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.