Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Happy Birthday Penguin

There should be a law against it, putting this kind of temptation in people's way. Shouldn't MPH know better?

A rack of dinky mini-books. Seventy of them. One for each year that Penguin has been in business. Cover designs that just make you want to pick the books up. Bite sized nibbles of longer, succulent feasts.

This is how Penguin books began:

"Returning to London from a weekend at the Devon home of the crime writer Agatha Christie in 1934, the publisher Allen Lane scoured Exeter Station for something to read. All he could find were reprints of 19th century novels and Lane decided to found a publishing house to produce good quality paperbacks sold at sixpence each, the same price as a packet of cigarettes."

Penguin probably did more to encourage the ordinary man in the street to read than any other publisher by making great books cheaply and widely available.

Anyway, this morning, I tried (initially) to resist the pull.

Gave way. Bought not just for me, but for a friend's birthday.

Got too a free t-shirt to add to my literary wardrobe.

And here are the books I bought (though still aching for the ones left behind - tie me up least I heed the siren call another day!).

First, the expand-your-mind-books: Forgetting Things by Sigmund Freud (because I'd forget my own head if it wasn't nailed on), Hotheads by Steven Pinker (because I still feel guilty that I haven't read How the Mind Works), Eric Schlosser's Cogs in the Great Machine (because I wish I'd read Fast Food Nation).

(I remember how I fell in love with one of my favourite writers, Steven J. Gould, after buying a Penguin mini-book several years ago.)

Then the fiction. P.D. James Innocent House (shock horror - I haven't read her yet!). James Kellman Where Was I?; Anton Chekhov The Kiss; Noise by Hari Kunzru; Ali Smith's Supersonic 70's (all short fiction, all must-haves).

And Dave Eggers Short Short Stories because I love short shorts and have read Egger's stuff on The Guardian website.

Also In Defence of English Cooking by George Orwell (not only because someone needs to defend English cooking - but also because Orwell is one of my favourite writers and I want to read his essays)

Finally, The State of Poetry by Roger McGough (a total total delight. Give this to anyone who says they don't like poetry. Instant conversion!)

If you want to find out more, do go visit the Penguin website because it's great fun. There's even a literary quiz. (I scored 8/10, but you will not doubt get full marks.)

Thanks Penguin, for letting us all celebrate your 70th birthday with you.


Vivien Dumpangol said...

Yeap. I agree. Those books were so tempting and I bought two of the mini books yesterday.

Leon Wing said...

Gosh, what a coincidence and great timing, your blog! I just got 4 of them pocket penguins from Kino - and 2 are the ones you feature - Hari Kunzru's and Roger McGough.

I love McGough: I have been reading him since - I don't know when, since the 70's?. I enjoyed all his PC Plod pieces, from his earlier works.

And, I also got 2 other books: Ali Smith's Supersonic 70's and Dave Egger's Short Short Stories.

I would have loved to get the whole collection, but at RM680 I'm giving it a miss. I'm buying it piecemeal: every time I get to Kino I'm picking up 3 to 5 more.

q said...

coincidence! i was at MPH 1U too yesterday afternoon, and got 8 titles (how does one get a free tshirt?). i love all of the cover designs and that was the main point considered when picking the ones i got, hehe.

there should be a contest so i could win the box set! :-P

btw did you ever get my email sent ages ago? :-(

Yoong Family said...

oh, no! now i just HAVE to go to MPH!!!

Yvonne Foong said...

Better spend money on books than anything else!

Unknown said...

I got 8 out of 10 in the quiz too, but I'd expected to do much worse. LOL

bibliobibuli said...

Vivien - glad you couldn't resist temptation either!

Leon - what was that about great minds? But even if you pick them up piecemeal, you'll end up parting with the dosh!

q - You need to spend RM100 to get the t-shirt, so you were just a little short ... maybe if you go back with your receipt they might be kind to you? Sorry, i'm the blurrest individual on Planet Earth - not sure if I got your e-mail - will check. If I did and didn't reply am truly sorry and will make amends. Love your website - am going to use some of your pictures for writing prompts.

Simon - yes you certainly are!

Doey - wise woman, you have your priorities right even at such a tender age.

Marita - good going!

Chet said...

I only got 5 out of 10. :(

Anonymous said...

aargh! just when I had decided to stay out of temptation's way. Now I have to go to MPH. Do I get a free t-shirt for being their most frequent visitor?

bibliobibuli said...

Ha! What makes YOU think you are the most frequent visitor, Renata?