According to dictionary.com, Lad Lit is simply “fiction about young men and their emotional and personal lives”; essentially the male equivalent to the more recognized Chick Lit genre, which adresses the issues of the modern woman in a light-hearted way. British author Nick Hornby started the trend, first in 1992 with his autobiographical story The Fever Pitch from 1992, which focused on his obsession with the British football team Arsenal. The Lad Lit trend officially began with his first novel, High Fidelity, which was published in 1995 and told the story of Rob, a record store owner in his mid-thirties who has just been left by his girlfriend and is reluctant to grow up. Anyone who wishes to read more about Lad Lit should check this out.
However, back to the covers. Here is the original cover of High Fidelity from 1995:
This cover is simple, with only a picture of a young man, the title and the author’s name. This is before Nick Hornby made a name for himself as well as being the first Lad Lit book, which might explain the simplicity. I can’t help but feel that the publisher didn’t exactly know how to market this book, as it was the beginning of a new genre. This cover doesn’t tell you anything about the contents of this book, although that would soon change with the next set of covers. Before getting to that however, let’s first take a quick look at this Popular Penguins cover:
This is just to show that High Fidelity does have a modern, simple cover, quite different from the original version, and from those that came later. And while I understand why it would be a part of this series (easy to pick out online, as mentioned in earlier posts) I can’t help but feel that this is not what Nick Hornby, or Lad Lit, is about. Hornby’s world is more messy, insecure and unsure of itself, more artistic and colourful, filled with passion for music and sports. Other covers do reflect that, one of those being a 2011 cover by Penguin Ink, which I particularly like:
This cover, as you can see quite clearly, is made by a tattoo artist. Even though I am not a fan of tattoos I still like this look, it does focus on the music, which is an important part of the book, and it appeals to men rather than women, which Lad Lit is written for (though I am a woman and I love this book, and I know I am not the only one). All in all this cover is a fresh take on the book, and it definitely stands out as cover art.
As you can see, despite the original cover and the simplistic look of Popular Penguins, there has been a development over the years, not necessarily towards a simpler, more modern look but instead more focused on the genre throughout (perhaps because there is now a better understanding of this new genre). Here is an example from 2010:
Now the focus is finally on what the book is about; the potential readers of this book can see that it is about music, about a young guy, rock and roll and from a time of vinyl, compilation tapes, and “real” music (no iPods, CD’s, and no autotune). This cover suggests a certain atmosphere, a way of living, which should tell you what you are getting. And even with more modernized versions the focus is always put on the music, as can been seen on this cover from 2000:
While the text here is big and bold, and accompanied by a bold colour, making it quite modern, music is still at the cornerstone of the cover art. The same can be said about the next cover, also from 2000:
Again the focus is on music, the image being of a box filled with vinyl records. This seems to suggest that, in the same way that Chick Lit has dreamy covers, usually with couples on them or at least of a girl, the protagonist, the covers of Lad Lit are meant to attract male readers through their favorite hobbies.
Obviously, as the book is still in copyright, the covers we see here are from Penguin, the publisher of the book, which means that no other publisher has been able to make a version of their own. And yet, as Hornby himself points out, reprints and the attempts by publishers to continue selling books off a backlist means that new covers are still being designed in order to reach a new, or a different, audience, which also means that the “original” version is no longer as important as it was. On a positive note it also means that there is a broader spectrum in the covers made, instead of a single, iconic cover. In the case of High Fidelity it means that publishers got the chance to take a book which they perhaps did not know how to market, and re-design the look and feel more appropriately as the genre began to develop, making it possible to reach the right target audience.