Celebrating the 75th anniversary of Penguin Classics.
'A classic is a book which has never exhausted all it has to say to its readers' – Italo Calvino
Penguin Classics is geographically and chronologically the largest library of classic literature ever published. To celebrate an amazing 75 years of much-loved classics we put the call out to our authors to find out which titles they return to over and over again.
Holding the Man by Timothy Conigrave
My favourite Penguin Classic is Holding the Man by Timothy Conigrave. It’s a beautiful, gritty, and authentic exploration of gay life through the 70s, 80s and 90s, and a vital part of the Australian queer literary canon. It’s a gorgeous coming-of-age story, a breath-taking romance, and a heart-breaking glimpse into the AIDS epidemic, presented with an often confronting level of candour. I first read the book when I was living around the corner from where the protagonist grows up in Melbourne, and I don’t think I’d ever been able to place myself so vividly in a story I was reading. I felt this book to my core, and it’s one I think every Australian should read, no matter how they identify. – Tobias Madden, author of Anything But Fine
The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald
[My favourite Penguin Classic is] probably The Great Gatsby. I say probably because there are so many to love, but I choose this because Jay Gatsby is the sort of male character I tend to write about in my novels. He’s distant, mysterious, compelling and above all, romantic. I love the era of the thirties and the fashion. I suppose I connect with the notion that despite all his wealth, Jay Gatsby cannot have the one thing he wants more than anything… and that’s the woman he loves. It’s a snapshot of time in the lives of wealthy, lazy people but even so, it seems relevant today – nothing’s changed. We’re still reading about secrets, envy, violence. The novel has a wonderful architecture – it’s the polar opposite of how I write, without a plan, twisty-turny, unpredictable. It’s not only tightly written, but so beautifully written that it has the capacity to show me what a long way I have to go. It breaks your heart too. For all that money, for all that privilege – that many of us aspire towards – it's still a lurid end for Gatsby. His wealth couldn’t save him while he reached for the same in life that every other one of us looks for… love and affection. – Fiona McIntosh, author of The Champagne War
Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote
My favourite classic has always been (and arguably will always be due to the brilliant glimmer and excitement of the 1940s in New York) Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s. There’s something romantic about the story that you don’t get sick of, whether you’ve read it once, or thirty times. – Victoria Devine, author of She's on the Money
Dracula by Bram Stoker
I’d have to say Dracula by Bram Stoker [is my favourite Penguin Classic]. This gothic fiction has it all: werewolves, unfamiliar and isolated settings, a band of heroes, plucky women and creatures who can walk upside down outside castle walls. What’s not to like? I’ve read it a million times. – Margaret Hickey, author of Cutters End
The Consolations of Philosophy by Alain De Botton
My favourite Penguin Classics book is The Consolations of Philosophy, by Alain De Botton. Right before my 18th birthday I had burnout, and couldn’t finish Grade 12, but I had this amazing drama teacher, Amanda, who sent me a pile of books. One of those was The Consolations of Philosophy. It was like a revelation to me – simple truths, easy to read, I couldn’t get enough. I remember walking around the house for the rest of that week feeling like little pieces of the world had slotted together like a jigsaw. It is a book that I like to loan, lose under the bed, buy new copies of – it’s my favourite Penguin Classic and recommend it often. – Kyle Perry, author of The Deep
Fantastic Mr Fox by Roald Dahl
Fantastic Mr Fox by Roald Dahl is my all-time favourite book. My primary school teacher read it to our class each afternoon and I had to borrow the book for myself because I wanted to know what happened next. I remember being disgusted and revolted by the gruesome farmers and cheering for the cunning and crafty hero, Mr Fox and his friends. The twist in the story still makes me smile. A true delight for kids and adults alike. – Oliver Phommavanh, author of Brain Freeze
The Little Prince by Antoine De Saint-Exupéry
My favourite Penguin Classic has to be The Little Prince. It’s so hard to believe this book was written in the 1940s and still rings so true today. A work that confronts head-on the big questions – What is the meaning of life? Why are we here? – and at the same time holds a mirror up to humans and our inexplicable (and often horrendous) behaviour. It walks the tight rope of having a rather pessimistic view of part of our world and yet an optimistic hope and love for the other. It’s the kind of book I wish I could write and has affected my approach to stories greatly. I like to think my books shine a light on negative human behaviour and attitudes while contrasting it with what is beautiful about human nature and offering hope for the future. I have to attribute that just a little to Antoine De Saint-Exupéry. – Nat Amoore, author of The Right Way to Rock
Playing Beatie Bow by Ruth Park
My favourite Penguin Classic is Playing Beatie Bow by Ruth Park – probably quite fitting for a children’s author. I first read it when it was released in 1980 and immediately adored the setting in The Rocks in Sydney and the mystery of slipping back through time. I think in some ways it helped cement my lifelong fascination for history. That this was a book about Australian children in the city where I was growing up really made me connect to the story. – Jaqueline Harvey, author of Alice-Miranda in Egypt
The Horse’s Mouth by Joyce Cary
My favourite book, a Penguin Modern Classic for decades, is The Horse’s Mouth by Joyce Cary. Why? Because it was the book that set me on the road to being a writer. After wasting my teenage years not reading, a copy of Cary’s masterpiece was handed to me by a fellow worker in a factory and by the time I stepped off the bus home that night my life was changed. It's a brilliant novel about a painter, but I was inspired by Cary’s writing even more than the subject, thus my new dream was to be a writer myself. Sadly The Horse’s Mouth has slipped from Penguin Modern Classic status. But I’ll be lobbying for it to be back one day, with full Penguin Classic honours. Move over, Socrates. – Morris Gleitzman, author of After
Beautiful hardback cloth cover editions of your favourites.
In May we took a time slip with Ruth Park’s thrilling 1980 adventure story, Playing Beatie Bow.
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