Life of a Book Hoarder

On Illustrations

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?

21 thoughts on “On Illustrations”

  1. I so agree with you – I absolutely love illustrated adult books, but there are never enough! Also – have you seen the colour edition of Captain Bluebear? It’s gorgeous. Sadly available only in German, but I loved it so much I bought it anyway with the pathetic excuse of ‘oh yes, I’ll use it to polish up my rusty high school language skills’, ha ha…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha yes, I definitely bought it because it was too beautiful to pass up! I’d buy all his other German editions if they were in color even though I’ll never be able to read them. But it’s so wonderful to look at! I did a Judging post on it here. Had to share the beauty.


        1. I only wish I could do it justice! It was fun though and I have an extra copy that I didn’t ruin with my lame coloring lol. It’d be fun to do that with his other works if could find cheap used copies.


  2. It’s really very odd that adult books aren’t usually illustrated. When did pictures and design become “childish?” I can’t imagine medieval monks, for instance, not illuminating books because “pictures are for children.” So what changed and why can’t we change it back?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, an excellent point! Having a reference or embellishment totally isn’t for children. And I know the folio society is making great books, but realistically they’re special editions and not super affordable (but man do I want P&P) and I think illustrated books should be a regular, accessible thing!

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Plenty of Victorian literature was illustrated too (think Dickens, Twain, Thackeray). The change happened around the 1900s – some think because publishers were trying to make a hard line to distinguish the internal essence of literature from the visual stimulation of ‘moving pictures’ which were the up-and-coming threat to books. Or maybe it was part of reducing the cost of books to broaden their consumption. Regardless, I agree – we should change it back 😁!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ooh great point! I love Dickens and hadn’t even thought of him! I can definitely see the move being reactionary, but also a price issue. I believe Dickens had trouble getting his Christmas Carol published with the binding and colors he wanted because of cost. And I know Tolkien was still arguing with his publishers decades later because he wanted red on his cover, but that was too pricey!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. But like we said earlier,.oftentimes children’s books are illustrated. I know nothing about the cost on the publisher’s end, but thinking about my middle grade books, most are about $8-10 whether illustrated or not. Seems like mass market or trade paperbacks could remain the same price and be illustrated. By my logic anyway. Lol

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Maybe it depends on the extent of the illustrations and how much color is used? Picture books, for instance, tend to be more expensive, maybe because every page is illustrated in color? I have no idea. XD


          2. I’m sure that’s a factor. I’ll be happy if we can at least make like, chapter header illustrations and page number embellishments more common. Then work up to bigger pictures 🤣

            Liked by 1 person

        1. Hopefully things are starting to change a bit (albeit slowly) – there have been some wonderful anniversary/special editions of fantasy books over the past couple of years with some beautiful illustrations – The Name of the Wind, and Game of Thrones for example. (Sadly they don’t sell for $10 though!)

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Gurl, you know I’m with you on this topic. I agree that more illustrations are needed at least in adult fantasy. I believe it would add to instead of detract from the story and they could even enhance certain points and descriptions the author makes. I’d love to see more of them.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I totally agree, I’d love to see more illustrations in adult books in every genre! I also enjoy reading MG a lot because many of the books include illustrations. They just give the book that extra bit of “something”.

    I am wondering though… Do you think illustrations would drive the cost of books up?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t think so, I mean, MG books today seem to be about $8-9 with or without illustrations. I’m sure if they were full color it might. But I think it could stay pretty constant.


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