Small Book September
By Megan Coote, Abbie Wright and Laura Wallace
For the 81st issue, our team is looking at the recent Bookstagram trend, “Small Book September," focusing on our favourite cover designs. All these books are under 200 words and, therefore, perfect to pick up if you’ve set yourself an ambitious 2023 reading goal.
Heatwave by Victor Jestin
Heatwave by Victor Jestin is a gripping psychological thriller translated from the original French by Sam Taylor. The book, which is just 112 pages, takes place over a long summer at a holiday camp and asks the existential question: is doing nothing the worst thing you can do?
Seventeen-year-old Leo is sitting in an empty playground at night, listening to the sound of partying and pop music filtering in from the beach, when he sees another, more popular boy strangle himself with the ropes of the swings whilst drunk but does nothing to help him. At first glance, the book's name and the picturesque beach scene on the cover give the impression of a classic beach read. However, like the book itself, which topics a summer holiday gone sour, the cover's design evokes a similar sense of unease. The oversaturated effect used makes the scene appear unsettling with naturally intense orange and red. This brings to mind the overbearing sensation of a heatwave, which might be welcomed initially but can soon leave you feeling uncomfortable. This is how Leonard feels as the book progresses.
As he finds himself surrounded by happy holiday-goers, he has the weight of his secret bearing down on him constantly. In the background, a bunny-costumed figure runs across the beach. This is the camp host, but feels sinister and out of place in the beach setting. Overall, Jestin’s Heatwave is a quick thriller, perfect if you require a book to get out of a reading slump.
Siddhartha by Herman Hesse
The classic Siddhartha is a beautifully inspiring short book by Herman Hesse with 152 pages and is a perfect read or re-read for Small Book September. First published in 1922, the novel has influenced generations of people who have read the tale of one man’s search for meaning. It is considered a gentle and unforgettable introduction and aide-memoire of spirituality and self-discovery. In this story, a wealthy Indian Brahmin, dissatisfied with the ways of his life of privilege, decides to leave what and who he knows to search for his spiritual fulfilment. The tale follows his learning of lessons with a humble approach.
There have been thousands of editions of the book published over the decades, and our choice of edition for this year’s Small Book September has this beautifully serene cover.
The colours used in this cover are calming, with turquoise, blues, pinks and yellows, giving
the reader the feeling of tranquillity and hinting at the sentiments in the novel. The fluid use
of soft, wavy lines gives the impression of the flowing water, which lends to feelings of comfort and ease, with the silhouetted man in the boat travelling towards mountains and open water on his journey of spirituality. The water lilies are a spiritual symbol of beauty and purity.
Hermann Hesse was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1946 for a body of literature renowned for its humanist, philosophical and spiritual insight. This is a beautiful symbolic cover for the story and a great novel that can be added to your collection as a great Small Book September read.
Panenka by Rónán Hession
Panenka by Rónán Hession is a masterful piece of writing about an ageing man who is still haunted by the mistakes of his past, something which impacts his relationships and outlook on life. The book includes an incredibly detailed character study despite how short it is and benefits from a beautiful book cover, which complements the story incredibly well. The central image resembles an oil painting of a man with his facial features blurred and distorted. These features can hold several meanings. The first is that the main character of Panenka has lived his life with little thought for anything other than his past mistakes, thus making him a shell of the man he could be. Another way the book cover can be perceived is through the idea that Hession is painting a picture of a story that could apply to any man, as the thoughts and feelings in the book display a sense of relatability for the reader. Whichever way you look at the book cover, it catches the eye and conveys the story's complexity beneath its pages.