This fun collection of Penguin paperback editions of contemporary fiction features bright covers designed by creative contemporary tattoo artists.
All 20** books in the series were published between 2010 and 2011 and feature French flaps. The series was started by Penguin US (rumour has it that the series was inspired by a tattoo sported by Penguin’s creative director Paul Buckley), and following its success, Penguin UK commissioned six additional titles the following year.
Typically for Penguin paperbacks, they are unfortunately glue bound and the paper is not acid-free. Otherwise, they are a similar size and design as the Penguin Deluxe Classics series and certainly add some fun and colour to your shelf, as well as providing an interesting selection of titles to read – sort of an “edgy college reading” booklist, if you will.
**An edition of Hell’s Angels by Hunter S Thompson is often erroneously included in the series because it also has a tattoo style cover. However, it is part of the Penguin Essentials line.
Differences between US and UK editions
The first difference you’re likely to notice is that the US editions mostly have deckled page edges while the UK editions have straight edges. Additionally, UK Penguin Ink editions are all by British authors, they feature a photo of the artist on the back flap, and they don’t have the ‘Penguin Ink’ logo on the cover. The US editions represent a broader variety of authors, the back flap often features an illustrative self-portrait of the artist, and most do have ‘Penguin Ink’ marked below the orange Penguin logo on the spine and cover.
On buying books (or tattoos!)
Many of the books in this series are already out of print, but they are fairly cheap on the second hand market – watch out for condition though, as many paperbacks get quite rough handling.
Clicking on the cover art will bring up a bigger picture for you to enjoy. have also linked to each artist’s parlour page or Instagram account – just in case you’re here because you’re keen to get inked!
Complete list of books in the Penguin Ink series
Cover art by Duke Riley.
ISBN 9780143116936, Jun 2010
"Lenore’s great-grandmother has disappeared with twenty-five other inmates of the Shaker Heights Nursing Home. Her beau, and boss, Rick Vigorous, is insanely jealous, and her cockatiel, Vlad the Impaler, has suddenly started spouting a mixture of psycho-babble, Auden, and the King James Bible."
Cover Art by Lina Stigsson.
ISBN 9780143119692, Jul 2011
"An insightful narrative maps the progress of fourteen-year- old Jane Rosenal as she navigates the perilous terrain of love, sex, and relationships, capturing what it's like to be a young woman in America today."
Cover art by Rob Admiraal, foreword by Aram Saroyan.
ISBN 9780143119234, Apr 2011
"Kerouac’s alter ego Jack Duluoz, overwhelmed by success and excess, gravitates back and forth between wild binges in San Francisco and an isolated cabin on the California coast where he attempts to renew his spirit and clear his head of madness and alcohol."
Cover art by Dominique Holmes
ISBN 9780241951583, May 2011
(**Not a true Penguin Inked title, but often marketed with the others in the UK due to the similar style of tattoo cover design)
"In this hair-raising expose, Thompson journeys with the last outlaws of the American frontier."