The Penguin English Library editions of classics caught my eye a few years ago while watching BookTube videos. I can’t remember the first channel I saw them in, but I immediately fell in love with the beautiful covers and stripy spines, and now every time I want to buy a new classic, I check if it is available in these editions. Unless there is an even more beautiful book for sale (which is the case of the vintage classics editions of the Jane Austen’s books, for example), I go for the covers designed by Coralie Bickford-Smith.
Presently, I own ten books in the Penguin English Library editions. However, one of them, Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, will not be part of my collection and is not mentioned in the following list, because I won’t keep it, as I really didn’t like it.
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Pip, the main character in Great Expectations, is an orphan who lives with his abusive sister and her husband. He tells the story of his life since childhood until adulthood. To live in difficult economic conditions isn’t a problem for Pip until the moment he meets Estella at Miss Havisham’s house and an anonymous benefactor wants him to become a gentleman. Although some parts of the novel got a bit monotonous, I still enjoyed my first taste of Charles Dickens’s works. I wrote a full review about it when I first started blogging.
Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
After finishing reading Far from the Madding Crowd a couple of years ago, I crossed all of Thomas Hardy’s books off my wish list. I didn’t dislike the novel in general, but I was quite bored during some parts, mainly the descriptions and the narration about rural life, and was not a fan of the writing style. However, I liked Gabriel Oak as a character and became both enthusiastic and enraged with Bathsheba. Gabriel is a young shepherd who has leased and stocked a sheep farm thanks to his savings and money from a loan. When he makes Bathsheba an offer of marriage, she refuses, since she values her independence. Sometime after, she moves to another village, but they end up meeting again, this time in much different circumstances.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
Jane Eyre is one of my favourite classics. The character that gives her name to the title of the book tells in the first person episodes from her life since she was a child. The main events start to develop when she is employed by Mr Rochester as a governess and falls in love with him. I really liked the observations made about love, social class, morality and even feminism. It could even be a much better book, if it wasn’t for John Rivers.
The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells
I’ve first heard of The War of the Worlds at university when discussing the 1938 radio broadcast narrated by Orson Welles. But it was only a few years ago that I decided to read this novel, which tells the story of what happens when southern England is invaded by Martians. Although it may have been considered extremely imaginative when it was written, I wasn’t too impressed by this science fiction book. It was just an average read.
The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells
My feelings regarding The War of the Worlds and The Invisible Man are quite similar. The story of a mysterious man, Griffin, who is staying at an inn while working with chemicals, had potential to be exciting. However, it didn’t end up being as thrilling as I was expecting it to.
Dubliners by James Joyce
Fragments of the lives of some of Dublin’s inhabitants are portrayed in this short story collection by James Joyce. Although I was not impressed by the writing style, I did enjoy some of the short stories, just not the majority of them. I wrote a full review early on in the year.
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
This is another of my favourite classics. Oscar Wilde wrote a compelling story about what happens when a man sells his soul to make sure that his picture instead of him ages and decays. He starts to pursuit a libertine lifestyle, which leads to tragic events. If it weren’t for the boring descriptions of Dorian’s study of perfumes, music and jewels, this would have been a perfect book.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Victor Frankenstein had always wanted to discover the secrets of nature and considered science as a means of achieving greatness. While at university, he managed to animate lifeless matter. But the creature born of his experiment didn’t live up to his expectations. We are presented with a good reflection about how a creator deals with the destructive actions of a creation who doesn’t fulfil his predetermined ideas of greatness. You can read my full review here.
Dracula by Bram Stoker
Dracula is the only book in my Penguin English Library collection that I haven’t read yet, as I’m saving it for Halloween, but I’m familiar with the story thanks to the many adaptations there are.
“When Jonathan Harker visits Transylvania to advise Count Dracula on a London home, he makes a horrifying discovery. Soon afterwards, a number of disturbing incidents unfold in England (…).”
Do you have any books in the Penguin English Library editions? Tell me in the comments!