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.

 

 

 

Find more books on the Penguin Classics page!

See Staff Picks for all our categories! 


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.

 

 

Find more books on the Penguin Classics page!

See Staff Picks for all our categories! 


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


“Ours is essentially a tragic age, so we refuse to take it tragically.” This audacious declaration begins D. H. Lawrence’s once-banned Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Some influential novels do not declare their intentions to us from their first words. Take James Joyce’s opening on its own: “Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed.” Surely, Buck arrives into our lives with great pomp and humor, but these words alone cannot reveal the ever-broadening cultural, artistic, and legal impact that Ulysses would have. Lawrence, however, is not so timid at the starting line. He opens with a grandiose statement, the kind destined to be emblazoned on t-shirts and scribbled down in the notebooks of adoring readers for years to come. Lawrence was, of course, speaking about the aftermath of the Great War, but the continually tragic face of progress renders his overture endlessly present and universal.

Lawrence’s opening words make a fitting call to action for Banned Books Week. Books have been banned as long as there have been books: for violating taboos, for supposed libel, for encouraging new ways of thinking, for violating prevailing political and religious opinions, and sometimes for almost nothing at all. Black Beauty was once banned in South Africa simply for having the words “black” and “beauty” together in the title. And yet it would be mistaken, in our more enlightened age, to see recent advances for civil rights and a perpetually more open conversation about taboo issues in the media as reasons to suspect that book-banning is no longer a key issue. Like viewing a one-year rise in polar ice quantity as reason to deny global warming, this myopic viewpoint is harmful. Just weeks ago, rather than celebrating the fact that one of its native daughters is undoubtedly among our greatest living writers, an Ohio school board sought to ban Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. And all this means that Banned Books Week is as important as ever. Lawrence’s words continue to apply: “It is rather hard work: there is now no smooth road into the future: but we go round, or scramble over the obstacles.”

It’s no secret that at Penguin, we’re proud of our history with banned books. In 1960, Penguin was prosecuted for publishing Lady Chatterley’s Lover in the famous trial, R v Penguin Books Ltd. Like United States v One Book Ulysses before it, which freely allowed the publication of Joyce’s novel in America, the Lawrence trial was a landmark event for the liberalization of publishing and an important step in fighting book banning. That fight continues, and Penguin is thrilled to be on its front lines. This year, three of the ten books listed as the most challenged books in 2012 are Penguin publications: Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner, John Green’s Looking for Alaska, and Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why. No one here is happy to see those books banned, but we are happy to continue supporting and promoting the valuable work of these authors. If you haven’t read them already, take a look at those books and see why it’s so important that students and library-goers retain access to them.

If you’re looking for something less modern, nowhere is the banner of Banned Books Week held higher than at Penguin Classics. The Classics library holds a cornucopia of banned literary treasures, as the Classics editorial team spotlighted last year on their Tumblr. This year, throughout the week that Tumblr will feature posts on banned writers, especially those outside of the Western canon like the great (and banned) Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o.

Read a banned book this week to celebrate your right to do so. It’s not the Great War, but it is a great war to be fighting. In the words of Lawrence, “We’ve got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen.”

-Sam Raim, Editorial Assistant, Penguin Classics


It’s not summer without a rom-com in theaters and with Austenland opening in New York and Los Angeles this weekend, Keri Russell embodies all our less-than-secret Janeite ambitions: to live in an Austen novel. Even if the idea of wearing a corset or being without a smartphone is unappealing, it’s not hard to imagine how fun it might be to watch others grapple with these issues.

Austenland is based on a book by Shannon Hale, which is part of the genre I like to call “Jane Austen fan fic”. While some books are direct riffs on Austen novels, others include characters who suddenly find themselves in an Austen novel. Or, in the case of Bridget Jones, in a love triangle that is remarkably like Pride and Prejudice (Austenland follows a similar path). And then there are the “how-to” books with important lessons we can learn from Jane Austen, some serious, some tongue-in-cheek. Ever since Jane Austen first wrote Mr. Darcy into existence, people have been getting lost in her work…and then writing their own takes on her world.

 

Living in a Jane Austen Novel

lost_in_austen confessions_of_a_jane_austen_addict

 

 

 

 

 

Lost in Austen, Emma Campbell Webster

Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, Laurie Viera Rigler

 

New, previously undiscovered Jane Austen Novels

dear_mr_darcy confessions_of_fitzwilliam_darcy missing_manuscript_of_jane_austen

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Mr. Darcy, Amanda Grange

The Confessions of Fitzwilliam Darcy, Mary Street

The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen, Syrie James

 

A Little Help from Jane Austen

miss_jane_austens_guide_to_modern_life dear_jane_austen jane_austens_guide_to_thrift

 

 

 

 

 

Miss Jane Austen’s Guide to Modern Life’s Dilemmas, Rebecca Smith

Dear Jane Austen, Patrice Hannon

Jane Austen’s Guide to Thrift, Kathleen Anderson

 

Austen-Influenced Non-Fiction

jane_austens_england jane_austen_education taking_about_jane_austen_in_baghdad making_of_pride_and_prejudice

 

 

 

 

 

Jane Austen’s England, Roy and Lesley Adkins

A Jane Austen Education, William Deresiewicz

Talking about Jane Austen in Baghdad, May Witwit and Bee Rowlatt

The Making of Pride and Prejudice, Susie Conklin

 

The Modern Jane Austen Heroine

bridget_jones_diary jane_austen_book_club definitely_not_mr_darcy

 

 

 

 

 

Bridget Jones’s Diary, Helen Fielding

The Jane Austen Book Club, Karen Joy Fowler

Definitely Not Mr. Darcy, Karen Doornebos

 

- Posted By: Julie Schaeffer, Senior Online Content Coordinator


appointment_in_samarraYears ago, someone challenged a book group I was part of to see who had read the most novels on Modern Library’s 100 Best Novels list. I can’t remember if I had the top number, but I had read about half of them and was determined then to read every novel on that list. I love literary lists.

Ulysses, rightfully so, is at the top of the list. And there’s Great Gatsby. A fine novel…a little over rated and over-read…but not as much as #55’s On the Road. At #22 on this list—nestled in there between Saul Bellow and John Dos Passos—sits Appointment in Samarra, a novel I skipped over to read later for some reason. Why didn’t I consider this novel at the time? Was it the clinical sounding “Appointment” in the title? Did I assume it was a Middle East war story? Something Biblical?

I never made it through the entire list and didn’t take notice of the title again until a couple months ago, when I saw our stunning new cover for the novel. Jazz & fast cars & dancing & highballs…obviously not a Biblical story and certainly not clinical.

So I Wiki’d the book & the author John O’Hara and discovered he penned Butterfield 8, the source of one of my favorite Liz Taylor movies. “Mama, face it: I was the slut of all time.”

I knew I needed to reconsider this book.

I was sold after I read W. Somerset Maugham’s epigraph:

DEATH SPEAKS:

There was a merchant in Bagdad who sent his servant to market to buy provisions and in a little while the servant came back, white and trembling, and said, Master, just now when I was in the marketplace I was jostled by a woman in the crowd and when I turned I saw it was Death that jostled me.  She looked at me and made a threatening gesture,  now, lend me your horse, and I will ride away from this city and avoid my fate.  I will go to Samarra and there Death will not find me.  The merchant lent him his horse, and the servant mounted it, and he dug his spurs in its flanks and as fast as the horse could gallop he went.  Then the merchant went down to the marketplace and he saw me standing in the crowd and he came to me and said, Why did you make a threatening gesture to my servant when you saw him this morning?  That was not a threatening gesture, I said, it was only a start of surprise.  I was astonished to see him in Bagdad, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.

The novel did not disappoint.

Written about ten years after Gatsby and set in 1930, this was called the hangover generation and the novel’s plot follows the unraveling of the central male protagonist during Christmastime after he drunkenly throws a highball in the face of a “friend” at a party. One bad decision leads to another for our anti-hero and at the end of three days of excessive drinking and cloudy, hung-over damage control, things do not end well. The moral of the story? Imbibe a few less drinks; don’t throw your drink in the face of the guy who loaned you $20k; don’t sleep with the mob boss’s mistress; and don’t beat up a one-armed war veteran.

John O’Hara presents us with a colorful world filled with small town country clubs, where African-Americans and Jews are outsiders and Protestants and Catholics are in constant conflict. A world where the drinks are always flowing, along with the dipsomaniacal insults, and misfortune might have been averted had there been one less holiday highball.

- Clinton Wilson, Marketing Manager


first_poemsName: Benjamin Lytal, author of A Map of Tulsa

Favorite Penguin Classic Title/Author: Homer in English, edited by George Steiner

Why do you love this Penguin Classic? I’m a fool for comparative readings.  How did Alexander Pope translate versus Robert Lowell!  In this anthology, we can finally see what was the big deal for Keats in Chapman’s Homer.  Truly an editorial godsend.

What should I read next? The First Poems in English, edited by Michael Alexander. Worth reading for the Exeter Riddles alone.  But you also get the Seafarer, the Wanderer, the Battle of Maldon.