Penguin Books has released 26 new Popular Penguins, taking the total number of books in this much-loved series to 200. I am slowly collecting them all. I’ve read about forty but I am sure there are plenty of people who have read more than me. (How many have you read?)
Today I am personally recommending five of the twenty-six new titles (see below) but of the others, well, you and I will just have to trust in Penguin’s good taste. And really, when have they ever been wide of the mark?
Every house needs a bookcase full of the iconic orange and white covers.
Whoah! I almost forgot….
To celebrate the arrival of the 26 new titles, Booktopia is giving away one complete set of all 26 new books to one lucky customer who buys anything from our Popular Penguin category between now and the end of September. (There is a big pic of all 26 titles below)
BITE SIZED PHILOSOPHY
My View: Though I have not read the Meditations from cover to cover, I have kept them near for years now so that I may dip into them when I will. Most of the sayings and thoughts collected here are heavy with meaning and should be enjoyed individually. This is a book for life. (My copy is a battered wreck. Now I have a chance to buy a new one.)
Taste: Look within. Within is the fountain of good, and it will ever bubble up, if thou wilt ever dig.
Synopsis: These spiritual reflections of Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius (AD 121-180) show a leader trying to make sense of himself and the universe, and cover diverse topics such as the question of virtue, human rationality and the nature of the gods. In developing his personal beliefs, Aurelius created one of the greatest works of philosophy: a series of wise and practical aphorisms that have been consulted by statesmen, thinkers and everyday philosophers for almost two thousand years.
My View: I have read E.M. Forster’s novels and recommend them all. Passage to India is a disturbing novel on many levels. Not only must we experience the inadequacies inherent in any formal government, we are forced to acknowledge how difficult it is to govern ourselves.
Taste: It is easy to sympathize at a distance. I value more the kind word that is spoken close to my ear.
Synopsis: After a mysterious incident during their visit to the Marabar Caves, the charming Dr Aziz is accused of assaulting Adela Quested, a naïve young Englishwoman. His trial exposes the fragile structure of Anglo-Indian relations and the racism inherent in colonialism is exposed. A Passage to India compellingly depicts the fate of individuals caught between the great political and cultural conflicts of the modern world.
THE HORROR! THE HORROR!
My View: I have always been attracted to novels which live just beyond my understanding. Heart of Darkness is like this. It is something you catch in the corner of your eye. It is the tune you hum but cannot place. You can read Heart of Darkness in a sitting. What you can’t do easily, is forget it.
Taste: It occurred to me that my speech or my silence, indeed any action of mine, would be a mere futility.
Synopsis: Marlow, a ferry-boat captain on foreign assignment in the Congo, searches for the legendary and feared Mr. Kurtz, unprepared for what he will find. On his journey he encounters the darkness of the wilderness; the darkness of colonization, and ultimately, the darkness within every man. Heart of Darkness is a powerful indictment of the evils of imperialism.
DO YOU GET IT?
My View: I have always thought of The Prince as a joke humanity was too stupid to understand. Machiavelli was living in a time when humanity had stood precariously on the shoulders of a few brave men. It was reaching for something beautiful, but it fell in a heap. The Prince is Machiavelli’s way of cheering himself up. I think he would be horrified that so many people took him at his word.
Taste: Be it known, then, that there are two ways of contending, one in accordance with the laws, the other by force; the first of which is proper to men, the second to beasts. But since the first method is often ineffectual, it becomes necessary to resort to the second.
Synopsis: As a diplomat in turbulent fifteenth-century Florence, Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527) knew how quickly political fortunes could rise and fall. The Prince is his controversial handbook about the dynamics of power, leadership and strategy. Machiavelli’s shrewd argument that sometimes it is necessary to abandon ethics to succeed made his name notorious. Consequently, The Prince has been read by strategists, politicians and business people ever since.
IT’S EVOLUTION BABY
My View: This book had me from the first page. That such an enormous disaster could follow from such an innocuous event! Brilliant. Each step seems horribly plausible. Extraordinary but still plausible.
Taste: When a day that you happen to know is Wednesday starts off by sounding like Sunday, there is something seriously wrong somewhere.
Synopsis: When Bill Masen awakes blindfolded in hospital and carefully removes his bandages, he realises he is one of the few who can see; almost everyone else has been blinded by a meteor shower. Now, with civilization in chaos, the triffids – huge, venomous, plants able to ‘walk’, feeding on human flesh – can have their day. This stark vision of a desolate world infested by deadly, monstrous plants has lost none of its power to horrify.
Have you been reading the Popular Penguins? Do you have a collection at home? How many have you got? Do you have any favourites you want to recommend?
About the Contributor
While still in his twenties, John Purcell opened a second-hand bookshop in Mosman, Sydney, in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Since then he has written, under a pseudonym, a series of very successful novels, interviewed hundreds of writers about their work, appeared at writers’ festivals, on TV (most bizarrely in comedian Luke McGregor’s documentary Luke Warm Sex) and has been featured in prominent newspapers and magazines. Now, as the Director of Books at booktopia.com.au, Australia’s largest online bookseller, he supports Australian writing in all its forms. He lives in Sydney with his wife, two children, three dogs, five cats, unnumbered gold fish and his overlarge book collection. His novel, The Girl on the Page, will be published by HarperCollins Australia in October, 2018.