree with my choices! Which of these covers did you think was stunning, which one absolutely hideous? Do you have any favorite covers out there? I’d be interested to know! 🙂

8 thoughts on “Comparing US and German Book Covers (Part 2)

  1. Einfach ich - just me says:

    I noticed the same. Some of my ebooks did not sell in Germany and some only sold abroad.

    And I also think that nudity does not sell well in some countries.

    Liked by 1 person

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