The color red means many things: warning, caution, stop, passion, love, luck, bold, strong. We think of blood, roses, hearts, and stop signs. It’s a main color for Valentine’s Day: chocolates come in red heart containers and certain body parts get wrapped in red lace, satin, and silk. When I think of famous books with red covers the first three that come to mind are Beloved by Toni Morrison, The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, and Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. Just those three books show how a color with so many meanings and symbolism associated with it is easily used in many genres and categories, and it makes sense to be used on book covers to quickly grab readers and draw them to it.
With Valentine’s Day on the horizon I suddenly felt a craving for books with red covers, so I decided to go looking for red covered books publishing in early 2022 (Did I almost accidentally write the year that shall not be written? Yes, but I caught it and finished with a ‘2’!). How exactly is publishing using the color red? I found ten red cover books to take a look at in various genres.
Like a Sister by Kellye Garrett
This seems like the most Valentine’s Day cover at a quick glance: a little wine, a little jewelry, a lot of red. Until you actually focus and realize “Oh, well that wine glass is shattered”. And that red may not be the sexy times red, but more the bloody dead people red. Maybe this is a crime book? It is!
Cover designed by Kirin Diemont
American Royalty by Tracey Livesay
This cover comes in hot with a quadruple red threat: the background, her eye makeup, lipstick, and dress. Red looks great on dark skin so you’ve got excellent color pairings, it also means love and royalty so it’s a pretty perfect choice for a romance book with the word “royalty” in the title — especially with him in blue and the lettering in gold as accents.
Cover design by Erick Dávila
Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America by Ijeoma Oluo
Here’s a color change from the hardcover to the paperback release (and updated on the ebook). The background was a deep yellow for the hardcover, and still is for the audiobook. The paperback release, however, went red. Smart way to update the covers: while completely different colors and symbolism, both the yellow and the red are immediate eye catchers.
Cover design by Shreya Gupta
Cover images ©ferrantraite via Getty images; ©ArpornSeemaroj/ Shutterstock.com
Olga Dies Dreaming by Xóchitl González
Even with the large blocks of other colors and prints, the red being used to contain it all and compliment it makes it the star. That yellow, blue, and pink pop as hard as they do because they are beside the red — place them next to white and you’ll get a different impact and tone altogether. The red also seems fitting with the word “dies,” whether literal or not, in the title.
Cover design by Lauren Peters-Collaer
Fight Like a Girl by Sheena Kamal
You put a boxer in the ring on the cover and red is the perfect choice of color. Boxing is a sport that makes me think of anger, violence, and blood. I’d say all three of those words get associated with the color red. And the touch of the taped fists in white, which is what your eye focuses on as you feel the surrounding red, make it more impactful.
Cover design by Lauren Tamaki
Love & Other Disasters by Anita Kelly
First, let’s argue if this is light red or hot pink, shall we? On my monitor this is light red. But I’ve been on the internet long enough to know people really like yelling at you for the most inconsequential thing that they have decided your are wrong about. So I asked Rioters on Slack if they saw this cover as light red or hot pink? I got both answers, more leaning to light red and the definitive ruling came in when it was put through What Color Is This? and came back with red. I love the way it frames the two characters, and on a side note I have to say that I love when the graphic romance novel covers are detailed like this rather than just the blob for a face. Everything about this says love and romance and I’m already rooting for them to have their HEA.
Cover design by Hattie Windley
Anonymous Sex Edited by Hillary Jordan and Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan
Stepmotherland by Darrel Alejandro Holnes
Here’s a poetry collection with a beautiful cover that uses red as a background, frame, and accent. The way the image of the two people seems like it can be two things — a person embracing another, with one arm; a person holding another person back with one arm — makes the bright red frame even more suitable since it also can mean love and caution.
The Violin Conspiracy by Brendan Slocumb
And finally these last two use red in a very similar way while producing two completely different covers. Here we have a red with orange frame, wood grained to give the feeling of a musical instrument. And peeking from behind the eye-catching red is an eye, watching back at you. It is very effective in tone.
Cover designed by Ervin Serrano
The Maid by Nita Prose
Similarly to above, we’re going with the all red, and peeking from center cutout except this one took the keyhole and made it literal. It grabs your attention with the bright solid red, and then you notice the keyhole, and lean in to see just what is happening? If the main color had been a blue or yellow, you may think this was general fiction, but with the red it gives it a feeling of the mystery genre…
I’m always fascinated by the colors of covers and how people react to them — I just looked back at The Best Book Covers of 2021 to see how many had red, or what other color patterns I could see. With my small sample of 2022 books with red covers it looks like the color is easily used throughout genres and categories, but gets mostly used as a bold background or frame.
I apologize for the books that I did not list the person(s) responsible for creating the covers. Publishing does not always make it easy to find this information and I was not always successful in my searches.