12 Hysterical, Offensive, Ridiculous, Controversial, Frightening, Sexy Book Covers

They say don't judge a book by its cover, but these 12 designs make it awfully hard not to. From the hysterical to the offensive to the downright frightening, they are sure to elicit a gut reaction before your brain has even had time to process what it's seen. You'll laugh, you'll cry... you'll be aroused but ashamed to admit it. Which is why we discuss these things hidden behind our computers in the public privacy of the internet. But be warned, some of these are NSFW, so you might want to look over your shoulder if you're on the job.

"It's Easy To Play Classical Themes" by Cyril Watters"It's Easy To Play Classical Themes" by Cyril Watters

Now this is just disturbing. You'd think that whoever drew this would have realized something was wrong with the concept as soon as they started sketching. But no, they had to make it extra creepy by putting a lascivious smile on Beethoven, and making it look like the kid actually enjoys being dry humped by a dead composer. Talk about your Ode To Joy! And what is that Beethoven's doing with his left hand. Is that... Is that the shocker?!?!

But who are we to judge? It's not our place to qualify their love. And it's hard enough to get kids to practice the piano as it is, so if this is what it takes...

*Un/Fortunately they changed the cover since then. —Editor

Get It's Easy to Play Classical Themes at Amazon


"Faggots To Burn" by Matt Bradley"Faggots To Burn" by Matt Bradley

I don't think Bradley is talking about bundles of sticks, here. If we were to judge this book by its cover, I'd say he was attempting to incite the incineration of actual human beings. But according to SF Weekly, it is "more an expression of plenitude than a call for conflagration." From page 12:

Hollywood has, to express it succinctly, and to justify the phrase, 'faggots to burn.'

Basically, what he's saying is that everyone in Hollywood is gay. Well, duh. Even in 1962 when this was written, that was an open secret. But he is also trying to trick people into thinking the book is more inflammatory than it actually is. Because if you were to look past the cover to the text inside, you wouldn't find out and out hate. You'd find a glory hole of comedic gold. For example:

The statistics on table-model radio sets stolen from queens by one-night-stand lovers are not available, but must be shockingly high.

Rumor: Most homosexuals are trying to take over the world.
Truth: Most homosexuals are trying to hold on to the lease for their apartments.

And my personal favorite:

Rape is the one crime [the homosexual] can never, never be accused of.

Get... yeah, maybe don't get this book at Amazon


"Cunt Coloring Book" by Tee Corinne"Cunt Coloring Book" by Tee Corinne

Every woman's flesh flower is a beautiful and unique snowflake. Just ask Tee Corinne. Sometime in the early 70s, she began asking her friends if they would show her their vaginas so she could draw them. A few years later, she left her husband, came out as a lesbian, and published a book of all her pussy portraits. Suckers!

She called it the Cunt Coloring Book. "Coloring, according to Tee, was a very good way for kids to learn about the female sex, 'because a major way we learn to understand the world, as children, is by coloring.'" [1] So I guess that makes the Cunt Coloring Book a children's book?

But there were many who did not agree. They found the book's cover and title offensive. So they made Tee change it to the O'Keefeian Labia Flowers, and mask the cartographic vagina on the front with sketches of actual flora. That's when sales started to plummet. People didn't want flowers. They wanted cunts. And thus, the original title and cover were restored. Huzzah!

Get The Cunt Coloring Book at Bookshop or Amazon


'Ten Little N******" by Agatha Christie

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Agatha Christie is the best selling novelist of all time, with something like 4 billion books in print. Her estate claims that the popularity of her work is second only to that of the collective entity known as William Shakespeare and, of course, God. The white Christian one. Her bestselling book? A mystery yarn insensitively titled Ten Little N******.

Why the hell would you call your book something like that? Because it takes place on N***** Island. Who would put such an offensive name on a map? I don't know, let's ask Hamilton County, New York, and any of the hundred other places in the United States that still use the word in their name. 

It was also probably because the nursery rhyme, "Ten Little N******," features prominently in the plot. But still, why? The book was published in the UK in 1939. By that time even America knew the title was offensive, and changed it to the much classier, And Then There Were None. In addition, all instances of the N-word were changed to "Indian" (because, you know, we'd only evolved so far).

But the most racist thing of all was the original cover, which featured a group of natives brandishing spears and eating watermelon. I shit you not.

Get And Then There Were None at Bookshop or Amazon


"Anybody Can Be Cool... But Awesome Takes Practice""Anybody Can Be Cool ...But Awesome Takes Practice' by Lorraine Peterson

This one's all about the title, but it doesn't hurt that James Van Der Beek is on the cover. Because yeah, young Eazy-E, Kristy McNichol, and that dude with fantastic taste in sweaters are cool, but The Beek is the fucking man! You can tell Lorraine Peterson really had her finger on the pulse of late 80s/early 90s Christian youth.

If you like this, I highly recommend you check out some of her other work: Why Isn't God Giving Cash Prizes (AKA I'll Diffuse This Ungodly Sexual Tension By Playing The Piano With My Ass), If The Devil "Made" You Do It, You Blew It (AKA You're Going To Hell Because You Went Down On Bobby Miller Behind The Dairy Barn), and Dying of Embarrassment ...& Living To Tell About It (AKA Mullets Ahoy!).

I just hope being awesome doesn't take too much practice, because I don't want to wait for my life to be over.

Get Anybody Can Be Cool... at Amazon


"The Best Dad Is A Good Lover" by Charlie W. Shedd"The Best Dad Is A Good Lover" by Charlie W. Shedd

Yikes. I don't know in what alternate universe this title and cover were approved, but... yikes. Notice how the dad hides his face from the camera. Notice the mother's knowing smile as she tousles her daughter's hair. Notice the fear in the young girl's eyes as she is forced to be the meat in a sin sandwich. I mean, I know this was the 70s and all, but still. Who is this Charlie W. Shedd that he so brazenly flaunts his demented ideology?

According to his bio, he was a Presbyterian minister who "spent a lifetime making God's grandest truth available to even the simplest of folks."[2] Hm... so I guess incest is God's grandest truth? What other "truths" did Charlie Chuckles espouse? Let's take a look at some of his other books for clues: Letters To My Grandchildren; I'm Odd, Thank You God; Celebration in the Bedroom. Nope. No red flags there. I guess I was wrong about this guy. In that case, this will look nice on your shelf next to your copy of The Pedophile's Guide to Love and Pleasure: a Child-lover's Code of Conduct.

Get The Best Dad is A Good Lover at Amazon


"Mile High Escapades of the Stewardess with the Moustache!" by Justin Taylor"Mile High Escapades of the Stewardess with the Moustache!" by Justin Taylor

I've seen some stewardesses—excuse me, flight attendants—with moustaches in my day, but none as erotic or hilarious as this gaucho. Look at him, he's up to his eyeballs in tail! And not just any tail—we're talking sweet 70s tail.

Then there's the lovely lady on the right, who looks like she knows how to have a good time. The white pant suit says, "I'm a hard working woman trying to make a living," but the red neckerchief says, "I play as hard as I work, bitches." Sassy! Then there's the woman on the left. If you ask me, she looks a bit crazy in the eyes. They seem to be saying, "If I can't have you, or at least be in a hot three-way with you and the lady with the neckerchief, no one can!" So watch out. Close your eyes on her and she's liable to smother you with a complimentary airline pillow.

Sadly, this classic of aviator eroticism is currently unavailable through Amazon.


"Lolita' by Vladimir Nabokov (Alternate Cover)"Lolita' by Vladimir Nabokov (Alternate Cover)

In 2009, a blog called Venus febriculosa held a competition to see who could design the best alternate cover for Vladimir Nabokov's classic, The Pedophile's Guide To—er, I mean, Lolita. There were over 150 entries, including this provocative little gem: a peach fuzz covered cleft alighted upon by a common house fly.

But what exactly is it we are looking at here? Did the artist take a picture of the crook of his arm? A baby's bottom? It couldn't really be... no, that's not possible, is it? Somebody's straddling the fine line between challenging art and child pornography. It's definitely a conversation starter, I'll give it that. But I don't think this is a book I'd whip out in public.

Get Lolita at Bookshop or Amazon


"How Green Were The Nazis?"  edited by Franz-Josef Bruggemeier et al"How Green Were The Nazis?" edited by Franz-Josef Bruggemeier et al

This sounds like the call and response from an extra-racist, oddly academic Rodney Dangerfield bit. My Nazis were so green. How green were they? My Nazis were so green, some hippie with a scary German name wrote a whole book about environmentalism and the Third Reich.

Although, this cover leads me to believe they weren't that green, because the poor trees making up that swazi ain't looking too good. And How Yellow Were The Nazis? sounds more like a book about Hitler's penchant for watersports.

Get How Green Were the Nazis at Bookshop or Amazon


"Down Home Gynecology" by Dr. Marvin Jaffee and Mary Sue Jaffee"Down Home Gynecology" by Dr. Marvin Jaffee and Mary Sue Jaffee

It stands to reason that if there's no cooking like down home cooking, then there's no gynecology like down home gynecology. You wouldn't choose McDonald's over a home cooked meal, so why would you go to a "fast food" gynecologist when you could take care of your feminine health issues on the family farm? Routine exams, birth control, pap smears—they can all be handled by Dr. You in the privacy of your own home, in an all natural, environmentally conscious manner. Because if there's one color you should be thinking of when you think of your vagina, it's green.

Also, a woman as big as the one on the cover is going to have a hard time getting her legs into the stirrups at your typical "indoor" gynecologist's office.

Get Down Home Gynecology at Amazon


"Jesus In Love" by Kittredge Cherry"Jesus In Love" by Kittredge Cherry

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son... 's hand in marriage to some buff dude! Congratulations, Jesus!

The title of this book is Jesus In Love, but the controversial cover oozes nothing but raw, animal lust! Rippling muscles, sheer loin cloths over hanging steak, sweat and sand—this cover is H-O-T hot!

I don't see why people would find this offensive. Jesus has done so much for us, don't you selfish bastards want to see him happy? The Catholic church has been trying to control the sex lives of its parishioners for years, now they think they're going to tell Jesus who he can bone? The audacity! And isn't this better than him settling down with that skank Mary Magdalene? You know his mother never liked her anyway.

Looks like they changed the cover on this one as well. —Editor

Get Jesus in Love at Bookshop or Amazon


"Satan Burger" by Carlton Mellick III"Satan Burger" by Carlton Mellick III

What's the verdict on this one? Sexy? Frightening? Offensive? A mixture of all three? All I know is if you weren't sure where baby Satan burgers came from before, you sure as hell do now. And it ain't pretty. I feel like that thing is starring into my soul.

Or maybe those fleshy lobes are the patron in a fine eating establishment, waiting patiently for a waiter to take their order. It's hard to say. I can't even tell whether those ham hocks belong to a man or a woman. Either way, imagine having this on your resume. Every time you are in a book store, you could point it out to people. "That's my ass on the cover." Your mother would be so proud.

Get Satan Burger at Bookshop or Amazon

And there you have it. 12 of the most hysterical, offensive, ridiculous, controversial, frightening, sexy book covers of all time. Not a definitive list, by any means, but I think I've given you a good foundation to build upon. Is there anything I missed? Were you offended? Frightened? Aroused? Let us know in the comments.

A fun thing to do with this information is to call up your local brick and mortar chain and tell them you want to see if they have a book in stock. If they have it in stock, request that they check the shelves, just to make sure. Then you can sit back, relax, and enjoy their discomfort.

[1] Don't Panic Magazine

[2] Balcony Publishing

Joshua Chaplinsky

Column by Joshua Chaplinsky

Joshua Chaplinsky is the Managing Editor of LitReactor. He is the author of The Paradox Twins (CLASH Books), the story collection Whispers in the Ear of A Dreaming Ape, and the parody Kanye West—Reanimator. His short fiction has been published by Vice, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Thuglit, Severed Press, Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing, Broken River Books, and more. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @jaceycockrobin. More info at joshuachaplinsky.com and unravelingtheparadox.com.

To leave a comment Login with Facebook or create a free account.


Brandon's picture
Brandon from KCMO is reading Made to Break July 30, 2012 - 10:45am

Josh, how the hell did you miss In Search of Goodpussy?

Joshua Chaplinsky's picture
Joshua Chaplinsky from New York is reading Library Books July 30, 2012 - 10:52am

Oh man, I totally remember that one from when I worked at Borders. That guy is so smooth.

Jane Wiseman's picture
Jane Wiseman from living outside of Albuquerque/in Minneapolis is reading Look to Windward by Iain M. Banks July 30, 2012 - 11:28am

I laughed til I cried.

Kimber's picture
Kimber from Atlanta is reading The Every by Dave Eggers July 30, 2012 - 1:13pm

"Down home" is never, ever a quality I look for in a gynecologist.

J.S. Wright's picture
J.S. Wright from Milwaukee is reading Black Spring July 30, 2012 - 3:52pm

I have a question, my dear friends...

What's with Satan Burger and all of those other bizzaro novels having overly-weird titles?
Yes, I know, it's BIZZARO fiction.  But Baby Jesus Butt Plug?? 

Is it just me, or are they trying too hard?

lspieller's picture
lspieller from Los Angeles July 30, 2012 - 4:02pm

seconded, Kimber.

Dan McKeaney's picture
Dan McKeaney July 31, 2012 - 10:51am

Yeah, most of the Bizzaro titles are trying way too hard.  I actually bought Satan Burger a few years ago:  it's totally unreadable.  Some of their other titles are good-to-great, though ("The Extinction Journals" jumps to mind).

Carlton Mellick's picture
Carlton Mellick from Portland, OR is reading DMZ July 31, 2012 - 3:58pm

I would probably agree that Satan Burger is both unreadable and trying too hard. But I was 20 years old when I wrote wrote it, about 15 years ago. Still, because of that book I was able to make a living as a writer soon after I graduated from college and it remains one of my best sellers to this day. So I guess it can't be all bad. 

As far as other bizarro titles go: "Trying too hard" implies trying and failing, but these books are actually trying and succeeding at drawing their audience. They just aren't subtle enough for your tastes, which is completely understandable.


Bradley Sands's picture
Bradley Sands from Boston is reading Greil Marcus's The History of Rock 'N' Roll in Ten Songs July 31, 2012 - 4:52pm

Trying too hard to what?

Joshua Chaplinsky's picture
Joshua Chaplinsky from New York is reading Library Books July 31, 2012 - 7:33pm

Carlton! What's the story behind the cover? Spill it.

Carlton Mellick's picture
Carlton Mellick from Portland, OR is reading DMZ July 31, 2012 - 9:22pm

The cover actually has nothing to do with the book. At the time it was published over ten years ago, Eraserhead was a collective. There were six authors, including myself, who editing, published, promoted, and profited from each other’s books. We couldn’t afford to commission cover art, so we went searching the internet for images that would be suitable for the books.

When I found the Satan Burger image, I presented it to the group as a joke for the book cover “Some Things Are Better Left Unplugged.” We got a kick out of the image, but the author didn’t want to use it because he didn't want people thinking about buttplugs while reading his book. But the image stuck with us for days. We thought it worked on so many levels: it was dark, stylish, perverted, rude, and funny all at the same time. Every one of us wished we wrote a book that would work with that image. Then I realized that dark, stylish, perverted, rude, and funny was exactly what I was going for when I wrote Satan burger. So instead of going for an image that fit the content of Satan Burger, I chose an image that fit its attitude.

The Russian edition cover for Satan Burger was actually commissioned and goes a lot better with the story:


As does the Ten Year Anniversary edition:

But that original Satan Burger cover has been iconic and played a big role in launching my writing career. And it all happened by mistake, basically because of a joke. Actually, now that I think about it, probably half of my books are the way they are because of jokes or dares…

If you're interested in checking out more work by the Satan Burger cover artist go here: http://www.luetke.com/darkkarma/main/wolech.html

And in case you’re wondering it is a woman on the cover.

Frank Diekman's picture
Frank Diekman July 31, 2012 - 11:04pm

I know from personal experience that being awesome DOES take practice.

Claire Louise Booker's picture
Claire Louise Booker November 25, 2012 - 1:26pm

So funny! I need all these books

gemnl's picture
gemnl January 23, 2015 - 10:19am

This book is the sickest thing I have ever came across:


Anthony Clark's picture
Anthony Clark February 19, 2016 - 3:29pm

How about "How to Get Over That Bitch and Grow Balls They Can't Resist" ? I just happen to be the author of this book and believe me it's gotten me cursed out a whole lot!!! https://theamazingclarks.com/breakup-recovery-for-men/