I have had a few really terrible book covers during my life as an author. Sometimes I thought: (a) the designer has not read my book, (b) if they have, their IQ is smaller than the font size or (c) they are legally blind.

Looking around at other book covers over the years, I noticed that some problems didn’t start with bad design: there were also some pretty bad titles – or simply very misguided concepts.

I began to speculate on what some writers were thinking when they imagined their creation.

Did they really think that someone, somewhere might really want to read such a book? Did they ever look at the cover and the title and think: wait a minute, this might not be quite right?

What are the worst covers – or the worst book concepts – that you have ever seen?

Here’s a selection – my worst twenty ever.

NOTE: I have only included books that are currently available for purchase through Amazon. So unfortunately I was not able to consider THE THEORY OF LENGTHWISE ROLLING, by A.I.Tselikov (Central Books, 1982); THE LESBIAN SADOMASOCHISM SAFETY MANUAL by Patrick Califia-Rice (Lace Publications, 1990); HIGHLIGHTS IN THE HISTORY OF CONCRETE by Christopher C. Stanley (British Cement Association, 1979) or most disappointingly, GREEK RURAL POSTMEN AND THEIR CANCELLATION NUMBERS (Hellenic Philatelic Association of Great Britain, 1994).

Astonishingly, none of the above are still available in print.

Here are my candidates:


how to avoid big ships




'worst book covers ever'


'worst book covers ever'


'worst book covers ever'


'worst book covers ever'


'worst book covers ever'

this is seriously wrong. This illustrator needs counseling.









'worst book titles ever'





'worst book covers'


Feel free to vote for your favourite, if that’s the right word. I am strangely drawn to the lesbian horse stories. But for sheer creepiness, I find number two absolutely terrifying.

Over to you.


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Anastasia, Princess, Colin Falconer

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About colinfalconer

author of bestselling historical novels like Anastasia, When We Were Gods, Aztec and Harem. My books have been published in the UK, US and ANZ and translated into seventeen languages.
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  1. prudencemacleod says:

    Hi Colin, I’m not sure which is worse, the covers or the titles. I’m feeling much better now. Thanks for another great post. Keep ’em coming.

  2. Oh, my. This has made my day. I just lost it and laughed out loud at number four. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. ritaroberts says:

    Well Colin, those titles are hilareous let alone the pics. I made a mistake with my book title….Toffee Apples & Togas and its a biography,however it does have a connection as there are Roman recipes in the back of the cover. Take a look on Amazon

  4. J. Boyd says:

    I know there is at least one book on there that was a huge deal back in its day. “Still Stripping” was by one of the most famous ladies in the quilting industry when it came out. Quilters fancy what they think are tongue & cheek or risky titles; in actuality the rest of the world is just shaking their head.

    I’m not sure what is more sad, the book title, or the fact that I used to quilt and know all this.

    • Thank you for that … and I suppose the fact is, if she’d chosen a more straightforward title, I wouldn’t have taken any notice. If it’s deliberate, it’s kind of OK.

  5. Actually I think the titles are more amusing than the covers – most of the covers are pretty appropriate (Christopher Hitchens’ book is actually about Mother Teresa, so it makes absolute sense to have her on the cover). Admittedly, the classical themes one and the Blazing Embers ones are extremely dodgy!

    There are some very bad romance novel covers – at Brown Paper, there was one featured where the swooning heroine had three arms…

    • Emma, I was also very worried about the two covers you mentioned. They were all about the illustrations and I would have serious concerns about the mental state of the artist! I would love to see the one with the arms!

  6. Ha! Some of those titles deserve…um, interesting covers. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Reminds me of my grandmother’s old cookbook, “Heartburn and Gas Recipes.”

    • Really? Unfortunately it seems to be out of print – I looked for it just then. I did find a book called ‘Why Stomach Acid is Good for You’ and ‘Heartburn and Gastric Reflux for Dummies.’ Amazing.

  7. I found myself particularly amused by ‘The Haunted Vagina’. And is number 1 about lesbians who like horses or horses that are lesbians?

    • Now that is a really good point, and I’m glad you brought that up because I haven’t figured that out either. In the illustration the girl is looking at the other girl and the horse looks jealous. So perhaps all three of them are?

      • brendatica says:

        Okay, that crossed my mind, too. Weird! Don’t think I’ll read it to find out!

  8. Debra Brown says:

    Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America: A Guide to Field Identification. Hopeless.

    Google Chrome has said that your page has insecure content and gave me the option to not load or load anyway as it quickly loaded.

    • I think maybe because I okayed a comment (correctly) that Askismet said was spam – that happened once before. Yeah, I’d like to see inside that stray shopping carts book – perhaps it’s like Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – but I fear not.

  9. amyshojai says:

    Holy cats! What’s funny is I totally “get” the Bomb Proof Horse title–that’s a common saying in the dog behavior arena applied to dogs that still behave no matter what (they’re “bomb proof”) so you want a bomb-proof dog for therapy situations or police work or whatnot. And a bomb-proof horse won’t shy away and kill the rider if a car backfires or umbrella opens during a parade. But the rest of them…just shaking my head. Some are seriously WRONG! This was vastly entertaining, will share!

  10. Wow. Cooking With Poo…yeah. Even though I know exactly what the author means, it just sounds so bad. I have to admit I had to check out some of the books, to see what they were really about. Some of them sound amusing enough that I’d read them…if I could get past the idea of having the covers and titles in my house. As for Blazing Embers, I definitely intend to be enjoying all aspects of my life…well into my golden years, so I think it’s cool to see books that address the subject. However…that cover…hmm. I could use a new coffee table book. Maybe that would fit the bill. ๐Ÿ˜€

    • I think a couple of them were meant to be deliberately amusing – but not all. And like you, I had no issue with the title or the content of Burning Embers but that cover … no, that seriously freaks me out.

  11. CC MacKenzie says:


    Thank you for the fabulous titles and covers. You couldn’t make them up!
    Blazing Embers, got to be the winner since it will come (!) to us all!

  12. Rix says:

    The titles were probably worse than some of the covers!

    Although that piano picture (easy to play classical themes) could be quite disturbing for some! Actually yes that gets my vote for worst.

    Number 3 made me laugh out loud.

    Rix Banga

    • Thanks Rix. Yeah, what is the upside to castration. It’s almost worth buying the damned thing to find out what on hell this guy is thinking.

    • violafury says:

      That is supposed to be Ludwig van Beethoven, my muse and Patron Saint (we share the same Birthday and he was the first composer to un-condemn violas from whole notes and make the instrument challenging. He also brought the musical world from the classical to the romantic period in about 40 measures in his 3rd symphony. The “Eroica” not the “Erotica” as seems to be portrayed on that book cover.) Just no…. ick.

      • You’re so right. I still can’t look at that cover. And what in God’s name is he holding in his left hand. Every time I look at it I discover something even worse

      • violafury says:

        My legally bland kicks in and I just slide right over that puppy! I got lost in the Tom Jones-style hair-do the first time, but recognized Ludwig and went totally into shock.

  13. Jerry says:

    Frankly, I’m encouraged. “The Proceedings of the 18th International Seaweed Symposium” has just made it safe for me to publish “International Dust Collectors Quarterly”.

    In all honesty, there’s too many great candidates to vote on. I’ll pick “Castration” since I wonder what those advantages could be.

  14. Debra Kristi says:

    Hahaha!!! These are awesome! Those poor authors. I feel for them. They should have run the covers and titles by a few people to get the reaction before publication. So sad to be laughing at their expense.

    • I think maybe a couple were deliberate, Debra, but most weren’t. I feel a bit bad, too, but it sounds like Burning Embers and the Advantages and Disadvantages of Castration will get a few extra sales, as all the titles are linked. Whoever wrote the one for kids about learning to play classical music should have a serious word with their illustrator.

  15. I seem to remember “How to Succeed in business…” lol.

    these had me LOL. great post, Colin

  16. doyourjob says:

    I think the most horrifying one was #14 “It’s Easy To Play Classical Themes” – even the look on the teacher’s face is smarmy. Yikes! Thanks for the laugh

  17. If the covers are this wierd – what in the name of Heaven is inside.

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  19. Lynn Kelley says:

    OMG, I’m wondering how these could be real! My vote goes to The Haunted Vagina! How did you find all of these? Great post, Colin. Lots of laughs!

    • Thanks Lynn. After I found twenty or thirty, and I knew where to look, I had to stop, there were so many. Some are deliberately off the wall but many others are … well, not so deliberate ….

  20. The Hook says:

    Horrible.. yet awesome as well!

  21. 8teen39 says:

    I think I confused two of your titles and purchased Cooking With Poo. It’s actually not as bad as it sounds. And you can blame this comment on Susie. I saw you at her party.

    • Susie throws very good parties. I was tempted to buy Cooking with Poo as well, just so I could have it on my bookshelf. Were they ingenuous or mischievous when they came up with that title? Anyway, it’s on my TBR list!

      • 8teen39 says:

        I think just for fun I would take the dust cover off and use it on any other book I was reading. Go to my local coffee shop, sit down, and open up Cooking With Poo (or Pooh). Might be interesting!

      • Brilliant idea. I’m going to take my copy of Lesbian Horse Stories and do the same thing. We’ll see what happens!

  22. The Practical Pyromaniac I assume is an idea of bad concept? If so… clearly you have not known some of my friends. LOL But then, one of my boyfriend’s best buds had a dad who was an actual rocket scientist, so……..

    There’s an international seaweed symposium?

    The shopping cart thing I can see people buying as just a humorous thing.

    #14 is just…. ummmmmmmmmm……………………….. no.

    #9 is just…. what?

    #4 was intentional, so I wouldn’t count that one necessarily. Looking at the reviews, it’s a humor book.

    • I guess I knew that about 4, Karyl, but I just couldn’t resist anyway. Like you, I found 14 deeply disturbing. And I chose 9 from a lot of similar candidates from the same author. It must be working for him but I don’t see them making a TV series from it anytime soon.

  23. violafury says:

    …And for #13, the Legally Blind (Bland) contingent here saw “How to Manage a Denial Practice,” I was all huh? Until I went back and looked at it carefully. Am I wrong in assuming they had dentists in the Mongol Hordes? Because that is the feeling I am getting from that book cover. Or, maybe I was just in shock at seeing Ludwig as Child Molester…. Great bunch of books I hope died a swift death, Colin. I enjoyed these immensely!

    • Managing a Denial Practice? That’s an interesting take. *goes into shop* ‘Is this the Denial Pratice?’ ‘No, it’s not.’ ‘But it says so on the door.’ ‘No, it doesn’t …’ etc. Still makes as much sense as the cover.

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