Salty Ink’s 4th Annual Judge a Book by Its Cover Contest

Each year, as a fun, interactive way to get people talking about books, and to praise good book design, Salty Ink launches a Judge-a-book-by-its-cover competition for the best-looking books of the previous year. 

Sadly, 2 publishers couldn’t get back to me in time, but that’ll make your choices a little easier. Get to it. Thanks for playing

HERE’S HOW IT WORKS:

- Do NOT vote for your favourite book or because you like that author.

- Pretend you’ve read none of these. And pretend to love poetry and fiction equally.

- Vote for the book whose design, paired with its backcover summary, would entice you the most to read the book.

Vote Below, and you can vote for THREE books

A Matter of Life and Death or Something by Ben Stephenson (Jacket Design by Jessica Sullivan; published by Douglas & McIntyre)

The big-hearted story of a ten-year-old boy, a notebook and the meaning of the universe.

Even though he’s only ten years old, Arthur Williams knows lots of things for sure. He knows all about trilobites, and bridge, and that he doesn’t want to be Victoria Brown’s boyfriend, and that tapping maple trees causes them excruciating pain. He knows his real dad is probably flying a hot-air balloon across the Pacific, or paving a city with moss. And he knows that Simon, the guy who pretends to be his dad, does absolutely nothing interesting. But when Arthur finds a weather-worn notebook in the woods behind his house, all he has are questions. Why was its author, Phil, so sad, and why does it end on page 43? Suddenly, there are other questions too: Why do people abandon people? Why do they abandon themselves …

Animal Husbandry Today by Jamie Sharpe (Design by Natalie Olsen; published by ECW Press)

An accessible and illuminating debut collection of poetry that explores the arranged marriage of the bestial and humane. Logic is strained, existence contracts and multiplies, connections amputate then graft in incongruous ways in Jamie Sharpe’s poems, which, like a funhouse mirror, reflect our own absurd image. Nancy Reagan promotes crab salad (which is to say, her husband); the city of Paris spills into the countryside; a hammer seeks understanding through a vase. An assemblage of often disparate elements, Animal Husbandry Today attempts the ultimate reconciliation: that of the mind with the world.

Astray by Emma Donaghue (Design by HarperCollins Staff; Published by HarperCollins)

Goldminer. Counterfeiter. Slave. Dishwasher. Prostitute. Attorney. Sculptor. Mercenary. Elephant. Corpse.

The colourful, fascinating characters that roam the pages of Emma Donoghue’s stories have all gone astray: they are emigrants, runaways, drifters, lovers old and new. They cross other borders too: those of race, law, sex and sanity. They travel for love or money, incognito or under duress. With rich detail, the celebrated author of Room takes us from puritan Massachusetts to the Yukon gold rush, antebellum Louisiana to a 1960s Toronto highway. 

Cadillac Couches by Sophie Watson (Design by Pete Kohut; Published by Brindle & Glass)

A picaresque road trip novel that journeys from prairie to big city and back again. A quixotic tale set in the late nineties and framed by the popular Edmonton Folk Music Festival, it follows two music-smitten twentysomething women as they search for love and purpose. Annie Jones is trying to put her big love, Sullivan, behind her and squash her demons of anxiety and compulsion. In a post-fest funk, she and her more worldly sidekick Isobel jump in Annie’s 1972 Volkswagen Beetle and race across the country to Montreal where her real-life fantasy man, Hawksley Workman, is doing a gig. A year later Annie and Isobel end up back at the folk festival, this time in a much different position. A witty first novel, Cadillac Couches is a story about finding one’s holy grail in life. 

The Cloaca by Andrew Hood (Design by Megan Fildes; Published by Invisible Publishing)

The stories included in Andrew Hood’s sophomore collection are beautiful, gross, funny, and personal. The Cloaca is a train wreck of awesomeness. It’s your high school gym coach, drunk and dishing dirt on all the other teachers on the crosstown bus—a stomach-turning spectacle that’ll make you laugh out loud now, feel bad later. You won’t be able to look away for an instant.

Dance, Gladys, Dance by Cassie Stocks (Design by Natalie Olsen; Published by NeWest Press)

27-year-old Frieda Zweig is at an impasse. Behind her is a string of failed relationships and half-forgotten ambitions of being a painter; in front of her lies the dreary task of finding a real job and figuring out what “normal” people do with their lives. Then, a classified ad in the local paper introduces Frieda to Gladys, an elderly woman who long ago gave up on her dreams of being a dancer. The catch? Gladys is a ghost. In Dance, Gladys, Dance, Cassie Stocks tells the uplifting story of a woman whose uncanny connection with a kindred spirit causes her to see her life in a new way—as anything but ordinary.

Exit Papers from Paradise by Liam Card (Design by Jesse Hooper; Published by Dundurn Press)

Frustrated 35-year-old plumber Isaac Sullivan believes he has both the intellect and skill to be a surgeon. Forced to take over his father’s plumbing business straight out of high school, Isaac’s had dreams of attending the University of Michigan that fell by the wayside. However, the unfortunate setback didn’t stop him entirely. For the past decade, he has absorbed every medical textbook and journal available to him. For practical experience, Isaac performs surgeries on the wildlife around his house, preparing for the day he attends Michigan. Yet the years continue to pass and Isaac remains stuck in Paradise, Michigan, as a plumber. That is, until this year, when an event pushes him to apply as an undergraduate for the first time. Exit Papers from Paradise is about the gap between the person we are and the person we desperately want to be.

Gay Dwarves of America by Anne Fleming (Design by Zab Hobart; Published by Pedlar Press)

There are no gay dwarves in Gay Dwarves of America, but there’s a mother of a teen with dwarfism who worries he might be gay, and there’s a parasitologist named Edna who’d rather not hear the words ‘gay’ or ‘lesbian’ but longs for the love of a certain young woman, and a boy on a unicycle — there is always a boy on a unicycle — and a hockey mom in Toronto who pretends to be Swiss. Hut, hut, hut, she shouts in the stands, ringing her cowbell like she was at a ski hill. There’s a story that’s a musical (numbers include “You Can’t Leave a Man in a Coma” and “The Total Quality Management Waltz”) and a story that’s one family’s puke diary. With a nod to the circus and a wink at the kitchen sink, Gay Dwarves of America is like a mixed tape made by your pirate radio DJ friend who never quite grew up, and who shelters, behind that fun shiny nerdy schtick, the tenderest of tender hearts.

How to Get Along with Women by Elisabeth de Mariaffi (Design by Megan Fildes; Published by Invisible Publishing)

A sharply original debut collection, How To Get Along With Women showcases Elisabeth de Mariaffi’s keen eye and inventive voice. Infused with a close and present danger, these stories tighten the knot around power, identity, and sexuality, and draw the reader into the pivotal moments where—for better or for worse—we see ourselves for what we truly are.

Husk by Corey Redekop (Design by Dave Gee; Published by ECW Press)

An outlandishly funny, unambiguously bloody novel about fame, love, religion, politics, and appetite.

It is one thing to die, alone and confused, trapped with your pants down around your ankles in the filthiest bus restroom in existence. It’s quite another thing to wake up during the autopsy, attack the coroner, and flee into the wintry streets of Toronto. It’s not like Sheldon Funk didn’t have enough on his plate. His last audition, for the reality television series House Bingo, had gone disastrously wrong. His mother was in the late stages of dementia. His savings were depleted, his agent couldn’t care less, and his boyfriend was little more than a nice set of abs. Now, Sheldon also has to contend with decomposition, the scent of the open grave, and an unending appetite for human flesh. Plus another audition in the morning. 

The Iron Bridge by Anton Piatigorsky (Design by Chris Tompkins; Published by Goose Lane)

In a bold, brilliant collection of stories, Dora Award-winning playwright Anton Piatigorsky delivers a superbly inspired inquiry into the early lives of the 20th century’s most notorious tyrants. In The Iron Bridge, he is unafraid to push at the boundaries of the unexpected as he breathes fictionalized life into the adolescents who would grow up to become the most brutal dictators the world has ever known. We discover a teenaged Mao Tse-Tung refusing an arranged marriage; Idi Amin cooking for the British Army; Stalin living in a seminary; and a melodramatic young Adolf Hitler dreaming of vast architectural achievements. Piatigorsky dazzlingly explores moments that are nothing more than vague incidents in the biographies of these men, expanding mere footnotes into entire realities as he ingeniously fills the gaps in the historical record. 

The Land of Decoration by Grace McCleen (Design by Lisa Bettencourt; Published by HarperCollins)

Ten-year-old Judith McPherson is a believer. Her world is carefully constructed around her faith: nightly scripture reading with her father, weekly gatherings at the Meeting Hall and daily proselytizing to the lost. With no TV and no books “of the world” to entertain her, she passes time by creating The Land of Decoration, a model in miniature of The Promised Land which she has made of collected discarded scraps—divine treasures that she squirrels away.

But Judith’s troubles are mounting. At school, Neil Lewis’s relentless terrorizing has reached a feverish, dangerous pitch and, in town, a strike threatens the factory where her father works. One Sunday night, terrified of the violence that awaits her in the halls on Monday, Judith conjures a snowstorm in The Land of Decoration made of shaving cream, cotton and cellophane. The next morning the ground outside her window is a crisp, dazzling white. Judith can perform miracles. In fact, she might just be God’s chosen instrument. But with power comes weighty consequences, and Judith must face them head on to keep her faith—and her family—alive.

The Lava in My Bones by Barry Webster (Design by Gerilee McBride, with cover type and text illustrations are by Carey Ann Schaefer; Published by Arsenal Pulp Press)

A frustrated Canadian geologist studying global warming becomes obsessed with eating rocks after embarking on his first same-sex relationship in Europe. Back home, his young sister is a high-school girl who suddenly starts to ooze honey through her pores, an affliction that attracts hordes of bees as well as her male classmates. Meanwhile, their obsessive Pentecostal mother repeatedly calls on the Holy Spirit to rid her family of demons. The siblings are reunited on a ship bound for Europe where they hope to start a new life, but are unaware that their disguised mother is also on board and plotting to win back their souls, with the help of the Virgin Mary.

Our Gleaming Bones Unrobed by Grant Loveys (Design by Gary Pullin; Published by ECW Press)

Our Gleaming Bones Unrobed is a haunting debut, a poetry collection thematically focused on discovering the structure (the figurative bones) beneath the appearance of a situation. This poetry is at once memento mori — a reminder and celebration of our mortality — and a lyrical exploration of the spirituality of the mundane, the possibility for revelation found in the commonplace. 

The universe’s heart is a ruined house. 
Written on the door is this:
you cannot do a thing that has not already been done.
– from “On the Occasion of a Book Burning”

Psychology and Other Stories by C.P. Boyko (Design by Gord Robertson; Published by Biblioasis)

Psychologists are people we love to hate. At best, they’re compassionate detectives of the human soul, healers and diagnosticians, assessing the internal machinations that structure our lives and behavior. At worst, however, they’re smug, hyper-educated, bombastic, yappy, socially deaf, thrice-divorced and twice-separated spouse-swapping cat-torturing perverts.  Plus, they’re all in this book. And so are their patients.

C.P. Boyko’s Psychology and Other Stories is a brilliant study of mental illness, mental health, and the people who try to tell them apart.

Radio Belly by Buffy Cram (Design by Peter Cocking; Published by Douglas & McIntyre)

A formidable debut of nine surreally funny, politically astute and emotionally gripping stories.

In the surreal world of Buffy Cram’s stories, someone or something has slipped beneath the skins of her already beleaguered characters, rearranging the familiar into something strange and even sinister, making off with their emotional and even physical goods. A smug suburbanite becomes obsessed with the “hybrids,” the wandering mob of intellectual vagrants overrunning his complacent little cul de sac, snacking on pâté and reciting poetry; a father and daughter’s post-apocalyptic Pacific island civilization, built of floating garbage and sustained entirely by rubber, is beginning to fray, literally, revealing something disastrously like moss beneath its smooth synthetic skin; following an appendectomy, a young woman’s belly starts transmitting what sound like Russian radio signals; a young publishing assistant, demoted at work and dumped by her boyfriend, finds herself unable to control her strange new appetites.

Seen Reading by Julie Wilson (Design by Natalie Olsen; Published by Freehand Books)

Seen Reading is the exciting debut collection of microfictions from Canada’s pre-eminent literary voyeur, Julie Wilson. Based on the beloved online movement of the same name, Seen Reading collects more than a hundred stories inspired by sightings of people reading on Toronto transit, each reader re-invented in a poetic piece of short fiction. Tender, poignant, and fun,Seen Reading offers readers an inspired fictional map while charting an urban centre’s cultural commitment to books and literature.

Soak by Kerri Cull (Design by Rhonda Molloy; Published by Breakwater Books)

This collection focuses on physical experience and contemplates the beauty of everyday life – the objects, the stories, and the people that drift in and out. It finds the extraordinary in the ordinary.

Swallow by Theanna Bischoff (Design by Natalie Olsen; Published by NeWest Press)

You wake up, and your sister is dead …

With an absent father and a chronically ill mother, sisters Darcy and Carly Nolan were forced to rely on each other growing up. While unpredictable Carly bounced around, her life’s direction uncertain, Darcy went to university and moved to another province. When Carly unexpectedly kills herself at the age of nineteen, Darcy is left alone to carry the burden of their painful childhood memories, and to make sense of her sister’s death—as an act of destruction and misery, but also of love.

Sympathy Loophole by Jamie Forsythe (Design by Paul Hammond; Published by Mansfield Press)

This lively first collection, often both creepy and hilarious, serves up an image-laden universe — the sideshow we call home — where contortionists, womanizing ventriloquist dummies, and pickled sharks compete with the everyday for the mark’s hard-earned buck. Jaime Forsythe’s poetry is loaded with wit, mystery, surprise, and breathtaking juxtapositions — it’s a contemporary inventory of pop culture and human experience that proves the wacky and the poignant can share a seat in the same roller-coaster of a stanza.

YOU MAY VOTE FOR UP TO 3 COVERS!
You CANNOT Vote from the same IP Address more than once
Polls close Sunday January 27th, Midnight Newfoundland Time.
Also — they’re all winners. They beat out VERY stiff competition to get here. 

What was 2012's Best Looking Book?

  • Animal Husbandry Today (17%, 164 Votes)
  • Our Gleaming Bones Unrobed (14%, 131 Votes)
  • Radio Belly (13%, 125 Votes)
  • The Iron Bridge (11%, 109 Votes)
  • The Land of Decoration (9%, 87 Votes)
  • A Matter of Life and Death or Something (9%, 86 Votes)
  • Seen Reading (9%, 85 Votes)
  • Psychology and Other Stories (8%, 78 Votes)
  • Cadillac Couches (8%, 77 Votes)
  • Swallow (8%, 77 Votes)
  • Sympathy Loophole (8%, 76 Votes)
  • How to Get Along with Women (8%, 76 Votes)
  • The Lava in My Bones (8%, 73 Votes)
  • Exit Papers from Paradise (8%, 73 Votes)
  • Husk (6%, 59 Votes)
  • Astray (6%, 56 Votes)
  • Soak (6%, 54 Votes)
  • The Cloaca (5%, 51 Votes)
  • Gay Dwarves of America (5%, 51 Votes)
  • Dance, Gladys, Dance (4%, 37 Votes)

Total Voters: 960

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