Best Fonts for Books

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Unobtrusive Is the Key to a Good Book Font

Best Fonts for Books
Unless you're designing a specialty book, the best font choices are good, serviceable serif or sans serif faces. © Jacci Howard Bear; licensed to About.com

When you read a book, the designer's font choice is probably not the first thing you notice. That's a good thing because if the font choice immediately jumped out at you and said "look at me," it was probably the wrong font for that book. When you are choosing a font for a book design, keep a few simple font characteristics in mind.

  • Use a serif or sans serif font.
    The body of the book is not the place for blackletter, script or decorative fonts. In some cases, they might work for chapter titles or the table of contents, but not for the main text. You generally won't go horribly wrong with most classic serif or classic sans serif choices, although traditionally, most book fonts are serif fonts.
  • Be unobtrusive.
    For most books, the best font is one that does not stand up and shout at the reader. It won't have an extreme x-height, unusually long ascenders or descenders, or overly elaborate letterforms with extra flourishes. While a professional designer may see the unique beauty in each typeface, for most readers the face is just another font. 
  • Stay away from typewriter fonts.
    Avoid monospaced fonts such as Courier or other typewriter fonts. The uniform spacing between characters makes the text stand out too much. The exception would be in other text elements such as chapter headings or pull-quotes where you might want a more distinctive font.

  • Choose a font that is clearly legible at 14 points or smaller.
    Actual font size depends on the specific font but most books are set at a size between 10 and 14 points. Decorative fonts are usually not legible at those sizes.
  • Adjust the leading.
    The space between lines of type is just as important as the specific typeface and point size. Some typefaces may require more leading than others to accommodate long ascenders or descenders. However, increased leading can lead to more pages in the book. It's a balancing act with some book designs. Adding about 2 points to the text point size is a good starting point for choose leading—so 12-point type would be set with 14-point leading.

Specific Book Font Selections

While it is hard to go wrong with well-known serif classics such as Minion, JansonSabon and Adobe Garamond, don't be afraid to try a sans serif font like Trade Gothic if it works for your design. For digital books, Arial, Georgia, Lucida Sans or Palatino are all standard choices because they are loaded onto most e-readers. Other good book fonts include ITC New Baskerville, Electra and Dante.