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Classics are books that are as relevant and popular now as in their own era. Have a glance through history when you scroll through our selection of time-tested Classics. You might re-discover a forgotten gem!
June 2014 Guest Editor Freya North on Thomas Hardy... For me, no other writer so definitively captures both the beauty and challenges of Britain - its landscape, weather, village life versus city life and of course the class system. But most of all I love the way that landscape is not merely a backdrop in Hardy's writing, but a leading character in it – something that has become a crucial element of my own writing. I love the paintings of Millet – the unpatronizing dignity he imbued his scenes of rustic life. This is so true of Hardy too and nowhere is this more compelling than in Tess of the D’Urbervilles - one of my all time favourite books. Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles.
Obsessed with the idea of creating life itself, Victor Frankenstein plunders graveyards for the material with which to fashion a new being, shocking his creation to life with electricity. But this botched creature, rejected by its creator and denied human companionship, sets out to destroy Frankenstein and all that he holds dear. Mary Shelley's chilling gothic tale was conceived when she was only eighteen, living with her lover Percy Shelley near Lord Byron's villa on Lake Geneva. It would become the world's most famous work of Gothic horror, and Frankenstein's monster an instantly-recognisable symbol of the limits of human creativity. Based on the third edition of 1831, this volume contains all the revisions Mary Shelley made to her story, as well as her 1831 introduction and Percy Shelley's preface to the first edition. This revised edition includes as appendices a select collation of the texts of 1818 and 1831 together with A Fragment by Lord Byron and Dr John Polidori's The Vampyre: A Tale . Mary Shelley (1797-1851) was the only daughter of the author and political philosopher William Godwin, and Mary Wollstonecraft, author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman . In 1814 she eloped with poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, whom she married when his first wife died in 1816. She is best remembered as the author of Frankenstein , but she wrote several other works, including Valperga and The Last Man . If you liked Frankenstein , you might enjoy Bram Stoker's Dracula , also available in Penguin Classics .
Included in our '35 LGBTQ books to read this Pride Month and every month' collection.
May 2014 Guest Editor Daisy Goodwin on Scoop... Anybody who wants to learn how to write dialogue should read this novel. It is a masterpiece of comic precision. I still laugh when I read about William Boot’s expedition kit which includes a collapsible canoe and cleft sticks ‘invaluable for carrying messages’. And it contains my favourite Waugh character Mrs Stitch, who like Lady Glencora, is a pin sharp depiction of femine ruthlessness cloaked in charm and chiffon.
The Joad Family have been cleared off their land by the bank and are forced to hit the long and winding road from the dust bowl of Oklahoma to California in search of a new life. And oh what a journey it is. Joined by a lapsed preacher Jim Casy the road is long, hard and does not let up with adversity after adversity after adversity as the family strive to keep their spirit alive. This book is an absolute classic; after initial negativity it was selling 10,000 copies a week by May 1939, became the year’s best-selling novel and won the Pulitzer. It’s a pure and raw celebration of the working man with an indomitable spirit, and the book inspired a generation of writers and readers right across the world. First class. Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles.
The Diary of a Nobody is a comic tale of the ever optimistic and well meaning Mr Pooter, his long suffering wife Carrie, their feckless son Willie and their intimate friends the Cummings and Gowings. Written in the style of a diary Mr Pootle says: “Why should I not publish my diary? I have often seen reminiscences of people I have never even heard of, and I fail to see—because I do not happen to be a ‘Somebody’—why my diary should not be interesting.” The humour is about the small things in life, misplaced umbrellas, truculent tradesmen and the all too human desire to better himself and get the recognition that he feels he deserves from society. Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles.
June 2012 Guest Editor Joanne Harris on Gormenghast... Dense, ominous, strange and compelling, Peake’s masterwork defies categorization, and continues to offer new insights and perspectives at every re-reading. The story of a community steeped in ritual, living out of time, it chronicles the birth and coming of age of Titus, Earl of Gormenghast, his struggle for identity in a world of traditions that have long since become meaningless, his fight against his destiny and his eventual confrontation with his arch-rival and nemesis, the twisted, ambitious Steerpike. Books in The Gormenghast Trilogy: 1. Titus Groan 2. Gormenghast 3. Titus Alone Serial Reader? Check out our 'Fall in Love With a Book Series' collection to find amazing book series to dive in to. Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles.
June 2014 Guest Editor Freya North on Thomas Hardy... For me, no other writer so definitively captures both the beauty and challenges of Britain - its landscape, weather, village life versus city life and of course the class system. But most of all I love the way that landscape is not merely a backdrop in Hardy's writing, but a leading character in it – something that has become a crucial element of my own writing. I love the paintings of Millet – the unpatronizing dignity he imbued his scenes of rustic life. This is so true of Hardy too and nowhere is this more compelling than in Tess of the D’Urbervilles - one of my all time favourite books.
Not recognised as a masterpiece until years after Anthony Trollope's death (perhaps it made people flinch a little too much), The Way We Live Now is just as current and relevant as it was when it was written. Corruption, social climbing, and scandal is as prevalent today as it has always been and the main character Melmotte is truly wonderful, because he is so very dreadful. A book to make you smirk, wince, and nod. There are surely some well known people alive today that would easily step between the pages and feel right at home. Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles.
Deep in the forests of Moran, far from civilization, live families of woodcutters and shepherds. A remote and beautiful world, it is a place where madness still reigns, murder occurs, and bloody punishments are delivered. What has happened to the body of the sensual and beautiful Catherine Corvol, wife of a rich landowner, killed not out of hatred but an excess of love? Around this central enigma, Germain has created a gothic enchantment, a dazzling rural fantasy rich in angels, obsession, and revenge where the reader is carried forward as much by the lyricism and strangeness of the language as by the macabre and fantastic turns of the plot.
May 2014 Guest Editor Daisy Goodwin on Persuasion... I love Jane Austen with a deep and enduring passion, and I think the story of Anne Elliott’s second chance is possibly my favourite. The way that she revives as a character like a flower soaking up water is quite miraculous. It is also has a plot of clockwork perfection. I read this book at least once a year and I always find something new to marvel at.