Atheist Book Covers

With the recent rise of atheist literature, it might be a good time to step back and look at some of the books that have been released.

But first, take a look at the covers of some currently popular Christian books:




What do we notice about them?

Yes, they’re men, clasping their hands. But these covers are very visual. You have something (or someone) to look at. You can’t help but notice them.

Now, let’s look at the covers of popular atheist books:


We kind of see a lighter color at the top… it looks like the sky. The copy I have loses the color gradient altogether– it just has a grey reflective coating. And the word God is in a different color than the other words! Bold. And Dawkins’ picture? Not even on the back cover. Arguably the most famous atheist in the world, but he is resigned to the inside flap.


Another color gradient that gets lighter as we move up the cover. There’s a lot of tinkering with the fonts. Lots of words this time. But still not so appealing visually.


Christopher Hitchens’ upcoming book. Don’t stare at it directly or you will go blind.


We have a woman writing a book! A smart woman! But she’s not on the front. The cover’s appeal is limited to a few stars… and several horizontal lines.


More stars! In vertical lines!


We have a visual breakthrough! One red banner going across the cover. A daring move…


Nica Lalli’s new book. (I’m almost done with it; a review is forthcoming.) But the only touch of color we have is to highlight the word “Nothing.” To be fair, this might be the one case where it’s apt.


Finally, we get some sort of real image! A picture of the world, no less. Very nice.

Why are the covers of atheist books so different from the Christian counterparts?

One explanation might be that the Christian books are driven by personalities. The authors/pastors themselves are the selling points of their books, moreso than their content which is essentially interchangeable.

Atheist books, on the other hand, are less personality-driven and more content-oriented. Because of that, we seem to focus the covers more on the words and less on the imagery.

Maybe atheists could get more publicity and name-recognition if we had some of our own people on the covers. I’ll admit: Sam Harris is a good looking guy. Why is he relegated to an inset on the back cover?

Then again, we atheists pride ourselves on our thoughts, words, and reasoning skills. Not on our ability to look good in a suit. Maybe we don’t want to be characterized as the type of people that would have our own images on the cover.

Still, there must be a way to make these atheist books more alluring to the eye.

[tags]atheist, atheism, Christian, T.D. Jakes, Reposition Yourself, Myles Munroe, Kingdom Principles, Joel Osteen, Your Best Life Now, Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, Sam Harris, The End of Faith, Letter to a Christian Nation, Christopher Hitchens, God is not Great, Susan Jacoby, Freethinkers, Daniel Dennett, Breaking the Spell, Nica Lalli, Nothing: Something to Believe In, Victor Stenger, God the Failed Hypothesis[/tags]

  • King Aardvark

    I think it does have to do with the target audience. From my personal observations, these styles of Christian books are very popular with the self-help crowd. Notice any similarities in the covers? Publishers somewhere realized that if you want to sell drivel to desperate, guilty people who don’t like to think, you put a big picture of a smiling guy in suit on it. Personally, that type of cover sends me running.

    Hmm, that’s not the cover of the God Delusion I’ve seen around here. I guess different covers for different versions and markets.

    Uhoh, I looked directly at Hitchens’s book. Ow, my eyes!

  • David W.

    As a designer, I have to voice my opinion that The God Delusion is one of the most brilliant book jackets I have ever seen.

    It is reflective. So that when you hold the book straight in front of you, you can see your reflection. When you look at the cover, you see yourself. Anyone staring straight at the title can say, “When I look at ‘God,’ I see myself.”


  • macht

    No offense, but I think you cherry-picked those Christian books. Go to amazon and look at the top selling Christian books and you won’t see books like that. They have books like Rob Bell’s Sex God, Anne Lamott’s Grace (Eventually), Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life, and Francis Collins Language of God – all of which have much different covers than the one’s you chose.

  • FriendlyAtheist

    No offense, but I think you cherry-picked those Christian books.

    Those particular Christian books were absolutely cherry-picked. I didn’t even realize until I saw those covers that the poses were almost identical.

    But even taking into account the books you just mentioned– including Sex God– they have an interesting image to look at. Whether it’s a tree, a double helix, or just an artsy layer-upon-layer of colors.

    The majority of the atheist books (which I tried my best *not* to cherry-pick) don’t have that type of image. It doesn’t even have to be a person. Just something to look at!

  • macht

    Okay. Just wanted to make sure you weren’t saying that those were representative of Christian books. I think the type of cover has more to do with the type of book it is than whether the book is an atheist or Christian book. I just browsed through my own books and the Christian books on philosophy and theology tend to be more like the atheist books above. The Christian and Science books tend to be a lot like Victor Stenger’s book (e.g. Collins’ book or this book). The “Christian Living” type of books tend to have some sort of picture or pattern or design on the front (e.g., Anne Lamott’s book). And as King Aardvark said, the self-help and prosperity gospel type books tend to have pictures of the authors on the front. I’m not even sure if there are atheist equivalents to some of those types of Christian books. I’m not sure how you would classify Barker’s Losing Faith in Faith, but the cover of his book that I saw had a picture of him on it.

  • Mike C

    Interesting observation Hemant, though I think macht has it about right – all the books you put up there are in the prosperity gospel stream, which tends to be even more personality driven than other parts of Christianity. The message of these pastors tends to be “Look at me, I’m rich and successful, and you can be too if you buy my book, support my ministry, and have enough faith.”

    Probably the clearest counter-example of a Christian book without that kind of cover design however is Rob Bell’s hardcover version of Velvet Elvis.

  • Mike C

    Oh, and well, here’s an atheist book that’s at least a little more interesting when it comes to cover art. ;)

  • Shishberg

    The first two atheist (well, non-theist) books I read – Losing Faith in Faith and Farewell to God – both had the authors’ photos on the covers. Mind you, they were both ex-preachers.

  • Patrick Craig

    Taking a break from my “discussion” with the Brights… :)

    Here’s my favorite Atheist book. Well, okay, it’s not exactly “Atheist,” but it does have that really handsome and charismatic guy on the front cover!

    Oh, and don’t utilize the “search inside” option either. You will go mad.

    Great observations, Hemant! The smiling suits and the clasped hands escaped me entirely! There’s just some things I don’t catch these days.

  • C. L. Hanson

    How about a book with a picture of a friendly atheist girl smiling and waving on the cover? Of course it’s fiction…

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  • Aaron

    Weather you “cheery-picked” those christian books or not, they aren’t one but attractive. They are almost wierd, to see some guy smiling at you as you read, not soothing in my opinion. But these atheist books are bright and colorful, so they caught my eyes. When I see one guy on a cover It reminds me of some chessy book that isn’t worth reading, I guess I was right all along :P

  • AAZ

    Let’s just say:

    “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”

    And leave it at that.

  • F. Gordon Robinson

    I have written two novels both of which are strongly slanted toward atheism, and both of which were inspired by the philosophy of the novelist Ayn Rand.
    The first novel is called “Zeno’s Paradox” and it can be viewed at . The galley copy of the novel, “Hunker Creek’s Gold”, is being sent to me and I should have it shortly. It will appear at during the first week of December.
    If you are interested in reviewing “Zeno’s Paradox”, please advise me by return e-mail.
    I have set out below the short synopsis for each novel that appears on the covers.

    Zeno’s Paradox

    My novel, Zeno’s Paradox, was inspired by the philosophy of the novelist Ayn Rand.

    Howard Rhodes’ father was a renowned physicist. He and his wife were killed in a suspicious car accident when Howard was fourteen years old. Howard is now sixteen and living on his own as an emancipated minor. He is also an intellectually gifted and well-adjusted teenager whose mother stimulated his love for learning, explained Christianity’s fatal flaw to him, and taught him that his most valuable asset was his brain and his ability to reason.

    In school, Howard deals with a challenge from a classmate who is a class bully, and who is making everyone’s life miserable. He also entertains his classmates and stuns his math and physics teachers when he unravels the error in the logic to Zeno’s famous Paradox, which has had scientists baffled since 400 BC.

    Howard’s interest in physics leads him to investigate various possibilities regarding small particles, and he attracts everyone’s attention, including Stefan Nacouski’s who is a sleeper al Qaeda agent living in the United States, when he discovers a new source of energy.

    Not only does Howard’s new source of energy eliminate the need for burning fossil fuels, but also, he can create a particle beam shield that will protect the United States and its allies from a Ballistic Missile attack. Unfortunately, this same device can be refined to create a beam that will silently kill hundreds of innocent people. Stephan will resort to anything to get his hands on Howard’s Killing Machine.

    Hunker Creek’s Gold

    A group of highly trained terrorist snipers are keeping almost every US law enforcement officer busy investigating random attacks. A second arm of the terrorist group is secretly importing and warehousing enormous amounts of narcotics.

    The group’s intention is to flood the US market with drugs at prices anyone can afford. Their aim is to addict as many people as possible including high ranking politicians, business people, law enforcement officers, civil servants, and military personnel. The terrorists predict that this will cause America to grind to a standstill. They plan to step up the random sniper attacks spreading terror throughout United States. And, this will be the signal for the Militant, Right Wing groups’ leaders to band together and agitate for a citizen’s revolt against their government that can no longer protect its citizens.

    Mike Cranston is a trained Navy Seal sniper, and Little John knows all of the Militant, Right Wing groups’ leaders in the country. Together they plan to infiltrate the terrorist group.

    During the summer, Shane Atkins operates his placer mine on Hunker Creek, and he is studying philosophy at the University of Oregon during the off season. He and his mentors are concerned that the moral culture of the United States is in a downward spiral.

    Shane’s lecture series for artists, called the Philosophy of the Nature of Man, attracts the attention of the councilors at the many rehab clinics that have sprung up throughout America. The drug councilors are convinced that his compelling logic in support of a rational basis for ethics, a romantic renaissance in the arts, and man’s efficacy offers a valuable alternative to the Twelve Step program.

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  • SpencerDub

    Maybe it’s just the minimalist in me, but I really like the atheist book covers you posted. (And yes, I realize this comment is about two and a half years too late… that’s what you get when you link to an old post on your front page!) I have copies of Freethinkers and The End of Faith in front of me right now, and I find both to have handsome covers.

    Someone already mentioned upstream (and many years ago) how brilliant Dawkins’ cover is. I’d agree. But Jacoby’s is also well-designed– the distressed, grungy font choice and the way the type is laid out says “old Americana” to me, which is entirely appropriate for her subject matter. The End of Faith has less of an obvious meaning to its design, but I think it’s still quite unique and visually appealing. Both Jacoby’s and Harris’ covers indicate to me how you can create compelling visual design using little more than typography.