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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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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davidmartin

David Martin works in Viking Editorial and lives in Queens. His accompanying portrait was, unfortunately yet predictably, photobombed by Mookie Wilson and Michael Barson.

 

 

 

 

 

 

loving

Loving, by Henry Green

It says something that I haven’t read the two other novels in this volume (Living and Party Going). Probably that I’m easily distracted and slothful. But Loving is so remarkable a piece of writing that part of me doesn’t want to read anything else by Henry Green because I, selfishly and irrationally, want everything to be like Loving.

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas—I reread this last summer. It might be the most perfect “commercial” fiction novel ever written. It is also, more importantly, funny. Very very funny.

 

 

truecross

True Cross, by T.R. Pearson

A number of years ago Penguin published a few novels by Pearson: True Cross, Blue Ridge, and Polar. They are each worth reading. Pearson is a writer condescendingly labeled as “regional.” Which we all know means Southern, eccentric, peripheral. Yet his region seems much more wide-ranging than those territories scoured by many current authors whom we hold in much higher esteem.

 

 

 

archyThe Annotated Archy and Mehitabel by Don Marquis

If Penguin Classics solely existed to put back into print books like this, then for that alone we should be grateful.  How had I never stumbled upon the writings of Don Marquis before? Archy is a cockroach who types out poems on a rickety typewriter and Mehitabel is a cat, many times reincarnated. Don Marquis published Archy’s “poems” in the New York Evening Sun in the teens and twenties. They are exemplars of the American idiom. And yes, also, very very funny.

 

 

 

 

Elmore Leonard Four Novels of the 1970s: Fifty-Two Pick-Up/Swag/Unknown Man No. 89/The Switch

This one is a bit of a cheat. It’s published by Library of America (August 2014) but we distribute LOA so close enough, right? It’ll have to suffice for now. Leonard wrote a lot of books. And many of those books were not so good. But when he was good, he was very good. And this quartet features some of his best. Swag and Unknown Man No. 89 contain two of the greatest first chapters in all of Western literature. And Unknown Man No. 89 has the best opening since Moby-Dick and Lolita. Hyperbole? I guess. But honestly, not really. Just read them.

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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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samraim

Sam Raim works in editorial for Penguin Books and Penguin Classics, where he advances his longtime goal of convincing everyone to read Saul Bellow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Henderson the Rain King

Henderson the Rain King, by Saul Bellow

One of my favorite parts of working in Penguin Classics is having a row of Saul Bellow novels right above my desk. Bellow’s characters go through struggles relevant to us all and I’ve found his work to be a constant companion regardless of where my life has taken me. I’ll confess that my favorites are Herzog and Collected Stories, but Henderson has a special worth to me as the first Bellow I ever encountered. It’s full of his deeply profound and hilarious (yes, Bellow is funny!) musings on the human condition and I think it makes a perfect starting point for his work.

 

 

On Reading The Grapes of Wrath

On Reading the Grapes of Wrath, by Susan Shillinglaw

I love short, thoughtful books on big classics, like Nathaniel Philbrick’s Why Read Moby-Dick? So in the months leading up to the 75th anniversary of The Grapes of Wrath, I devoured Susan Shillinglaw’s concise study of Steinbeck’s classic. It’s a delight to climb into Professor Shillinglaw’s jalopy and let her guide us along the journey taken by both the Joads and John Steinbeck.

 

 

 

 

Dubliners

Dubliners, by James Joyce

Anniversaries are perfect opportunities and excuses to revisit books we haven’t read in far too long. I recently reread Joyce’s short story collection for its hundredth anniversary and found myself amazed by the capacity of its pivotal moments to move me just as strongly they did upon my first reading. The little boy staring up into the darkness at the end of “Araby,” the tragic inability of Eveline to follow her lover, and of course the snow falling “upon all the living and the dead”—these are the literary moments that have stayed with me like few others.

 

 

 

Book of First World War Poetry 2

The Penguin Book of First World War Poetry

2014 marks the centennial of the Great War (last anniversary, I promise!) so I’ve been digging back through the incredible literary output that resulted from what Wilfred Owen called “the pity of war.” The diverse poems in this collection — such horror so masterfully documented — are astonishing. It’s not only great war poetry, but it’s also some of the 20th century’s best poetry. Owen and Sassoon are of course household names, but Isaac Rosenberg and Edward Thomas are two of my favorites. In fact, Thomas’s “Rain” may be my favorite WWI poem.

 

 

 

Madame Bovary

Madame Bovary (translated by Lydia Davis), by Gustave Flaubert

“One had to discount, he thought, exaggerated speeches that concealed commonplace affections; as if the fullness of the soul did not sometimes overflow in the emptiest of metaphors, since none of us can ever express the exact measure of our needs, or our ideas, or our sorrows, and human speech is like a cracked kettle on which we beat out tunes for bears to dance to, when we long to inspire pity in the stars.” It shouldn’t take much more than that to convince you that it’s time to read Lydia Davis’s translation of Flaubert.

 

 

The Iliad

The Iliad (translated by Robert Fagles), by Homer

I like to think that the Iliad vs. Odyssey debate is a bit like the literary version of Beatles vs. Stones. Everyone has a side to take and though I love Odysseus’s journey, I can’t help finding myself drawn always to the epic scale of The Iliad. I’ve read this in numerous translations but my money’s on Fagles every time. No one else succeeds as he does in capturing the atmosphere and feeling of the Trojan War, the sheer grandeur of gods and men at battle. By this point, my copy looks as if it’s been through a war of its own.

 

 

 

Jacob's Room

Jacob’s Room, by Virginia Woolf

I’d be remiss if I didn’t end this with my favorite author. Jacob’s Room was Woolf’s attempt to do away with all the material trappings of the Edwardian novel (“no scaffolding; scarcely a brick to be seen,” she said). As the narrator and characters consider the eponymous Jacob, sifting through the people and places that made up his life, Woolf asks essential questions about how we know both the characters in our books and the people in our lives. The first of Woolf’s modernist efforts, Jacob’s Room perhaps lacks the elegance of later masterpieces, but that’s what keeps me coming back time and time again to search through those cracks for signs of Jacob.

 

 

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erikarobuckSteinbeck is the voice of a time and place that previously had no voice. From animal-like migrant working conditions, to family stories of drama, evolution, and generational redemption, Steinbeck presents an unflinching look at the sins of society against the underprivileged, but always offers a glimmer of hope. His writing is bold and forces the reader to confront harsh truths, but the antidote is never far, and often comes in unexpected ways.

The ending of The Grapes of Wrath is perhaps the most powerful ever rendered—when a young woman who has lost her baby feeds a starving man from her breast. It is the very image of self-sacrifice, human growth, and the capacity for nurturing we hold; a fitting ending to a novel of raw humanity.

May Steinbeck’s work and his voice always endure.

Erika Robuck is the critically acclaimed author of Hemingway’s GirlCall Me Zelda and Fallen Beauty.  Born and raised in Annapolis, Maryland, Erika was inspired by the cobblestones, old churches, and the mingling of past and present of the Eastern Shore.  Erika writes about and reviews historical fiction.  For more information please visit www.erikarobuck.com, and Twitter @ErikaRobuck.


JoGrapeshn Steinbeck was born and raised in Salinas, a small city in the central coast of California known as the Salad Bowl of the World.  In the midst of the incredible natural beauty of the Salinas Valley, there were incredible stories of struggle and resilience that were to inspire his best work.  Nearly one hundred years later, it was through Steinbeck’s characters that I first glimpsed into the lives of the field workers that I saw everyday working in the fields from sun up to sun down in my hometown of Salinas.  It was through Ma Joad that I learned to recognize stoicism in the eyes of a mother who stood in line at the grocery store, with children clinging to her skirt while she counted her money, hoping it was enough to buy the small number of items in her basket.  Through Tom I understood the quiet rage of the young men who challenged one another with hand gestures on the downtown streets.  Because of The Grapes of Wrath I developed empathy for the people I lived among but hardly knew.  And so many years later, John Steinbeck’s work inspires me still.  My life’s work is now to advance John Steinbeck’s legacy, and to champion the causes he championed in his time.  Today, the National Steinbeck Center celebrates our common humanity by giving voice to the stories of Steinbeck’s people through the work of contemporary artists, writers and, social change agents.

Colleen Bailey
Executive Director
The National Steinbeck Center


The Grapes of Wrath 75th Anniversary Edition, by John Steinbeck

Today, 27 February, is the 112th birthday of the great American writer John Steinbeck. Over the course of his long career, Steinbeck won the Pulitzer and Nobel prizes and wrote some of the country’s most essential works taught in schools and read by millions.

April 2014 marks the 75th anniversary of the first Viking hardcover publication of Steinbeck’s crowning literary achievement. First published in 1939, Steinbeck’s Pulitzer Prize–winning epic of the Great Depression chronicles the Dust Bowl migration of the 1930s, telling the story of the Joads, an Oklahoma farm family driven from their homestead and forced to travel west to the promised land of California.

 

 

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

Elda Rotor, Editorial Director for Penguin Classics, on THE GRAPES OF WRATH:

“There are five layers in this book, a reader will find as many as he can and he won’t find more than he has in himself.” This is how Steinbeck described his novel, a blunt challenge to the reader, and it’s a line that I think about often when it comes to how we encounter classics such as The Grapes of Wrath. Those layers are both very personal and yet universal, and in my experience, when the intersections and the layers become clear, for instance, in scenes of Ma fighting to maintain her family’s dignity as their welfare worsens, and in her exchanges with her daughter Rose of Sharon, it shakes you to your foundation. The Grapes of Wrath demands your slow and thoughtful read and you’ll be grateful for discovering those layers and what Steinbeck’s tremendous work provides.

WORKING DAYS by John Steinbeck

The journal, like the novel it chronicles, tells a tale of dramatic proportions—of dogged determination and inspiration, yet also of paranoia, self-doubt, and obstacles. It records in intimate detail the conception and genesis of The Grapes of Wrath and its huge though controversial success. It is a unique and penetrating portrait of an emblematic American writer creating an essential American masterpiece.

East of Eden, by John Steinbeck

Ryan Murphy, Marketing Assistant for Penguin Books, on EAST OF EDEN:

To me there is no more enduring scene in John Steinbeck’s work than that of East of Eden’s Sam, Adam and Lee discussing, with sincerity and gravity, the meaning of the Cain and Abel story. Deep in this incredibly rich novel, the simplest of elements—a single Hebrew word, timshel, “thou mayest”—becomes the pivot upon which the ethical heart of the narrative turns. In the context of Steinbeck’s messy and brutal world, such humble concepts or acts—like Rose of Sharon’s selfless offering at the close of The Grapes of Wrath or the quiet small-town war resistance of The Moon Is Down—often have the deepest repercussions. (include book cover)

 

THE WAYWARD BUS by John Steinbeck

In his first novel to follow the publication of his enormous success, The Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck’s vision comes wonderfully to life in this imaginative and unsentimental chronicle of a bus traveling California’s back roads, transporting the lost and the lonely, the good and the greedy, the stupid and the scheming, the beautiful and the vicious away from their shattered dreams and, possibly, toward the promise of the future.

BOMBS AWAY by John Steinbeck

A magnificent volume of short novels and an essential World War II report from one of America’s great twentieth-century writers. “This book is dedicated . . . to the men who have gone through the hard and rigid training of members of a bomber crew and who have gone away to defend the nation.” –John Steinbeck

Of Mice and Men and The Moon Is Down, by John Steinbeck

OF MICE AND MEN AND THE MOON IS DOWN by John Steinbeck

Of Mice and Men represents an experiment in form, as Steinbeck put it, “a kind of playable novel, written in novel form but so scened and set that it can be played as it stands.” The Moon Is Down uncovers profound, often unsettling truths about war and human nature. It tells the story of a peaceable town taken by enemy troops, and had an extraordinary impact as Allied propaganda in Nazi-occupied Europe. (include book cover)

 

 

 

More Books from Nobel Prize winner John Steinbeck include:

THE PASTURES OF HEAVEN

THE LONG VALLEY

TORTILLA FLAT

IN DUBIOUS BATTLE


A traveling art installation comprised of more than 250 pieces of Penguin Books and Penguin Classics cover art, curated by Penguin Art Director Paul Buckley and Mirko ilic, has been presented in six cities and countries across Europe to date, including Belgrade, Maribor, Ljubljana, Montenegro, Ireland and Sarajevo. As the show of these stunning artistic images.moves, it grows in size and popularity. Next stop: Hungary.

View the gallery:

image[12] image[11] image[10] image[9] image[8] image[7]  image[5] image[4] image[3] image[2] image[1] Penguin Covers On Tour Across Europe