I spend a lot of time gushing about good design in books (I mean, I have a weekly post dedicated to that topic) and fabulous illustrations. Illustrations primarily found in children’s and middle-grade books. I think the world needs more illustrated books – especially for older readers!
So today, I figured I’d just ramble a little about illustrations. TL;DR: I think more books for ‘adults’ should have illustrations.
Now, I’m not talking about graphic novels or art books, which are basically comprised solely of illustrations. I believe that more novels should have illustrations, even if only at the start of every chapter.
I recently read Hilda and the Hidden People and was head over heels for the overall design and how it was jam-packed with illustrations. I enjoy middle-grade novels, which have a much higher chance of being illustrated. But I want to see more adult novels with illustrations and thoughtful designs! Fantasy and historical fiction books often have maps, so why not go the extra mile and include a snazzy illustration or two?
I do have a few gems on my shelves that had illustrations and special design elements, but not nearly enough! A few examples that come immediately to mind are The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet and The City of Dreaming Books (which I still don’t talk about enough and if you haven’t read it yet, what are you doing with your life!? Go read it then come back to this post!):
Both are full of illustrations and other details that really pull you into the story and enhance the work. In the case of Dreaming Books, I even bought myself a spare copy to annotate and colored several of the illustrations because they’re so fabulous! Imagine how much better they’d look if I was actually good at coloring!
Illustrations help set the mood when reading! Oftentimes I’ll pause my reading to think about a specific scene or character a moment longer, or they can help me picture something that I was having a hard time shaping mentally. Just as maps can help you plot a character’s progress across a land, I think illustrations throughout the book can help with atmosphere, character development or just give your eyes a break.
Horrostor is another one that comes to mind – the illustrations mimic an Ikea catalog and I think they’re vital to the story. They really helped me relate to what was going on and gave me a few good laughs too.
Even finding a few illustrations scattered throughout the Wayward Children series brought a smile to my face. I think they were vastly underused! (Also, I apparently didn’t take any pictures of them, making me a schmuck.)
Look, I just want more pictures and fun design elements in my books, ok? I know sometimes publishers release special illustrated editions of books and I do appreciate those. But I believe art in books should be more common!
What are your thoughts on illustrations? Do you crave more? Do you think they enhance your reading experience?