Five Vintage Classics You Simply Must Read Even Though They Aren’t On Your List

by |February 29, 2012

Let me add a few more books to your
“I Must One Day Get Around To Reading Those Books Everyone Keeps Telling Me I Must One Day Get Around To Reading’ list.

I just can’t help myself. I love to encourage people to read the classics. And the Vintage Classics range is so beautiful and now so affordable I find I return again and again to this wonderful, all encompassing range.

But that said, sometimes the great monoliths of literature – War and Peace, Ulysses, David Copperfield, Les Miserables – can block our view. So much so, in fact, we might fail to see how truly vast and varied  the world of literature is.

Today I have chosen five Vintage Classic titles you may not have thought to read. Five very different books. Hopefully, they will encourage you to seek adventure, love, glory in more varied climes. Because, in the world of literature, there truly is something for every mood, every moment and every stage of our lives.

By Kurt Vonnegut

Let me quote author Matthew Green who recently spoke about Breakfast of Champions when answering my Ten Terrifying Questions: “It was the first book by Vonnegut that I had ever read, and it taught me that there are no rules when it comes to writing.

Want to insert yourself into the novel as a character? Go right ahead.

Want to abandon traditional conventions of plot and character? That’s your prerogative.

Vonnegut taught me that I could do whatever I damn well pleased when it came to writing, and that was very liberating indeed.”

I quote Matthew in full because I had the same experience when reading Breakfast of Champions – it is a  truly fun, truly liberating read…

Blurb: In a frolic of cartoons and comic outbursts against rule and reason, Kurt Vonnegut attacks the whole spectrum of American society, releasing some of his best-loved literary creations on the scene.

Click here to buy Breakfast of Champions

By Giuseppe Tomasi Di Lampedusa

E.M. Forster on The Leopard: ‘Reading and rereading it, has made me realise how many ways there are of being alive, how many doors there are, close to one, which someone else’s touch may open.’

It wasn’t until I finished The Leopard that I realised just how much this book meant to me. This is a book which deserves to be returned to, again and again.

Blurb: Lampedusa’s masterpiece, one of the finest works of twentieth century fiction, is set amongst an aristocratic family facing social and political changes in the wake of Garibaldi’s invasion of Sicily in 1860.

At the head of the family is the prince, Don Fabrizio. Proud and stubborn, he is accustomed to knowing his own place in the world and expects his household to run accordingly. He is aware of the changes which are rapidly making men historically obsolete but he remains attached to the old ways. His favourite nephew, Tancredi, may be an ardent supporter of Garibaldi and may later marry outside his class but Don Fabrizio will make few accommodations for the modern world.

Containing, for the first time in any language, the full original text, Tomasi di Lampedusa’s classic tale lovingly memorialises the details of a vanishing world while retaining its melancholic and ironic sense of time passing and the frailty of human emotions.

Click here to buy The Leopard

By Anne Bront

There is a case for saying The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is the most mature work to come from the Brontë sisters. The issues Anne addresses were (and for many women, still are) of the greatest importance. True independence for women was not possible. Marriage stripped women of many rights and could sometimes bind them to a life of violence with a partner who thought them of less value than their horse. Anne Brontë does not flinch when portraying life of a woman thus treated. This is a raw and sometimes brutal novel.

If Jane Eyre is the most romantic, and Wuthering Heights is the most passionate, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is the most realistic of the Brontë novels and all the more powerful for it.

Blurb: When the mysterious and beautiful young widow Helen Graham becomes the new tenant at Wildfell Hall rumours immediately begin to swirl around her.

As her neighbour Gilbert Markham comes to discover, Helen has painful secrets buried in her past that even his love for her cannot easily overcome.

Click here to buy The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

By Patricia Highsmith

Nothing can prepare you for it. It is utterly unique. Probably the most uncomfortable sensation you will experience. Unforgettable. Part dread, part thrill. When you discover you have befriended a psychopath just remember to act cool. For at that moment you’ll realise you have come too far to disentangle yourself, you are involved. As dangerous as it is to stay, you know it would be infinitely more dangerous to leave.

The Talented Mr Ripley traps you in its psychological web. We are seduced by Ripley’s innocence. We ignore warnings and think of him as the hero of the novel.

This is a clever, evocative, disturbing and utterly convincing novel which describes the genesis of evil. Brilliant.

Blurb: Tom Ripley is struggling to stay one step ahead of his creditors, and the law, when an unexpected acquaintance offers him a free trip to Europe and a chance to start over. Ripley wants money, success and the good life and he’s willing to kill for it. When his new-found happiness is threatened, his response is as swift as it is shocking.

The psychopathic Ripley has been portrayed on screen by actors as diverse as John Malkovich, Alain Delon and Dennis Hopper. But in the recent stylish film adaptation of The Talented Mr Ripley, Matt Damon took the title role, alongside Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow.

Click here to buy The Talented Mr Ripley

By William Somerset Maugham

There is something in this novel, something which makes it stand apart from the rest of Maugham’s work. To me, it is a book written from the heart with little or no art. This is not great story telling, as such, but it is an additional volume in the great book of humanity. And because it adds to our knowledge of ourselves, it is utterly, utterly compelling.

Blurb: OF HUMAN BONDAGE is the first and most autobiographical of Maugham’s masterpieces.

It tells the story of Philip Carey, an orphan eager for life, love and adventure. After a few months studying in Heidelberg, and a brief spell in Paris as a would-be artists, Philip Settles in London to train as a doctor. And that is where he meets Mildred, the loud but irresistible waitress with whom he plunges into a formative, tortured and masochistic affair which very nearly ruins him.

It is in OF HUMAN BONDAGE that the essential themes of autonomy and enslavement which dominate so much of Maugham’s writing are most profoundly explored.

Click here to buy Of Human Bondage

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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, 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.

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  • February 29, 2012 at 10:29 am

    Well this list seems interesting and I’ll admit to never having heard of any of these titles. I will definitely add them to the “I Must One Day Get Around To Reading Those Books Everyone Keeps Telling Me I Must One Day Get Around To Reading” list. 🙂

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