Bad Book Covers – Moby Dick

It’s time for another installment of Bad Book Covers. Today we’ll look at Herman Melville’s Moby Dick (1851).

Previous posts in this series include: Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, The MoonstoneDracula, East Lynne, Lady Audley’s Secret, Wuthering Heights, The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Scarlet Letter, Frankenstein, A Christmas Carol, Little Women, Jekyll and HydePamela, Ivanhoe, Anne of Green GablesVanity FairTurn of the ScrewShe,  The Jungle BookTess of the d’UrbervillesThe Hound of the Baskervilles, and A Tale of Two Cities.

Usual disclaimers:

1.) These are all professional book covers instead of fan or amateur artwork (or at least I hope so). I’m more than happy to pick on marketing boards who thought these were good ideas, but I don’t want to pick on fans trying to express their love of books. If a fan cover made it in to this collection, then I’m very sorry and you are clearly a good enough artist to make me assume it was professionally done.

2.) I’m ridiculing the covers, not the book itself.

3.) I’m going to swear. A lot. If this isn’t your thing, then don’t read it.

Plot Recap (SPOILERS)

Full disclosure, I’ve never read Moby Dick because I don’t have the mental bandwidth for 700 pages about blubber and how the sea is a cruel mistress. All I know about this book is that it’s super long, and far too boring to also be this gay (Melville was probably gay–as has been amply studied over the years in queer theory circles–and more than a little in love with his friend Nathaniel Hawthorne, who did not reciprocate his affections).

I do, however, have a colleague who loves this book more than life itself so I figured I could at least check out some of the artwork. Here’s what I do know about the plot: there’s a captain named Ahab who (I think?) had his leg bitten off by a whale he was trying to murder once, and instead of calling that a fair draw, Ahab is determined to find the whale again and spear-stab it until one or both of them dies.

This is exactly what happens, the end.


 What accurately summarizes a book exclusively about dudes swinging their dicks against nature, written by a closeted author? This weirdly condescending sperm-fish, clearly.

This book is now called Gently Bumping People Who Try To Stab Me.

‘Mocha Dick’ is the insult I never knew I never needed.

*Deep breath*


Our Cod is an angry Cod

You’d think out of the five covers on this cover that at least one of them would be passable.

Free Willy, but where Willy is relentlessly bent on annihilation.



I could stare at this cover of nothing for 500 hours trying to find significance that doesn’t exist.

This is the most apt representation of the book I’ve seen yet.

The Rainbow Fish is back, and he’s pissed.

I can only imagine this looming white whale gently encouraging this vulnerable little ship in the voice of John Hammond talking to those velociraptor babies in Jurassic Park.

Come on, little one. Come on!

Joaquin Phoenix is back on his weird experimental art kick, and it’s even less funny than last time.

With all this phallic imagery, how could Ahab not succeed?

Someone’s only made it through the outline stage of their art class.

Time to bury this tiny whale with this tiny shovel.

I’m not entirely sure what type of animal that’s supposed to be, but I’m glad it’s giving the ship a mutual belly rub.


“Tell Drusilla … *cough* … tell Drusilla … I’m sorry.”

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5 Responses to Bad Book Covers – Moby Dick

  1. MA says:

    Hooray! Bad Book Covers is back!

    I actually found Moby Dick fascinating when I first read it, but that’s just me. I may have been exactly the right age or something. And I was going through a phase where I picked books specifically for how long they were: “Long enough that I won’t finish it on the way home from the library? OK, hand it over!”

    For some good illustrations for this book, try the art by Rockwell Kent. You could do a whole post just on that.


  2. Our cod is an angry cod almost made me spit my drink out… lol


  3. Emily Watkins says:

    I was SO EXCITED about the return of bad book covers! And Moby Dick! One of my all-time favorites. So what gives with the book hate? For a book you’ve never read! It’s actually quite funny and totally weird, and not at all dick-swinging. Disliking MD seems to be trendy and I’m not sure why, but it makes me sad that other potential book-sailors might not give it a chance. PS – The Norton Critical edition (above) depicts Queequeg, literature’s best coffin-building cannibal?


  4. lolarusa says:

    The cover with the face tattoos is actually both cool-looking and pertinent to the novel. It’s a portrait of Queequeg, the narrator’s almost heroic and sexy shipmate. I think it’s a very good Moby Dick cover.


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