5 worst Anna Karenina book covers


You may have picked up on the fact by now that I’m a wee bit obsessed in love with Leo Tolstoy, in particular, Anna Karenina. With no other book am I as fiercely overprotective and territorial as I am with Anna. It really gets under my skin to see Keira Knightley masquerading as one of the most complex heroines in literary history. I’ve stopped giving the book away as gifts because you can only stand having your heart broken so many times before you learn not to go down that road again: “What do you mean you didn’t finish it?” “What do you mean there wasn’t enough sex?” “How could Levin have possibly annoyed you?” “What do you mean you fell asleep during Tolstoy’s descriptions of the Russian countryside?”

I mean, this one's alright. Symbolic. Contemplative. Better an image of a train track than of a gussied up 20th century woman. But where's the subtlety?

I mean, this one’s alright. Symbolic. Contemplative. Better an image of a train track than of a gussied up 20th century woman. But where’s the subtlety?

Poor Luke. He’s heard this a lot. So you can imagine his panic when I requested one single object from him for Christmas this year: a beautiful collector’s copy of Anna Karenina for my personal library.

I don’t actually own it, you see. Nope. The copy I read belonged to the library. The reason I’ve held back buying a copy for myself is because every time I see it in a bookstore, I’m unimpressed with the book cover design. Seriously, people! The greatest book in history and we can’t come up with a single decent design for it.

You see now why Luke is panicking. What if he picks a book that I hate? (Not that he will and not that I would ever hate anything he gave me!) It’s the stress of giving books as gifts all over again.

Just for fun, we spent a goofy half hour yesterday going through all my least favorite Anna book covers and my reasons. And just for fun, I thought I’d share them with you, too.


No. Just no. There will be no neo-classical painting of a woman reclining on my cover of Anna Karenina. No woman at all, for that matter. I don’t want my image of Anna to be influenced by some other person’s interpretation of what she looks like. 


It looks like an Oprah’s Book Club cover and it is an Oprah’s Book Club pick. So what’s Penguin trying to say? Only middle aged women can appreciate Anna? 

Is this Anne of Green Gables or Anna Karenina? Seriously, Penguin, drop the flowers/bodice/bosom shot.

Is this Anne of Green Gables or Anna Karenina? Seriously, Penguin, drop the flowers/bodice/bosom shot.


I want to love everything Coralie Bickford-Smith does, but her Anna cover falls flat for me. I appreciate the intersecting train routes symbolizing all the messy, conflicting choices and interwoven lives (and at least it’s a more subtle train allusion), but I’m disappointed with the quotations. If I were her editor I would have said, “get rid of ’em’.

If you think I’m crazy right now, you’re probably right. I promise not to hold it against you if you decide to stop following me today. Please, do. Stop the madness. But if, as I suspect, you’re all a bunch of nutters like me when it comes to books, then I’d love to hear what your favorite and least favorite book cover are. Did you ever love the book but hate the cover? What’s your all-time favorite book and did the cover have any roll in decision at all?

(Top photo from Better Book Titles)

  1. Claire said:

    I am positive those were all my comments upon my first initial reading- so sorry Erin! Though, thankfully that gift was not actually given to me…so I was a bystander rather than a recipient. On my second try with sixth months more brain development under my belt, I loved Levine in a new way. The Russian country side, the intense birth scenes and romantic evenings on hay bells became great escapes and really delightful seasons of learning to me though I felt much less out of love with Anna and her cyclical passions. I experienced Anna more as a pilgrimage than a read for pleasure. Tolstoy is a journey and transforms your understandings forever. That much I know is true. On a lighter note, these cover photos are so amusing. What is with the strategically placed flowered over “woman parts?”

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