If, like me, you pay a lot of attention to book trends and also spend probably way too much time looking at book covers, you might have noticed that book cover design also goes through its own trends. Romance novels have fewer pictures of half-clothed men on them and more cute and colorful graphic design (a change I absolutely approve of). It seems like covers in general are getting more colorful and creative, and we are seeing a wide variety of art styles and much fewer photographs. And there is usually some sort of trending book cover animal. A few years ago, snakes were everywhere – just check out this list of 32 books with snakes on the cover. The snake trend hasn’t completely died out (and I don’t think it will), but we don’t see as many snake covers as we used to.
Lately, it seems like the book cover animal trend is the rabbit. There are a ton of recent releases with rabbits on the cover. This trend is obviously still going strong – Leigh Bardugo just announced the sequel to Ninth House (which coincidentally, has a snake on the cover), Hell Bent for 2023… and it has a rabbit on the cover. T. Kingfisher and Melissa Albert have new books out this summer that also have rabbits on the covers. So this trend is not remotely dead (although the rabbits often appear to be). And while I am actually a fan of the rabbit thing, it can’t last forever. So I spent a stupid amount of time scrolling through recent and upcoming releases, looking at their covers, and I came up with a list of some new animals that might soon dethrone the rabbit.
But first, I want to talk about…
animals we won’t see a lot of, but I love anyway
I just want more octopus books, okay? But seriously, I think they’re so cool and versatile. They should definitely be the new book cover snake. Because, let’s face it, an octopus holding a knife is a lot more threatening than a snake wrapped around a sword. What’s the snake gonna do? Absolutely nothing. Octopuses, on the other hand, punch fish purely out of spite, so they can and will stab you. They’re just such interesting and beautiful animals, I think a lot could be done with them, book cover design-wise, and I would love to see what some of these artists can come up with. The cover of Remarkably Bright Creatures is simple, but also colorful and eye-catching and interesting and happy. I like it.
As for the frogs, I just think they’re an interesting animal to put on a cover. If you put a frog on a cover, it’s probably going to catch my eye. I also think, like the rabbit, they can be very versatile. They can be cute, but – without getting too graphic – I think they’d also work well for like a creepy, unsettling thriller kind of cover. We all remember high school science class. Maybe I was just mentally scarred by that day, but if you put that image on a book cover, I’m definitely going to go in thinking it’s will creep me out and give me nightmares. I also like how the frog on Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century is both adding to the nature vibes by mirroring the leaves, but also gives just a suggestion of something weird.
mongooses and hedgehogs
As for mongooses and hedgehogs, I just think they’re super cute. I haven’t really seen them on the cover of books they’re not a part of – there is a mongoose in Peaces and I’m pretty sure the hedgehog in Earthlings is a toy, but is also the main character’s best friend, so kind of a character as well. (Meaty by Samantha Irby does have a non-character hedgehog on the cover, so they do exist, they’re just rare.)
Finally, I am surprised there aren’t more books with peacocks not them. To me, they will always remind me of Pride and Prejudice and that classic 1894 cover. So I think peacocks would be a fun addition to some of the regency romance we’ve been getting (especially coming off the popularity of Bridgerton). I think they’re also perfect for like the luxe 1920s trend in books we’ve been seeing lately. Even just the colors work perfectly for that kind of book. I have seen some occasional peacock feathers here and there, but very few actual birds. I like how the peacock on the cover of The Liar’s Dictionary was used in such a creative way.
animals that we might see more of, but probably won’t surpass the rabbit: sheep, flamingoes, bears, and horses
Tell me these books aren’t giving you the same vibes as some of the rabbit covers. Because that’s what I’m getting. Especially with the flamingoes – rabbit covers seem to be dark and eerie, but with some pink thrown in, so flamingoes can absolutely work with the creepy pink themes. I feel like there was a period where flamingoes were almost a thing, but it definitely died down and didn’t hit rabbit-levels. Still, I think they have potential.
Horses seem to be a little bit popular at the moment as well. And while I think realistic horses on book covers give me a little too much Black Beauty/horse girl, which just isn’t my thing, the graphic animals on the cover of Glory definitely caught my interest. They’re positioned in a slightly disorienting way – the sideways horse feels weird – and I’m intrigued. I think we might see more horses as westerns seem to be having a little bit of a modern resurgence.
I also saw a few on posts by Indigenous authors about their experiences (both fiction and nonfiction), which is cool. But, like I said, I think the less realistic horses look more modern, so I hope we stick with that. Though I did see an interesting cover with a painting of a hillside with horses on it that had a country/cottage-y thing going on. Either way, I don’t think we’ll be seeing a ton of them.
Like horses, I think bears have been around on book covers since forever. And I like them. But I think we could be doing more interesting things. The bear on the cover of The Hollow Kind above is super interesting in that it’s monochromatic, except the red eye, it’s upside down, and it has those read branches coming out of it. Pretty similar to the rabbit on the cover of What Moves the Dead, which I like. It’s the perfect amount of unsettling.
Finally, we have the sheep. Which, personally, I think might make a good rabbit alternative. I think so many of the rabbit covers we see portray the rabbit in a way that makes it obvious the rabbit is prey. I think the sheep could easily do the same, much like it does on the cover of Lapvona. Not quite sure it’s as versatile as the rabbit, but I like how that cover stepped out of the box while still being creepy and weird.
cats and dogs will never be the trending animal, but we still love them
Much like the birds, I don’t think cats or dogs have a good shot at unseating the rabbit. They do a great job of doing what they do – dogs are happy, cats are mischievous or cozy. I also think, as humans, we’re a little too attached to our pets to want to see a cat or dog on the cover of a thriller. I love the creepy vibes of the rabbit covers above where the rabbits look almost dead. Not that I love the idea of a dead rabbit, but it’s creepy and unsettling in a way that just works without making me overly sad. I would not feel the same way if that was a cat. And I probably wouldn’t pick up the book.
Yes, I know one of the cat covers above is horror, but I really appreciate that the cat looks alive on the cover. I also don’t plan on reading that one because I can’t deal with dead animals and if that cat dies, I will be sad. Although, to be fair, the Japanese books I read with cats on them were all sad. So cats can be kind of a hit or miss when it comes to sad, scary, or cozy (there’s also a cat on the cover of A Man Called Ove). But if they’re on the cover, I don’t want to have an image that will make me sad enough to smother my cat with hugs until I get scratched. Just saying.
Dogs on the other hand, kind give of fun, cozy vibes to the book covers. For two of those books, it’s clear they’re about families and might be bittersweet or even sad, but won’t be remotely scary or dark. Dog books are fun books. Except the books we all know where the dog dies, which I refuse to read because I do not need to sob over a fictional dog. My point is, we kind of know what we’re getting into with dogs or cats on the cover, and we also don’t like to see images of them hurt, so they definitely will not be replacing the rabbits on book covers.
we will always see birds on covers
Birds are super big on book covers at the moment, but I don’t think that’s anything new. I also don’t see them going away anytime soon. There also seems to be a trend of the book title/theme being about flight or flying. So I purposely chose a group of books that have no obvious connection to the books on their covers for this post. Birds are a fairly common symbol in books, so it’s really not surprising to see them so often.
I do have to disqualify them from the running in the rabbit-replacement race simply because they are so common. I don’t see them gaining in popularity, but I can’t see them declining, either. And the thing with the rabbit covers is that they evoke this kind of creepy vibe that I just don’t think would work with birds. Birds are free, whereas rabbits are often seen as trapped. So while I think covers with birds on them are gorgeous – I love the variety of art styles here, and I saw many more while doing research for this post – I don’t think they make a good replacement for the rabbit.
but maybe butterflies will join the birds
So one thing I’ve seen a lot of in recent releases is butterflies, both alone and in conjunction with birds. I think this is an interesting alternative to bird covers since they kind of give off the same feeling, though butterflies can feel a little airier and whimsical than the birds. I have actually seen a butterfly cover work for a horror novel – The Butterfly Garden – but I think that might have been a one-off thing since the book actually had a lot to do with butterflies.
Overall, I think butterflies are just too happy to be the creepy rabbit’s replacement. I do love them a lot, and I think these covers are beautiful, but they make me smile. Which I don’t think is the point of the rabbit covers, a lot of which make me feel slightly uneasy. Or even the dark and creepy snake covers. It’s just not the same. So while I am here for the butterflies, they are not the new rabbit.
fish seem to be having a moment
Not only are fish on covers having a moment, I think the fish covers we’re seeing are super creative. I love how the fish look like they’re flying, rather than swimming. At least, most of them do. I think two of the fish on the covers are supposed to be dead. Unfortunately, fish cannot be creepy. Even dead ones. Yes, they are slimy and I wouldn’t want to touch that dead fish on Seeing Ghosts, but it’s just not the same. A fish cannot be unsettling like a rabbit or a snake can. They’re just more gross than creepy.
But most of the fish covers above are just beautiful. I’m getting more butterfly than snake. They’re pretty, they’re interesting, and they make me want to know more. Is that fish in space? And can the pink fish fly? Okay, that’s not really what I’m thinking. But they do evoke some interesting imagery here. I am a fan of this book cover trend, but I don’t see it getting any bigger than it is right now. It might stick for a while, but I just can’t imagine “fish books” having the same effect as “rabbit books” or “snake books”.
foxes land in the runner-up spot, but foxes and tigers will probably not be king
Foxes and tigers have definitely gained popularity recently. I think tigers definitely had an upswing in popularity both with the increased popularity of Asian fiction, specifically historical fiction, and this being the year of the tiger in the Chinese zodiac. Although I just looked it up and next year is the year of the rabbit so this entire post could have just been a giant waste of time and we’ll be seeing nothing but rabbit covers next year. Anyway, I do know tigers play a huge role in various Asian cultures and mythologies, so I think that’s the main reason we’ve been seeing more of them on covers lately. Honestly, I’m here for it. More diverse fiction is always a good thing. But I just don’t see tigers being used the same way as the rabbit on book covers.
Fox books have been a thing for a while (I’ve actually read a few of them), but not quite like this. (I am assuming those are foxes on the Lurkers cover, but feel free to tell me if I’m wrong.) And I honestly would not be surprised if they become the new rabbit. However, there are a few reasons the fox is in second place here. First, they have been around for a while and never really blew up on book covers. And I kind of think the animal that’s going to be the new “it” thing will be fresh and new.
foxes vs. rabbits?
I also think foxes give off crazy cat energy (just me?), so I tend to see fox books are more quirky than unnerving. There are definitely exceptions to this rule. And I think we’re going to go with something very different with the animal trend. The rabbit is a far cry from the snake, so if we want another major change, the fox is not out of the question. There’s even a fox with the rabbit on the cover of Mrs. Death Misses Death. So foxes kind of go with rabbits (though that also means they might be a little obvious as the rabbit replacement).
However, I have discovered a new trend. Something we have not seen until now. Something that might just be weird and unique enough to become the new trend, and is just as versatile as the rabbit. Get ready, because….
my top contender for dethroning the rabbit is… the tortoise
You weren’t expecting that one, were you? Totally get it. But hear me out. Do you see that creepy, weird tortoise on the cover of Thrust? That thing is watching you. Just like the rabbit on the cover of What Moves the Dead is. And yeah, okay, not quite the same, but it’s proof that tortoises can be creepy. But I think what’s most disorienting is that we aren’t expecting a tortoise on a book cover.
But seriously, three books with tortoises published within a year (Bomb Shelter and Thrust are both 2022 releases, and Second First Impressions was published last year) might be too much to be coincidence. Though I think the animal on the Second First Impressions cover might be turtles, but whatever, it’s close enough. The other two are absolutely tortoises.
my theory behind which animal comes next
And because I have spent way, way too long looking at book covers, I also have another theory. Rabbits are kind of the opposite of snakes, right? Mammal/reptile, sleek/fluffy, creepy/cute. The book cover artists kind of went in a completely different direction. And what is the antithesis of a rabbit (or hare)? A tortoise. And we all know which one wins in the end.
Yes, I am very tired and this might be too close a look into my weird brain, but I am voting for tortoise in the book cover animal awards. The rabbit is still holding on strong and probably will be for a while, but the little tortoise is making its way to the top of the pack.
I hope you enjoyed this super random post. It was really fun to put together, and I’m honestly curious to see what animal ends up being the next book cover rabbit. What do you think it’ll be? Are there any animal book cover trends I missed?
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