The Books that Never Were, but Should Have Been

Why We Love, by Albert EinsteinNormally a Tumblr page is just a quick way for you to overdose on a particular fandom, but occasionally you stumble across something truly genius. For instance, this particular Tumblr displays (nearly) 100 book covers that don’t exist. They belong to books that haven’t been written and probably never will be.

And it’s tragic.

Well, for the most part, anyway. There are a few books in here that I can live without. For instance, this Charles Dickens cover isn’t for a book that wasn’t written so much as a book that summarizes all the books he ever wrote. I’m having enough flashbacks to my sweaty high-school English teacher without reading this book. Oh, and there are a few more that I am truly grateful never became reality. The world would be quantitatively worse with a second Paris Hilton memoir in it.

But on the whole, it’s sad that these books will never exist.

I ache just a little when I think that I’ll never read about Amelia Earhart’s treatise on Island Getaways and the Art of Early Retirement, or Albert Einstein’s explanation of Why We Love, or the Given Tree, a heartfelt lament by Shel Silverstein.

There are a few that I want to read strictly for the wealth of information that would be contained therein. This includes Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Humanity’s Firsts, Malcolm Gladwell’s Everything I Have Ever Thought About, and Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich’s The Anatomy of Wonder & Amazement. Heck, even Wired Magazine’s One Hundred Flow Charts by the Most Interesting People on the Earth Right Now would be awesome.

Some I want to be real because they appear to be just a joke at first, but when you think about it they might have some interesting wisdom to share. The best examples are How to Fake Your Way Through Anything, by Nicolas Cage, the dense but surely insightful Critical Toys that Inspire Cleverness in Children, by R. Buckminster Fuller, a thorough admonition to Please! Stop Thinking About Zombies!, by Oliver Sacks, and even (and this feels weird to say) Roald Dahl’s  An Awful Mess, a primer on how to navigate puberty.

Others I want to read for righteous indignation’s sake, because the world needs correcting on a few things. This is true for what must be a definitive explanation by James Joyce  called This Is What I Meant, a summary of America via footnotes by David Foster Wallace called Drugs, Sports & Death,  a description of an entire genre by Margaret Atwood called It’s Speculative Fiction, Not Science Fiction, and an admission about a process by Ray Kurzweil called It’s Happening.

These covers are a great example of how books affect us. How we want to connect to a particular person through their words. Try it; scroll through this site and eventually you will come across a cover that makes you yearn to read it. You’ll point at the screen and say “I want that.”

There’s another element here that must be addressed: visual design. Except for a few missteps, these covers are all magnificent. They range in styles, but they consistently amaze me. They were done by Tyler Adam Smith as part of his Masters of Branding program at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, and this guy clearly knows what he’s doing. The quality of the covers makes me wonder if we’d be so drawn to these books if they were only text on a page. As much as we posture about not judging a book by its cover, the fact is we do. Every time. With each book you pick up at the store, in a library, or off your personal shelf, you’re making a value judgement in a split second, even if you’re not aware of it.

So, which ones affect you the most?

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