Most Common Fonts for Books

How to choose the best font for your book

There's as much art as science to the development of a book. Questions of trim size — it's length and width — and ideal cover designs preoccupy self-published authors, yet an often overlooked decision point lies with typography.

Designers distinguish between two key terms:

  • A typeface is a family of related characters. For example, Helvetica is a typeface.
  • A font is a specific instantiation of a typeface. For example, Helvetica Narrow Italic is a font.

Traditionally, fonts include a specific point size, but this practice — a holdover from the days when fonts consisted of individual letters placed into printing presses — has largely been superseded with digital printing. 

Selecting complementary and readable typefaces leads to a harmonious visual appeal that will help your book place well with readers.

of 02

Unobtrusive Is the Key to a Good Book Font

Close up of open book on counter
Chris Ryan / Getty Images

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. Follow best practices:

  • Use a serif or sans serif font. The body of the book is not the place for blockletter, 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.
of 02

Good Typeface Pairings

Illustration of letters flying off or on to a book



While it is hard to go wrong with well-known serif classics such as Minion, Janson, Sabon, 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. 

mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Bear, Jacci Howard. "Most Common Fonts for Books." ThoughtCo, Nov. 18, 2021, Bear, Jacci Howard. (2021, November 18). Most Common Fonts for Books. Retrieved from Bear, Jacci Howard. "Most Common Fonts for Books." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 30, 2023).