Growing up in an Adventist home, I was surrounded by copies of Ellen G. White’s writings: Steps to Christ, The Desire of Ages and, of course, The Great Controversy. I remember the slick plastic covers that, after seven generations of use, had cracked, split and curled at the edges. It left a bad taste in my mouth that these important texts looked nowhere near as vital or regal as their contents deserved. And I’m not the only one who thinks so.

On Oct. 1, 2018, the project The Conflict Beautiful was uploaded to KickStarter, a crowdfunding site. The campaign was started with the goal to modernize the covers of Ellen G. White texts. According to the project web page, “We think it’s time for a new, beautifully designed, hardcover set—expertly typeset, printed, and bound to match the beauty of words and ideas inside.”

To date, the group has raised more than $150,000 for the project. In a time when one of the biggest concerns of the church is how to attract young people, presenting some of the Adventist core texts in a simple and sleek design will appeal to modern aesthetics. By utilizing this visual medium, book covers might just be able to help invite a new, younger audience.

The Conflict Beautiful team is making progress on an already available idea. The books Running on Empty by Ellen Bailey and Trouble on the Blue Planet by Richard T. Edison are both visual introductions to The Desire of Ages and The Great Controversy, respectively. The books’ target audience is teenagers who might feel bored with going to church every weekend and reading a bland-looking Bible with language they don’t entirely understand. The covers of both books feature a teenaged main character against an action-packed backdrop—a house on fire or a line of armed police. First and foremost, they grab attention, demanding they be read.

What these book covers have done is start to make White’s texts not only important to young readers, but present a relevancy and importance to the information. What White wrote is no longer outdated Biblical interpretations from a century ago, but an immediate response to everyday events.

While it is true a person should never judge something just based on looks, one can’t deny that first impressions—especially visual impressions—are important. By giving these classic texts a new coat of paint, the Adventist Church is taking a step forward into a modern era. By taking advantage of these trends, the church can not only attract new members, but help spread its message in an active and interesting way.

How to choose your next read

  1. Many authors are advertised as a New York Times Best-Selling Author. This is judged by how many books a store will order at once, not individual sales to real people. Don’t base your buy on just that.
  2. Books in the same genre will often have a similar look. Mysteries are dark and foggy, YA books typically have a girl on the cover, and thrillers are made to stand out, usually with one main item on a white background.
  3. Just because the author’s name is the same size as the title doesn’t mean you’ll like that author. These authors normally have a niche market they appeal to.
  4. Look for key words in the book’s blurb. Blurbs in certain genres will try to reuse terms. Look at the blurb from your favorite books and see what pops up.
  5. Get a Goodreads account. Goodreads has millions of users who give ratings and reviews for books. If you need to make a snap decision, check the star rating. It’s also free and can be linked to your Facebook account.

Elizabeth Bearden is a senior English education and history major at Union College.