Running the Books
Running the Books
Running the Books

Running the Books

Random House, New York, New York, 2010


Project brief: Running the Books is a memoir about two years in the life of a Jewish librarian in a Boston prison, a world full of humor and hardship. The book was initially meant to target Jewish readers and readers of literary memoirs, which is a very small genre. We wanted to expand the readership and invite in an audience that could appreciate the witty writing that enhances the underlying moral seriousness. We also wanted to convey the author’s experience without using an explicit or obvious reference to prison, a word that already appeared in the subtitle.

Approach: I wanted to keep this cover design simple, conceptual and charming. It had to stand out on the bookshelf as a one-of-a-kind package since the outlook for its shelf life was conservative yet hopeful.

I hired Ben Wiseman to work on an illustration for the cover. I had seen other portraits he had created using different forms, symbols and color, and asked him to use a similar approach to this cover art. In keeping it unique and fresh, he came up with an illustrative portrait of the author using colored library stamps. Since he was so successful with the illustration, he went on to finish the title and author type in the same style.

We ended up printing the jacket with a simple, gritty matte finish, keeping with the simplicity of the design.

Effectiveness: From the author to the editor: “I love it! It’s gorgeous, eye-catching and yet subtle. The designers have gotten at the book’s themes in a stylish, elegant and original way. I love the creative suggestion of how this place left its literal imprint. And, as you mentioned, the theme of the passage of time. I also like the sense of motion and action. And all in a tight composition. I’m really impressed.”

Juror Notes

Takes the typewriter type to a whole new level. Stamp win!

Collections: 50 Books | 50 Covers of 2010
Repository: Denver Art Museum
Discipline: Book design
Format: Book, Book cover


Design firm
Random House
Art director
Emily Mahon
Ben Wiseman
Ben Wiseman
Nan A. Talese/Doubleday