Andrea-Lam-Penguin-Classics-Staff-Picks

 

 

Andrea Lam is a Publicity Assistant at Viking / Penguin Books / Penguin Classics, where she is the in-house champion for tall ships, world mythology and folklore, and Anne Brontë.

 

 

 

 

north-and-south-by-elizabeth-gaskellNorth and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

Elizabeth Gaskell is one of my favorite Victorian novelists, and North and South is easily my favorite of her novels. Gaskell wrote candidly and compassionately about class differences in British society, particularly as they applied to the heavily industrial North of England. In North and South, Southern Margaret Hale is forced with her family to move up to Milton-Northern (modelled after Manchester), where she comes into repeated conflict with mill owner and native Northerner John Thornton. As Milton-Northern’s mill workers increasingly agitate for rights, Margaret and John must come to an understanding both personally and politically, but their path is far from smooth. A bonus: the 2004 BBC series based on the novel is a wonderful adaptation, and I recommend both to just about anyone who will stand still long enough to listen.

 

spunyarn-by-john-masefield

Spunyarn by John Masefield

I usually credit my deep love for tall ships and the Age of Sail to having read the entire 20-book Aubrey-Maturin series by Patrick O’Brian when I was twelve years old, but I’m sure that I encountered John Masefield’s poetry some time before then. Though I know intellectually that I’d not survive the physical toil of daily life on a merchant mariner or naval warship, Masefield’s ‘Sea-Fever’ makes me long for the far-ranging view from the bow of a ship running free, and moves me like few other poems do each time I read it.

 

 

 

the-turnip-princess-and-other-newly-discovered-fairy-tales-by-franz-xaver-von-schonwerthThe Turnip Princess by Franz Xaver von Schönwerth and translated by Maria Tatar

I’ve been passionate about world mythology and folklore since I was very young, and when I read the news in 2012 that a cache of previously unseen German fairy tales had been discovered, I jumped to follow the story. Imagine my surprise two years later when, shortly after I started working for Penguin, I learned that not only was Penguin Classics publishing a selection of Franz Xaver von Schönwerth’s tales, the tales were to be translated by the inimitable Maria Tatar! I’ve long admired Tatar’s scholarship, and I’m so pleased that her translation of Schönwerth’s tales are now available to the reading public and fellow fairy tale enthusiasts like myself.

 

passing-by-nella-larsenPassing by Nella Larsen

Nella Larsen’s short novel Passing is a poignant, painful exploration of race and racism in the Harlem Renaissance that deals with issues of racial identity formation, cultural assimilation, and self-presentation. Irene Redfield and Clare Kendry’s respective struggles with life as mixed-race women in a racist, male-dominated society still ring true today. Larsen’s other novel Quicksand, published a year before Passing, deals with related issues and is also well worth reading.

 

 

 

the-tenant-of-wildfell-hall-by-anne-bronteThe Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë

Jane and Emily are both well and good, but Anne is my favorite of the Brontë sisters and—I feel—the most under appreciated. Anne published only two novels, the other being Agnes Grey, and in both her straightforward depiction of casual male chauvinism stands in contrast to that of her sisters’ in Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. For readers accustomed to the exploits of Edward Rochester and Heathcliff, Tenant’s Arthur Huntingdon may come as a shock. Given that popular culture through history has a deleterious tendency to gloss over abusive behavior, I appreciate Anne Brontë’s refusal to do the same.

 

 

the-penguin-book-of-witches-by-katherine-howe

The Penguin Book of Witches edited by Katherine Howe

If you thought you know about witches, think again. The Penguin Book of Witches is a well-selected collection of historical accounts (all primary-source documents) of accused witches and witch-hunters in North America and England that ably demonstrates that the history of witches is the history of legalized persecution of marginalized groups. Katherine Howe’s explanatory essays and notes are both intelligent and accessible, and help to contextualize the varying time periods in which the documents were written. Witches are a popular trope in fiction for good reason, and The Penguin Book of Witches is a great look at the history behind the fiction.

 

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Ryan Murphy noodles

When Ryan Murphy lived in California a barber told him he seemed like a New Yorker. So he moved there. If he’s not at Penguin or flogging literature at Three Lives & Company, he’s probably tucking away noodles in Flushing, samosas in Jackson Heights or banh mi in Elmhurst.

 

 

 

 

 

 

myantonia

My Antonia, by Willa Cather

Is there a more beautiful writer in the English language than Willa Cather? Years after I first read My Antonia the storyline has become a jumble in my head, but Cather’s peerless vision of the American prairie remains. Pick any random page and you’ll find a gorgeous metaphor or crystalline phrase. Page 201 from the Drop Caps edition: “We sat looking off across the country, watching the sun go down. The curly grass about us was on fire now. The bark of the oaks turned red as copper…The girls sat listless, leaning against each other. The long fingers of the sun touched their foreheads.” There is a subtle mastery to Cather’s words, a clear-eyed sense of rhythm and place that coalesces into a portrait of America that few writers of any era have matched.

 

flatlandFlatland, by Edwin A. Abbott

On the opposite side of the literary spectrum from My Antonia we have Flatland, Edwin Abbott’s spare satire of Victorian society. The story is told by a Square (a member of the privileged, all-male Polygon class), who describes his two-dimensional world and the hierarchies that spring from such inborn characteristics as the number of sides one possesses. Women are Lines, one-dimensional mathematical constructs without depth or importance and mainly notable for the danger they pose as sharp objects. Shapes with irregularities are either shunted into the working classes or, when an aberration is uncorrectable, euthanized. As Abbott said in a later preface, the narrator Square has identified closely with historians “in whose pages (until very recent times) the destinies of Women and of the masses of mankind have seldom been deemed worthy of mention and never of careful consideration.”

 

typee

Typee, by Herman Melville

Long before James Frey and David Sedaris, Herman Melville set a standard for pseudo-memoir with his rollicking South Pacific adventure tale. Expanded, exaggerated and embellished, Typee nonetheless is based on Melville’s real experiences as a captive on Nuku Hiva. Though simpler and far less philosophical than the later Moby-Dick, Typee shows clear strains of Melville’s genius for inquiry and narration, and even a few flashes of humanistic insight beyond the Noble Savage stereotypes. The book (and his next one, Omoo) is an exotic and exciting travelogue that clearly caught the attention of the American public—unlike the epic story of the White Whale, which sank like Ahab in the marketplace, Typee was snapped up by readers eager to read tales of a world entirely inaccessible to them.

logfromthesa

The Log from the Sea of Cortez, by John Steinbeck

John Steinbeck’s books could almost fill my best-of list all by themselves, but for the purposes of this post I’m limiting my Steinbeck picks to one. The Log from the Sea of Cortez tells the story of the author and his friend, biologist Ed Ricketts (who might be familiar to fans of Cannery Row, Sweet Thursday and several other works), traveling down Baja and into the Gulf of California on a scientific expedition. The book is as funny and thoughtful as Steinbeck’s acclaimed fiction, and his descriptions of life on the Gulf are as sumptuous as those of the Salinas Valley in East of Eden. Just as The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay shaped my perception of New York City prior to living here, Steinbeck’s West Coast stories gave me a minds-eye view of the opposite side of the continent before I moved there myself.

songlinesThe Songlines by Bruce Chatwin

If I had my own country and wanted one person to write a book about it, I’d pick Bruce Chatwin. Sure, like Typee, some of the events and dialogue in The Songlines are invented. Yes, Chatwin was just as interested in self-mythologizing as in chronicling the places he visited. But I defy anyone with either an iota of artistic feeling or a restless soul to read Chatwin’s story of Aborigine Australia and not put it down exhilarated by the effortless prose and stunned by the complexity of the cultures he visits. Any attempt to chart the physical and spiritual landscape of Aborigine religion would be doomed to failure in lesser hands, but Chatwin’s words flow and entwine like the very Songlines trod by their master-creators during the Dreaming.

 

 

The Liars’ Club, by Mary Karr

(Okay, it’s not technically a classic yet, but it’s close enough—Penguin Classics will release a Graphic Deluxe edition of The Liars’ Club in late 2015.) Notable not just for the quality of the work itself but also for its influence on countless memoirs in the following decades, Mary Karr’s The Liars’ Club is the story of a cracked childhood told with wit (but not snark) and feeling (but not schmaltz). Like most worthwhile memoirs, Karr’s life is both a pleasure and a pain to read, with cringe-worthy moments of youthful indiscretion, parental failures on a Child Protective Services scale, and moments of gritty, hard-won redemption.

 

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patricknolan

I’m Patrick Nolan, Vice President, Editor in Chief and Associate Publisher of Penguin Books and I never go on vacation without a few Penguin Classics in my suitcase.

 

 

 

 

 

poetics

The Poetics of Space, by Gaston Bachelard

Be warned: this is the kind of book you can’t help but to sit around all day underlining every phrase (when you’re not staring off into… well, space). A book that speaks to those who love interior design and architecture like me, Gaston Bachelard’s musings on the spaces where we spend our lives and the worlds we create within them is rare among even the greatest thinkers: a work at once full of moments of dense philosophy as well as stunning insight into daily life.  This beautiful edition includes a foreword by Mark Z. Danielewski, who drew inspiration from Bachelard for his mind-and-page bending House of Leaves, and let’s just say he’s included some of his signature surprises – Penguin Classics forewords will never be the same.

 

tales

Tales of the Marvellous and News of the Strange, Translated by Malcolm C. Lyons

The stories in this medieval Arab fantasy collection have had quite a trip before they made it to your bookshelf! Some date back over a millennium ago, and they have all spent centuries closed within a ragged old manuscript in a library in Istanbul. Now these tales of sword wielding, princes and princesses, monsters and prized jewels are finally available in English, in a beautiful translation by Malcolm C. Lyons, and gorgeous foil-stamped package.

 

 

 

decameron

Decameron, by Giovanni Boccaccio

Fans of Edgar Allan Poe should drop everything and read this 14th century classic, the major influence for The Masque of the Red Death. Seven women and three men huddle in an abandoned villa outside Florence, hiding in fear of the Black Death. As the few survivors spin tales to pass the time, readers are introduced to the world of 14th century Italy and the endless imagination of master craftsman Boccaccio. Is it a precursor to post-apocalyptic fiction? Who cares – it’s great!

 

 

 

essays

The Essays, by Michel de Montaigne

One way of defining a classic is when someone writing centuries ago can so perfectly express exactly what I need to hear right now, today. For me, there’s no better example than the work of Michel de Montaigne, the French statesmen and writer who popularized the essay as a literary genre and influenced generations of thinkers to come, from Nietzsche to Hitchens. For almost five centuries readers have been turning to Montaigne for his thoughts on love, friendship, work, and just about anything else life has to throw at you.

 

 

 

autobiography

Autobiography, by Morrissey

What can I say about Morrissey he hasn’t said about himself? After decades of pouring his literature-loving genius into songwriting, we now have the story of Manchester’s Muse on the page, written in his own flowery prose. Take a trip back to a young Steven Morrissey’s childhood on the streets of 1960s working class England, and follow him in his own footsteps on his rise to becoming music’s pop darling. No pompadour required.

 

 

 

 

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emilyhartley

Emily Hartley still can’t believe she works at Penguin and moonlights at the best little bookshop in New York City. Thanks to these two gigs, her life mostly consists of books, food, and books, supplemented by other “activities” like volleyball, running, baking, and city exploration. She likes to think she is large and contains multitudes. Though recently deemed “an honorary New Yorker” by someone whose opinion matters a lot to her, she is still a Midwesterner at heart.

 

 

christmas

A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens

You’ve probably seen the movie, maybe even the play, but have you read the story? I hadn’t since middle school, and then a few Christmases ago, I decided to re-read it, aloud, with a few friends. And thus a new tradition was born. Beyond the story’s heartwarming ending and perfect holiday-season message, Dickens’ wit and ability to turn a sentence is absolutely unmatched. I’d suggest grabbing some hot cocoa,  a warm blanket, and a copy of Penguin’s festive new Christmas Classics edition and starting your own tradition this year.

 

 

 

emerson

The Portable Emerson, by Ralph Waldo Emerson

There are lots of quotes to live your life by, but for some reason, this one from Emerson’s “The American Scholar” has stuck with me: “Time shall teach him, that the scholar loses no hour which the man lives.” This is what I love about Emerson—the idea that knowledge and experience go hand in hand, that interacting with the world is one of the best ways to learn. For me, it means never turning down a chance to try something new and looking for positive points to take away from every situation. I’ve applied Emerson to deal with everything from my high school basketball team to teaching English abroad. Basically, THE PORTABLE EMERSON is the only self-help book I’ll admit to reading, with writing that’s just as inspirational as its message.

 

oncetherewasawar

Once There Was a War, by John Steinbeck

Few people think of John Steinbeck as a war correspondent, due mostly to the fact that Once There Was a War—his collected WWII dispatches—wasn’t published until 15 years after he wrote the stories. Had this not been the case, I’m convinced you couldn’t mention Ernie Pyle’s work without bringing up Steinbeck’s, as well. The accounts in Once There Was a War are wonderfully diverse, from eerie, layered descriptions of  landing on the English shore to tongue-and-cheek stories about drunken war correspondents and soldiers’ superstitions. Together, they capture the unreality of war, the inability to describe anything but one’s own experience, and the uncertainty of calling anything the “truth.” I can say it no better than Steinbeck does in his beautifully reflective Introduction to the collection, written in 1958:

“For what they are worth, or for what they may recapture, here they are, period pieces, fairy tales, half-meaningless memories of a time and of attitudes which have gone forever from the world, a sad and jocular recording of a little part of a war I saw and do not believe, unreal with trumped-up pageantry.”

letters

Letters to a Young Poet, by Rainer Maria Rilke

I read this book twice in one evening, and still I don’t know how Rainer Maria Rilke manages to say so much about life, love, and creativity in such a brief set of writings. Rilke’s prose is every bit as lovely as his poetry, sweeping you up in its perfect pacing and making you wonder if, in the age of emails and text messages, there will ever be another set of letters written so beautifully. I was astonished by Rilke’s progressive stance on sexuality, and by the time I was done reading, I felt like one big mass of humanity, neither man nor woman, just human, full of a Whitman-esque appreciation for the interconnectedness of the world. That’s not bad for a couple of hours’ reading.

 

 

middlemarch

Middlemarch, by George Eliot

Honestly, MIDDLEMARCH has it all: politics, love, deception, redemption. I love the way the novel weaves between its comedy-of-manners romance and England’s political and social climate. It somehow feels expansive and intelligent, cozy and indulgent, all at the same time. The characters that fill this world are so complex. They are flawed, morally unsteady, and quite unreliable; or, to look at it another way, they are us, and that’s what makes them so relatable. No other book has drawn me in to Victorian England quite like this one. Here’s a proposition: you tell me you don’t like Victorian literature, and I’ll give you MIDDLEMARCH. Case closed.

 

 

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DeSanti photo

Carole DeSanti is Vice President, Editor at Large for Viking and Penguin.  She is the also author of The Unruly Passions of Eugénie R., a novel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

paying

The Paying Guestsby Sarah Waters

Waters takes illicit love between women, passion and criminal intent to a whole new level with this story set in London high and low just after the close of the First World War. Waters leads us step by step from the mundane to the impassioned to the murderous through a  perilous landscape of secrecy and deceit —  a nail-biter to the last page.  This is an incredibly deft, smart novel – and packed with integrity and grit.

 

 

 

 

lotus

The Lotus and the Storm, by Lan Cao

Here is a seriously beautiful book: bursting with life, the smell of the streets of Saigon, cry of street-vendors and the shock and terror of sniper fire on a leafy suburb of tamarind trees.  What we consider known history – the Vietnam War – is revealed in an entirely new light as Mai tells her story,  and Minh, a commanding general for the South, tells his. Lotus turns the dominant version of the war inside out and upside down, conveying a more complicated truth than we have known.  A searing, indelible novel by a brilliant woman – truly a life’s work from the heart, many years in the making.

 

 

atale

 A Tale for the Time Being, by Ruth Ozeki

Booker finalist, winner of the LA Times Book Prize, the Red Tentacle Prize, the Sunburst Award and other recognitions, A Tale has connected with a diverse and impassioned readership from science geeks to Zen priests….but this doesn’t take away from the extraordinarily personal, astounding experience of reading it. This kaleidoscopic and layered novel introduces Nao Yasutani, a 16 year old suicidal teenager in Tokyo;  her 104 year old grandmother Jiko (a Zen nun)  … a tsunami, a barnacled lunchbox washed up on a beach; quantum physics; the Friends of the Pleistocene and the poetry-reading kamikaze pilots of World War II — just for starters. Ozeki’s third novel is intricate, brilliant, and tells us a lot about compassion and meditation, too.

 

cascadeCascade, by Maryanne O’Hara

“What would you give up to become the person you were meant to be?” is one question Cascade asks, among others that have resonated with me since I turned the last page of this gorgeous, thoughtful and surprising page turner.  Cascade touches the heart of the matter for women artists and writers.  O’Hara explores her material by way of the story of Dez Hart, a Paris-trained, Boston painter who marries hastily and disastrously, then finds herself first chained to her husband’s conformity and rigid desires.  When the town they live in is scheduled to submerged under a reservoir – a history based on the story of the Quabbin in Western Massachusetts – Dez chooses to free herself as an artist, a lover, a woman – against terrible odds.

 

madame

Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert, translated by Lydia Davis

Flaubert’s masterpiece of realism (the  novel changed forever the way fiction was written, as Lydia Davis reminds us) is always worth a re-read, and this new translation is the perfect excuse.  Davis provides useful historical context for the novel, as well as details on its creation and publication – Flaubert’s painstaking writing techniques (many drafts, much discarding), the early censorship of the novel; Bovary’s subsequent bestseller-dom and elevation to classic status. The text itself is both faithful to the original and more precise historically, lending further pleasure and nuance to this always-magnificent, harrowing tale of a woman’s passionate desires and her disastrous fall.  (A perfect gift for the bibliophile in your life, especially the Penguin Drop Caps edition!)

trilogy

The All Souls Trilogy, by Deborah Harkness

It begins with A Discovery of Witches, continues with Shadow of Night and its grand finale is The Book of Life.  The Trilogy is now complete and a luscious romp from start to finish, taking up the tale of a spellbound witch and the sexiest 1,500 year old vampire ever to wander into a novel.  Bestselling fun with historical and literary heft, and  along the way we learn a lot about magic, too. (It’s all true, I think.) My favorite of the three volumes is Shadow, a sensuous and sweeping time-travel saga through the England of Shakespeare, Marlowe, and the alchemical laboratory of Mary Sidney.  A little bonus in the boxed set is Diana Bishop’s Commonplace Book, courtesy of the author and our design team at Viking.

 

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daniel

Daniel Ridge is the Director of Advertising and Promotion for the Academic and Library Marketing department. He can be spotted at the hippest playgrounds throughout Williamsburg.

 

 

 

 

 

power

The Power and the Glory, by Graham Greene

There are few writers whose books I enjoy starting quite as much as Graham Greene. His writing is crisp, cinematic, and hooks one from the outset. His output was fairly staggering and covered quite a range, but The Power and the Glory is generally considered his masterpiece, and rightly so. A whisky priest, a fanatical police lieutenant, a fanged mestizo, a setting worthy of Orson Welles, and a narrative that never sags—with an insightful introduction by John Updike to boot. Sign me up.

 

 

 

fairy

Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm, by Philip Pullman

This collection of Pullman’s beautifully rendered retellings of the Grimms’ classic tales is truly wonderful—full of wonders—and has become a bedtime-story standby in my household. Reader beware: even tales with innocent titles such as The Goose-Girl can lead to some awkward questions from 4-year-olds about how a decapitated horse’s head could talk and whether being rolled to death in a nail-studded barrel is really a fitting punishment for any crime.

 

 

 

crime

Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

And speaking of crime and punishment, Dostoyevsky’s novel of that name is one of my all-time favorites. Yes, it’s chock-full of big questions about justice, morality, and human nature, but what sticks with me is the vivid depiction of a sweltering, fetid, feverish Saint Petersburg in the days leading up to Raskolnikov’s foul deed. Anyone who has lived through an August heat-wave in New York City with no A/C, a job that doesn’t pay the bills, and a neighbor who blasts Seal’s 1991 hit “Crazy” every morning at 6:30 a.m. will know why Raskolnikov started thinking about that axe.

 

 

new york stories

The New York Stories, by John O’Hara

As a New Yorker, reading stories from the city’s past is much like thumbing through childhood pictures of your lover (who may be losing interest in you). Reading John O’Hara’s The New York Stories is like finding out that all those birthdays, baths, and Christmas mornings were shot by Annie Leibovitz. Great characters and razor-sharp dialogue set amid streets and buildings that time has certainly changed, but still spark a flutter of recognition. And I love the cover.

 

 

 

metamorphosis

The Metamorphosis and Other Stories, by Franz Kafka

Kafka is great. If this is news to you, read this book immediately. If you already know this, then you know these stories are well worth reading again. I still think of “The Penal Colony” every time I hear the word harrowing.

 

 

 

 

 

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walker

Alan Walker is the Director of Academic and Library Marketing and Sales for Penguin. He can also be found on occasion reading Penguin Classics in alphabetical order for his Penguin Classics Marathon.

 

 

 

ofhuman

Of Human Bondage, by W. Somerset Maugham 

W. Somerset Maugham’s masterpiece is my favorite novel, and I recommend it to everyone. It follows the life of Philip Carey at the beginning of the twentieth century. Born with a club foot and orphaned at a young age, Philip grows up with his dreary aunt and uncle, is packed off to boarding school in Germany, attempts to become an artist in Paris, and then returns to England to try his luck at medicine and various other careers. During that time he falls for Mildred, a waitress beneath his station, in what turns into a mutually destructive relationship (to say the least!). Maugham’s novel stands the test of time and is unique in how it makes us realize how much alike we are to those who came before us, in our hopes, ambitions, passions and most especially our deepest flaws. Three film adaptations have never come close to doing the novel justice, never capturing the heart and humor of the book. It would make a great HBO or BBC mini-series if done properly! (Michael Fassbender as Philip maybe?)

ageofinnocence

The Age of Innocence, by Edith Wharton

Wharton’s novel of the 1870s New York aristocracy is right up there as my all-time favorite read. Newland Archer’s tortured affair with the scandalized divorcee Countess Olenska set against the rigid morals of upper class society is the stuff of literary magic. How Wharton gets so deep into the very soul of Newland’s mind and heart is uncanny. If you’ve ever lived a lie for even a moment Newland is your man! The famous scene when our hero (or anti-hero?) sees Ellen (the Countess) from afar, and decides to go to her if she turns to him is one of the most heartbreaking scenes you’ll ever find in a book.

 

 

ethan

Ethan Frome, by Edith Wharton

Wharton’s novels were mostly about high society New Yorkers, like The Age of Innocence, but she also wrote two books about the rural poor. The better known of these is Ethan Frome which takes place in a corner of Western Massachusetts and is one of literature’s great love stories. I read this when I was a teenager and plan to go back to it at some point to see how it reads a few years (OK, decades) later.  I admit a personal connection to this book as I too spent early years with friends and siblings sledding down the same steep Berkshire hills as Mattie and Ethan did in their fictional town of Starkfield. Luckily for me though, we did a better job of avoiding the trees.

 

 

a hero

A Hero of Our Time, by Mikhail Lermontov

Ah, the Russians. I think I could list any number of great Russian novels below in my top five black spine recommendations, but for the sake of brevity I have chosen one, which may not be as familiar as some from the long list of great 19th and 20th Century works, from Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Turgenev, Zamyatin, Chekhov, Bulgakov, Gogol, Pushkin, etc. That book is Mikhail Lermontov’s A Hero of Our Time starring the dark and moody Pechorin who delights in the misery and downfall of those around him. Pechorin is one of my favorite characters in all of literature, and towards the end of the short novel there is a hilarious dual scene that is worth the price of admission! For anyone interested there is a 1992 French film entitled Un Coeur in Hiver (A Heart in Winter) which is a loosely based modern adaptation of the novel starring Daniel Auteuil.

 

a room

A Room with a View, by E. M. Forster

Speaking of great film adaptations, my last recommendation is E.M. Forster’s A Room With a View.  It’s hard to read this book without picturing all the actors from the great 1985 Merchant/Ivory production reading their lines as you stroll through this very amusing novel, and that is mostly due to E.M. Forster’s brilliant dialogue which was taken practically verbatim from the book for the movie. To quote from my own Classics Marathon Read (link above) I guess I am a sucker for a novel about repressed upper class Brits at the turn of the 20th Century, especially when juxtaposed against the raw passion and beauty of Italy. If you are like me, whether you’ve seen the movie a hundred times or not, Forster’s novel will make you want to ask the great questions and maybe on a future trip to Florence plan a day trip to a nearby Fiesole hillside!

 

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Max Reid works in Penguin Books Editorial, where he can be found talking at length about how much he loves New York.

 

 

 

 

ceremony

Ceremony, by Leslie Marmon Silko

I first read Ceremony for a Native American Religion course my freshman year of college.  I expected bows and arrows and trips to the museum- I didn’t think for a second we might actually be talking about Native Americans today. Ceremony focuses on the loss of identity so many Native Americans have experienced in the 21st century, and shows better than anything else I’ve read that Native American culture is not just history.

 

 

 

we

We, by Yevgeny Zamyatin

As a citizen of the world I’m happy to report I had a healthy phase of dystopian fiction that sufficiently scared the hell out of me.  This one hits particularly hard – a nation built entirely of glass, allowing secret police to watch your every move. Yeah. 1984 and it’s many protégés find their way to most school reading lists, but if you haven’t read We, you’re missing out – Zamyatin was a dissident in the early Soviet Union, so he knows what he’s talking about.

 

 

 

chocolate

Charlie & The Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl 

You’re not going to find a bigger fan of the Gene Wilder / Mel Stuart film adaptation, but really, if you haven’t read Roald Dahl’s masterpiece (one of many, in my opinion) you’re missing out on a trip through a world even more vibrant than Technicolor could offer. Try as you might, Tim Burton, but there’s just no replicating Roald Dahl’s imagination.

 

 

 

 

whitenoise

White Noise, by Don DeLillo

After 100 pages of living with the Gladney family, you’re part of it too, whether you like it or not.  DeLillo is sneaky about it – you may not even realize you love these characters until things start to unravel, as they always do.  DeLillo looks behind the façade of the modern American family, and finds the fears we all share.

 

 

 

 

different

On Being Different, by Merle Miller

Clocking in at 96 pages (that’s with the introduction and afterword), this is one of the most eye opening and powerful books I’ve read.  Merle recounts his experience growing up homosexual in a world that wasn’t welcoming, to say the least.  It’s heartbreaking, and unsettling that some of what he recounts was happening on a large scale only a few short decades ago.  I’d love to see this on more high school reading lists.

 

 

 

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Anna

Anna Baldasty works as a copywriter in academic and library marketing, where she writes and designs promotional materials that get Penguin titles in the hands of professional readers: students, professors, and librarians.

 

 

 

 

frank

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley 

As horror fiction that works on multiple levels, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is easily one of my favorite classics. Only Shelley could deftly explore the anxieties of her age, from the limits of science to the advancement of feminism, while spinning a gothic page-turner that takes us from Lake Geneva to the frozen waters of the Arctic. The best part? A monster so vividly and humanly rendered that we sometimes forget to root against him.

 

 

 

ageofinnocence

The Age of Innocence, by Edith Wharton

What I love most about The Age of Innocence is not its discussion of duty versus passion, but its evocation of memory—of the desire to preserve experience, protecting it from the passage of time and the weight of reality. If that seems vague, it’s because I cannot say more without ruining the book’s final scene, which I think is one of the most perfect endings ever written. Read it!

 

 

 

 

home

The Home and the World, by Rabindranath Tagore 

Told from two perspectives in alternating chapters, this story of love and betrayal set against a backdrop of political upheaval in early 19th-century India places national drama in domestic terms, literally moving revolution inside the home. The result is a beautifully written character study, wherein every act, every word, and every emotion carries dire consequences. Yet despite the high-stakes set-up and overarching political framework, Tagore manages to tell the story as a quiet, intimate tragedy—a stunning accomplishment.

 

 

 

hedda

Hedda Gabler, by Henrik Ibsen

If your summer reading list is missing the fin de siècle Norwegian soap opera you were longing for, look no further than Hedda Gabler. This play has it all: an unraveling marriage, an unwanted pregnancy, a dissolute ex-lover, blackmail, alcoholism, and lots of snarky comments. Ibsen’s sympathetic portrayal of a woman trapped to the point of desperation by traditional female roles is remarkable, especially considering the play debuted in 1891.

 

 

 

odyssey

The Odyssey, by Homer

The Odyssey means more to me now, in my twenties, than it did when I first read it in English class as a high school freshman. Although I doubt The Odyssey has ever been marketed as coming-of-age fiction, in many ways Odysseus’s trials perfectly capture the highs and lows of growing older: he searches for adventure, tackles obstacles, and navigates an often disorienting environment. If a story written c. 700 BCE still feels relevant in 2014, it definitely earns a spot on this list.

 

 

 

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