In an interview with Back Cover earlier this year, Richard Hollis, the graphic designer, writer, teacher and now publisher, said that when he was starting out fifty years ago,

Designers were more like doctors then. A client would consult them, and say: ‘My problem is, I’ve got to tell these people about this and that.’

Looking at books in British bookshops for the first time in a while, I began to wonder what symptoms the patients, four different publishers in this case, complained of to get these cures:

The writers have nothing in common when it comes to style or sensibility but these covers say otherwise. The partly obscured figure of a woman against a plain, usually blue, background has been a staple of British publishing for some years now. Depending on where you are and how you feel about Amazon, theAmericanequivalents are either cheering (there’s something else out there) or depressing – why, given the choice, would anyone ever buy these editions? The bland, close-to-chicklit uniformity of the British design doesn’t say good things about the long-term health of the patient

In the meantime, here is a collection of what are billed as the worst book covers of all time but don’t seem like any such thing. For a start, the jackets seem to bear some relation to the contents of the books. If British publishers were to adopt a new standard book cover, they could do a lot worse than lifting the template from Andre Norton’s Breed to Come.