The wise and perceptive KevinfromCanada drew my attention to another recent theme emerging on a number of literary novel covers: the floating candle/coracle or deepak. He noted its use on three new novels: Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi by Geoff Dyer, Dreams of Rivers and Seas, by Tim Parks, and The Disappeared, by Kim Echlin.
All three of these novels feature Westerners getting lost (emotionally or spiritually) to various degrees in Asia, and to them I'd add a fourth novel, this time a new edition of an older book, Say a Little Mantra for Me, by Yvonne Burgess: a bitterly funny little novel about a woman seeking New Age enlightenment as her all-female family falls apart in 1970s South Africa.
I'm not sure why all use the same sort of image, other than it being an effective shorthand for exotic Indian/Asian spirituality, and the fact that the bright lights and colours of the deepaks against dark, watery backgrounds make for eye-catching imagery.
The Tim Parks cover makes use of a photo by Steve McCurry, one of the best-known photojournalists in the world. His most famous picture is much reproduced on postcards and calendars.
The UK edition of Geoff Dyer's book (the first of the two shown above) is credited to a Marc Quinn. I have no idea if this is the same person as the sculptor responsible for various fairly hideous statues of a half-dressed Kate Moss thrusting her crotch at the people willing to pay vast sums for the works, but it would make the world a more interesting place if it was (especially as the Dyer book features an inpired piss-take of the art shown at the Venice Biennale).
This (the deepak covers, not Kate Moss's crotch) is an unusual case of the same sort of idea apparently occurring to several different book designers independently (the books all have different publishers, in different parts of the world), with the unfortunate result of multiple books' dramatic covers losing some of their effect through familiarity.
UPDATE: Ingrid Paulson, who maintains a fine blog here, designed the Echlin cover. She has let me know that "..it's strange, because initially I looked at Steve McCurry's photographs for inspiration, among others. However, we did a few rounds and nothing was catching with the editors, so the art director suggested this very image used on the cover. There is an important scene in the book that involves a candle ceremony, so it isn't just a facile visual interpretation. But I hear you on how seeing that image everywhere has weakened the impact."