When we pick up a book to read, maybe for the first time, the first thing that draws our attention is the front cover. It's superficial but it's also art. Like the book that was written, the cover will tell its own story and represent the book you read. They say not to judge a book by its cover, but they didn't say anything about just the cover. Here are five illustrators that will draw you in to your next read.

1. Ralph Steadman

The Econimist

The inklings of Ralph Steadman are madness maddened but they are more than a bout of anger. The British illustrator is widely known for his work with journalist and author of "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" Hunter S. Thompson, but his art speaks to the frailty and cruelty of the world with a self-aware silver lining. Steadman creates a world that is uniquely his but also one that begs the question: are we all mad? Surely not Steadman. See his art collection here.

2. Joseph Mugnaini

The University of Kansas

Dynamic lines and curvature with a wide spectrum of color make this Italian illustrator an original avant-garde. Joseph Mugnaini has art in motion that puts the viewer into emotions of a deep-seated kind. He is best known for his collaboration with science fiction author Ray Bradbury, with his most famous cover being the paper man of "Fahrenheit 451." (Steadman started a fire of his own as well). Mugnaini's style captures the moment of spontaneous memory and brings it to life with a certain mysticism and an uncertain future. Check out his other illustrations here and his illustrations for a short film based on Ray Bradbury's original story "Icarus Montgolfier Wright".

3. Chip Kidd


The kid-in-a-candy-of-store of artists, Chip Kidd brings his graphic design prowess to the literary world. He has worked with a number of authors, such as David Sedaris, Haruki Murakami, and Michael Crichton, and the covers all capture a part of each writer's story. The contrasts and simple visuals stand true to Kidd's artistic approach of clarity and mystery in balance.

4. Quentin Blake


If you read "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" or anything from Roald Dahl growing up, then you've seen the art of Quentin Blake. Another British illustrator who is more of a "Ralph Steadman on a good day," Blake will be sure to treat you with his childhood-like whimsy. The wonderful glow of his water colors welcome the colorful and murky sides of life.

5. Craig Thompson


Wisconsinite graphic novelist Craig Thompson gives attention to realism while bending the extremities to a humorous but serious size. His coming-of-age autobiography "Blankets" has won eight awards, two of them Eisner awards, and his more recent works "Habibi" (an Islamic love story) and "Space Dumplins" (a father-daughter space drama) have reached wide acclaim. Check out his illustrations and blog here.

People usually think of children's books when they think of illustration, but the world of illustration speaks to everyone. Illustrators are the welcome mat to the literary world along with the world of art at large. History shows that illustrations were never meant to hang exclusively on the walls of the aristocracy. Illustrators are more diverse and telling of a culture, an ethnicity, an identity, that extends far beyond the canvas they share their stories on.

The next time you pick a book off the shelf, take the time to appreciate the story it may be telling with its cover before you turn the pages. Learn more about illustration with these resources from the Norman Rockwell Museum.