Mondays aren’t normally days one celebrates, but I’m prepared to make an exception in this case. Monday 1 August marks the release of 26 brand-spanking-new Popular Penguins. You know, the cute-as-a-button, budget-priced, iconic-orange titles? Yeah, those ones (I’ve helpfully copied and pasted the list of newbies for you below).
- Accidental by Ali Smith
- Another Country by James Baldwin
- April Fool’s Day by Bryce Courtenay
- Autograph Man by Zadie Smith
- Boy by Roald Dahl
- Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
- Eye in the Door by Pat Barker
- Falconer by John Cheever
- Fight by Norman Mailer
- Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux
- Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
- High Window by Raymond Chandler
- I, Claudius by Robert Graves
- Kestrel for a Knave by Barry Hines
- Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges
- Meditations by Aurelius Marcus
- Nineteen Eighty-four by George Orwell
- Orlando by Virginia Woolf
- Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen
- Passage to India by E.M. Forster
- Pearl by John Steinbeck
- Prince by Machiavelli
- Ragtime by E.L. Doctrow
- Spy In The House Of Love by Anais Nin
- Time Machine by H.G. Wells
- Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh
A quick skim of the list reveals that I:
- have read three
- have sitting on my bookshelf (in non-Popular Penguins formats, of course) but haven’t read two
- want to read 13
- want to re-read (and re-buy, because my copies have gone AWOL) two
- haven’t heard of (but in my defence, have heard of their authors) 11.
Hmmm, those aren’t exactly impressive figures given the popularity of these titles and well read-ness with which I like to consider myself. Still, it resolves the issue of my previous blog, which was that I was drawing a blank on which books to buy with my $120 Boomerang Books voucher (Sorry Clayton, you’re going to have to keep writing out the cheques).
First on my list of buying (technically re-buying) will be Bryce Courtenay’s April Fool’s Day and Roald Dahl’s Boy (yes, I’m aware that’s not an orange cover to the left, but I had trouble locating that one, so colourful cover it is).
Both were deeply influential reading during my childhood, and after finishing each, I quickly devoured both authors’ oeuvres (that’s a fancy word for ‘back catalogue’ and some of you reading this blog will get the in joke).
On some level, both books set me on the course of being a writer, and in particular a creative non-fiction writer interested in tackling the issues of the world. So yeah, they’re kind of big on my list of books to read before you die.
Coincidentally, I had been thinking how I’d like to revisit April Fool’s Day after hearing a Conversations with Richard Fidler interview with a woman who comes from the largest haemophiliac family in the world.
Her family’s tale is as tragic as Courtenay’s family’s own, with almost 10 of her uncles first being debilitated by haemophilia and second contracting and dying of AIDS (or AIDS-related illnesses, for those of you semantics out there) after being infected by contaminated blood transfusions. Like Courtenay’s son, they had to deal with not only the ravages of the illness, but of the stigma, assumptions of homosexuality, and subsequent homophobia that accompanied it.
Not perhaps the most uplifting of tales, I know, and this hooray-for-new-books blog has taken a turn for the serious. But these books importantly highlight the injustices of the world and the danger of ignorance and, with the same themes popping up in over and over in our lives in various forms, it’s clear we’re not really learning the lessons.
So, hooray for the release of 26 new Popular Penguin titles that I may or may not yet know but hope to tackle. And hooray for releasing two incredible and seminal books, in particular, that, at this budget price, might find and inspire a whole new readership.