The printed book has been the supreme discipline of typography ever since moveable type was invented. Today, more text is read on screens than on paper, yet books continue to provide great opportunities for typographers to showcase their skills. Since books are about extended amounts of body copy, legibility in text sizes is a minimum requirement for all fonts on this list. I’ve had the pleasure to work with most of them myself — you’ll notice that I like my books classical but with a contemporary twist.
by Moritz Kleinsorge / Identity Letters
When this superfamily was released, it was the type tool I had always waited for and I even had the honor of baptizing it “Allrounder.” Allrounder Grotesk and its Granjon-inspired serif counterpart, Allrounder Antiqua, are based on very different skeletons and design principles, yet they share the same vertical metrics and are fine-tuned to generate the same color on the page. This feature makes typesetting nonfiction books, dictionaries, and other books with a complex layout a piece of cake. The third Allrounder member, Allrounder Monument, an all-caps display typeface, is great for titles.
by Ramiro Espinoza / Retype
Transitional serif faces like Dejanire are among the most popular choices for books (and long text in general). Starting out as the polished version of an anonymous 18th-century display typeface, Dejanire was expanded by Ramiro Espinoza into an impressive superfamily. Its contemporary appearance, a large supply of styles—including a Jewel variant and a matching sans—, and its stockpile of useful features are a blessing for the demanding typographer.
by Nick Shinn / Shinntype
At 1600+ glyphs, this aptly titled serif face of the Scotch Modern genre and its early grotesque-style sans-serif counterpart, Figgins Sans, are both well-drawn and well-equipped. Granted, it’s not a style that will go with every kind of content. But if it fits yours, you can be sure that this suite is up for any challenge book design has to offer.
by Robert Strauch / Lazydogs Typefoundry
Not the most versatile font family in terms of the number of fonts (there’s only 3 of them), Fabiol focuses on what it does best: setting lavishly beautiful body copy. I don’t know exactly how Robert Strauch and the Lazydogs team pulled it off—this hybrid serif typeface doesn’t have a “handmade” look, by all means, yet it’s as warm-blooded and soulful as it gets. What I do know is that working with Fabiol is a joy. The fonts contain a bunch of useful features for book typography—and a chipper set of fleurons.
by Juanjo López / Huy! Fonts
Juanjo’s fonts are drawn flawlessly and sport a generous character set. With Graveur Variable, you get Renaissance quality galore: an elegant, dignified garalde with a fresh look and can be easily paired with more contemporary designs. Its Variable Font axes make it especially versatile. This might be your new workhorse.
by Jos Buivenga & Martin Majoor / The Questa Project
Another superfamily that makes book design easier and more pleasant, Questa comes with a clean, contemporary look. Unlike the previously mentioned Allrounder fonts, the serif, sans, and slab variants of Questa share the same skeleton. This makes for a more uniform look when using different subfamilies on the same page.
by Martin Majoor
Not a serif, not strictly a sans, either: a flare-serif typeface wouldn’t be my first choice for extended amounts of text. Comma Base, however, sets a very nice body copy. I would indeed like to see it used for an entire book.
by Kaja Słojewska & Plamen Motev / Fontfabric
Not only does Alkes support Latin, Cyrillic, and Greek—it was specifically tailored to harmonize between the three scripts. Kaja Słojewska’s contemporary humanist design with its heavy serifs makes for a friendly look and a pleasant reading experience.
by David Březina & Sláva Jevčinová / Rosetta
Hardly an industry secret, the Skolar superfamily is exceptional in more than one way. Its impressive range of features and language support let you tackle even complex academic typesetting, while its nifty design will enhance the look of any text straight out of the box. Skolar and Skolar Sans are the Swiss army knives of book design.
by Rob Keller / Mota Italic
Can a typeface that was optimized for body copy brim with personality? One look at Vesper says it can. Sporting woodcut-like broken curves, Rob Keller’s design from 2008 was one of the pioneers in this sub-genre of text faces. Flashy when used large, legible in small sizes.
by Jos Buivenga / exljbris Font Foundry
Yes, it’s a geometric sans-serif. You’re wondering why it made it on this list? Easy: Antona sets a surprisingly calm, legible body copy with an even color. Its large counters and open apertures make for fluent reading in all sizes. If you must use a geometric sans for your book, this is a good one to start with.
by Henning Skibbe / Character Type
This superfamily was meant to be used in newspapers (obviously). Its demeanor is everything but restrained. However, depending on the complexity of your book’s layout and topic, you might well benefit from the range of styles and characters available in News Sans and News Serif.
by Philip Lammert / Vibrant Types
A sturdy and fairly wide design, Adelbrook evokes early humanist types but is positively contemporary upon closer inspection. The resulting look may be a bit unconventional for a novel but will work great in layouts at the intersection of book end editorial design.
by Ludwig Übele / Ludwig Type
A humanist sans-serif typeface with organic qualities. Niko’s three widths with low contrast in the middle weights, open shapes, and even texture make it a top choice for nonfiction books and any kind of text to be published both in print and as an ebook. It looks really crisp on-screen.
by Paul Hickson & Pat Hickson / London Type Foundry
Sometimes, you just need a Garamond. This one is an especially beautiful rendition. Yes, it’s just one weight, yes, the character set is limited, and yes, there’s no italic. To make up for it, there is a set of 26 original initials to help you realize your visions of classic book design.
by Nils Thomsen / TypeMates
Pensum Pro is my personal champion for long text and one of my all-time favorite typefaces—always distinct, never obtrusive. The middle weights make for a neat and even texture in body copy while the more flashy Thin and Black ends of the spectrum let you go big or go home. Pensum Pro sports lavishly beautiful italics and a powerful glyph set for Latin-based languages. Pensum Pro alone will go a long way, but in case you need even more, there’s a whole superfamily to discover.
Johannes López Ayala is a designer, writer, and artist based in Germany. With a background in languages, he studied Industrial Design and Communication Design, worked in big-corp marketing, managed an art gallery, and eventually took to type. He completed the postgraduate Expert class Type design at the Plantin Institute of Typography, Antwerp, in 2022.
In addition to his professional work as a creative director at Tipogris Books and Brands, he has been teaching as a lecturer at Rhine-Waal University of Applied Sciences. Follow Johannes on Twitter and read his irregular type reviews at 366Fonts.
Check out this Fonts for Books list in the ILT store.
Photo credit (header): Ria