Friday 9 March 2018


Top Picks From the £1 Penguin Modern Classics Series

From the moment I first heard about the new Penguin Modern Classics series on the YouTube channel of Jean Bookishthoughts, I've become a little obsessed with this collection of books capturing some of the most captivating voices of modern literature through speeches, essays, short stories and poems. Where I purchased only a handful of the classics from the series that was released a few years ago, in the days since the launch of the gorgeous new pastel blue collection I've become the owner of 12 of the 50 titles. #sorrynotsorry

At just £1 a book this is a very affordable series, making it a great entryway to modern literature and voices if you're not yet familiar with an author or the writing, or want to collect a few more gems from existing favourites. The collection comprises a mixture of fiction and non-fiction, both originally published in English and in translation, creating an eclectic mix of writings to pick from and ensuring something of interest for everyone.

The very first I knew I had to pick up (and the first I ended up reading) was Notes on Nationalism by George Orwell. Having only ever read 1984 (one of my all-time favourite books) and Animal Farm (way back in school so my memory of this one is very hazy) by this author, I was interested to see how his voice would translate to non-fiction – and it's phenomenal.

Of course his political and social ideologies weren't exactly hidden in his fiction novels, but reading his blunt analysis on nationalism, antisemitism and the behaviour that comes with fanatical sport supporters was enlightening and eerily apt for where our society is (yet again) in 2018. Notes on nationalism is a must-read for anyone to create a greater understanding of the deep-seethed prejudices that while perhaps not spoken out loud still impact so many today.

While I haven't had a chance yet to read the other titles in the series (I did, after all, only just add them to my collection), here is a brief overview of all the ones I picked up so far (titles link to their pages on the Foyles website so you can buy them directly if you'd like):

  • Letters From Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King, Jr. This landmark missive from one of the greatest activists in history calls for direct, non-violent resistance in the fight against racism, and reflects on the healing power of love.
  • Notes on Nationalism by George Orwell. Biting and timeless reflections on patriotism, prejudice and power, from the man who wrote about his nation better than anyone.
  • Food by Gertrude Stein. From apples to artichokes, these glittering, fragmented, painterly portraits of food by the avant-garde pioneer Gertrude Stein are redolent of sex, laughter and the joy of everyday life.
  • The Three Electroknights by Stanislaw Lem. From a giant of twentieth-century science fiction, these four miniature space epics feature crazy inventors, surreal worlds, robot kings and madcap machines.
  • The Legend of the Sleepers by Danilo Kis. Sleepers awake in a remote cave and the ancient mystic Simon Magus attempts a miracle in these two magical, otherworldly tales from one of the greatest voices of twentieth-century Europe.
  • Create Dangerously by Albert Camus. Camus argues passionately that the artist has a responsibility to challenge, provoke and speak up for those who cannot in this powerful speech, accompanied here by two others.
  • The Distance of the Moon by Italo Calvino. These exuberant, endlessly inventive stories interweave scientific fact with wordplay, whimsy and cosmic fights of fancy in a strange and wondrous universe.
  • The Skeleton's Holiday by Leonora Carrington. These dreamlike, carnivalesque fables by one of the leading lights of the Surrealist movement are masterpieces of invention and Grand Guignol humour.
  • The Garden of Forking Paths by Jorge Luis Borges. Fantastical tales of mazes, puzzles, lost labyrinths and bookish mysteries, from the unique imagination of a literary magician.
  • Fame by Andy Warhol. The legendary pop artist Andy Warhol's hilarious, gossipy vignettes and aphorisms on the topics of love, fame and beauty.
  • Lance by Vladimir Nabokov. These three dazzling stories of obsession, mania and an extra-terrestrial nightmare feature all the wit, dexterity and inventiveness that are the hallmark of Nabokov's genius.
  • Why I Am Not Going to Buy a Computer by Wendell Berry. The great American Poet, novelist and farmer argues for a life lived slowly, and the value of home.

Check out the full collection and let me know if you have any further recommendations for titles I should pick up!

🎵 Listening to: Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog – Brand New Day
🔹 Mood: Okay

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