We love Penguin’s leather bound hardcovers. They basically cover good old classics. A lesser known but equally attractive offering is Gollancz’s Big Black Book series. There are just a few big black books in the series, but they offer some excellent compilations.
The Complete Chronicles of Conan by Robert E. Howard – Probably the only complete collection of original Conan stories. You are not a pulp fiction fan if you do not own this.
Conan’s Brethren: The Complete Collection by Robert E. Howard– The most unusual collection. It covers the exploits of the Solomon Kane, Howard’s first barbarian hero King Kull, Bran Mak Morn, Red Sonja and others.
Necronomicon: The Best Weird Tales by HP Lovecraft – Unlike the Barnes and Noble edition, this is not a complete collection. However, in terms of presentation, it is vastly superior with excellent illustrations and a comprehensive afterword by Stephen Jones.
Eldritch Tales: A Miscellany of the Macabre by H.P. Lovecraft – Includes Lovecraft’s remaining major stories plus his weird poetry, nonfiction, and the critical essay Supernatural Horror in Literature.
The Complete Lyonesse (Lyonesse #1-3) by Jack Vance – An omnibus edition of Vance’s magnum opus. Like a goodreads review rightly mentioned “If Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings is the greatest fantasy epic of the 20th century, then Lyonesse is surely the greatest fairy tale.”
Tarzan of the Apes & Other Tales by Edgar Rice Burroughs – A selective collection but the best Tarzan stories feature here.
The achievement of Gollancz BIg Black Book series is essentially its atypical selection of works along with great presentation. We have plenty of publishers playing safe with Dickens and Austen. Glad to see some good folks betting on Lovecraft and Howard.
The Hungarian author László Krasznahorkai, has won the Man Booker International prize (worth £60,000). Chair of judges Marina Warner described him as “a visionary writer of extraordinary intensity and vocal range who captures the texture of present-day existence in scenes that are terrifying, strange, appallingly comic, and often shatteringly beautiful”. She also added that Krasznahorkai, being a non-English writer, has “been superbly served by his translators”, George Szirtes and Ottilie Mulzet, who will share the £15,000 translators’ prize.
Krasznahorkai’s notable works include Satantango and The Melancholy of Resistance.
The ten shortlisted writers:
César Aira (Argentina)
Hoda Barakat (Lebanon)
Maryse Condé (Guadeloupe)
Mia Couto (Mozambique)
Amitav Ghosh (India)
Fanny Howe (USA)
Ibrahim al-Koni (Libya)
László Krasznahorkai (Hungary)
Alain Mabanckou (Republic of Congo)
Marlene van Niekerk (South Africa)
Sometime back we shared 100 Books to Read in a Lifetime: A List by Amazon on The Book Haven. Here is another list by The Guardian and this one is quite different from Amazon’s list. What’s your take on it?
Check out the list on The Guardian.
- Don Quixote Miguel De Cervantes
The story of the gentle knight and his servant Sancho Panza has entranced readers for centuries.
- Pilgrim’s Progress John Bunyan
The one with the Slough of Despond and Vanity Fair.
- Robinson Crusoe Daniel Defoe
The first English novel.
- Gulliver’s Travels Jonathan Swift
A wonderful satire that still works for all ages, despite the savagery of Swift’s vision.
- Tom Jones Henry Fielding
The adventures of a high-spirited orphan boy: an unbeatable plot and a lot of sex ending in a blissful marriage.
- Clarissa Samuel Richardson
One of the longest novels in the English language, but unputdownable.
- Tristram Shandy Laurence Sterne
One of the first bestsellers, dismissed by Dr Johnson as too fashionable for its own good.
- Dangerous Liaisons Pierre Choderlos De Laclos
An epistolary novel and a handbook for seducers: foppish, French, and ferocious.
- Emma Jane Austen
Near impossible choice between this and Pride and Prejudice. But Emma never fails to fascinate and annoy.
- Frankenstein Mary Shelley
Inspired by spending too much time with Shelley and Byron.
- Nightmare Abbey Thomas Love Peacock
A classic miniature: a brilliant satire on the Romantic novel.
- The Black SheepHonoré De Balzac
Two rivals fight for the love of a femme fatale. Wrongly overlooked.
- The Charterhouse of Parma Stendhal
Penetrating and compelling chronicle of life in an Italian court in post-Napoleonic France.
- The Count of Monte Cristo Alexandre Dumas
A revenge thriller also set in France after Bonaparte: a masterpiece of adventure writing.
- Sybil Benjamin Disraeli
Apart from Churchill, no other British political figure shows literary genius.
- David Copperfield Charles Dickens
This highly autobiographical novel is the one its author liked best.
- Wuthering Heights Emily Brontë
Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff have passed into the language. Impossible to ignore.
- Jane Eyre Charlotte Brontë
Obsessive emotional grip and haunting narrative.
- Vanity Fair William Makepeace Thackeray
The improving tale of Becky Sharp.
- The Scarlet Letter Nathaniel Hawthorne
A classic investigation of the American mind.
- Moby-Dick Herman Melville
‘Call me Ishmael’ is one of the most famous opening sentences of any novel.
- Madame Bovary Gustave Flaubert
You could summarise this as a story of adultery in provincial France, and miss the point entirely.
- The Woman in White Wilkie Collins
Gripping mystery novel of concealed identity, abduction, fraud and mental cruelty.
- Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland Lewis Carroll
A story written for the nine-year-old daughter of an Oxford don that still baffles most kids.
- Little Women Louisa M. Alcott
Victorian bestseller about a New England family of girls.
- The Way We Live Now Anthony Trollope
A majestic assault on the corruption of late Victorian England.
- Anna Karenina Leo Tolstoy
The supreme novel of the married woman’s passion for a younger man.
- Daniel Deronda George Eliot
A passion and an exotic grandeur that is strange and unsettling.
- The Brothers Karamazov Fyodor Dostoevsky
Mystical tragedy by the author of Crime and Punishment.
- The Portrait of a Lady Henry James
The story of Isabel Archer shows James at his witty and polished best.
- Huckleberry Finn Mark Twain
Twain was a humorist, but this picture of Mississippi life is profoundly moral and still incredibly influential.
- The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde Robert Louis Stevenson
A brilliantly suggestive, resonant study of human duality by a natural storyteller.
- Three Men in a Boat Jerome K. Jerome
One of the funniest English books ever written.
- The Picture of Dorian Gray Oscar Wilde
A coded and epigrammatic melodrama inspired by his own tortured homosexuality.
- The Diary of a Nobody George Grossmith
This classic of Victorian suburbia will always be renowned for the character of Mr Pooter.
- Jude the Obscure Thomas Hardy
Its savage bleakness makes it one of the first twentieth-century novels.
- The Riddle of the Sands Erskine Childers
A prewar invasion-scare spy thriller by a writer later shot for his part in the Irish republican rising.
- The Call of the Wild Jack London
The story of a dog who joins a pack of wolves after his master’s death.
- Nostromo Joseph Conrad
Conrad’s masterpiece: a tale of money, love and revolutionary politics.
- The Wind in the Willows Kenneth Grahame
This children’s classic was inspired by bedtime stories for Grahame’s son.
- In Search of Lost Time Marcel Proust
An unforgettable portrait of Paris in the belle époque. Probably the longest novel on this list.
- The Rainbow D. H. Lawrence
Novels seized by the police, like this one, have a special afterlife.
- The Good Soldier Ford Madox Ford
This account of the adulterous lives of two Edwardian couples is a classic of unreliable narration.
- The Thirty-Nine Steps John Buchan
A classic adventure story for boys, jammed with action, violence and suspense.
- Ulysses James Joyce
Also pursued by the British police, this is a novel more discussed than read.
- Mrs Dalloway Virginia Woolf
Secures Woolf’s position as one of the great twentieth-century English novelists.
- A Passage to India EM Forster
Forster’s great love song to India.
- The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald
The quintessential Jazz Age novel.
- The Trial Franz Kafka
The enigmatic story of Joseph K.
- Men Without Women Ernest Hemingway
He is remembered for his novels, but it was the short stories that first attracted notice.
- Journey to the End of the Night Louis-Ferdinand Celine
The experiences of an unattractive slum doctor during the Great War: a masterpiece of linguistic innovation.
- As I Lay Dying William Faulkner
A strange black comedy by an American master.
- Brave New World Aldous Huxley
Dystopian fantasy about the world of the seventh century AF (after Ford).
- Scoop Evelyn Waugh
The supreme Fleet Street novel.
- USA John Dos Passos
An extraordinary trilogy that uses a variety of narrative devices to express the story of America.
- The Big Sleep Raymond Chandler
Introducing Philip Marlowe: cool, sharp, handsome – and bitterly alone.
- The Pursuit Of Love Nancy Mitford
An exquisite comedy of manners with countless fans.
- The Plague Albert Camus
A mysterious plague sweeps through the Algerian town of Oran.
- Nineteen Eighty-Four George Orwell
This tale of one man’s struggle against totalitarianism has been appropriated the world over.
- Malone Dies Samuel Beckett
Part of a trilogy of astonishing monologues in the black comic voice of the author of Waiting for Godot.
- Catcher in the Rye J.D. Salinger
A week in the life of Holden Caulfield. A cult novel that still mesmerises.
- Wise Blood Flannery O’Connor
A disturbing novel of religious extremism set in the Deep South.
- Charlotte’s Web EB White
How Wilbur the pig was saved by the literary genius of a friendly spider.
- The Lord Of The Rings J. R. R. Tolkien
- Lucky Jim Kingsley Amis
An astonishing debut: the painfully funny English novel of the Fifties.
- Lord of the Flies William Golding
Schoolboys become savages: a bleak vision of human nature.
- The Quiet American Graham Greene
Prophetic novel set in 1950s Vietnam.
- On the Road Jack Kerouac
The Beat Generation bible.
- Lolita Vladimir Nabokov
Humbert Humbert’s obsession with Lolita is a tour de force of style and narrative.
- The Tin Drum Günter Grass
Hugely influential, Rabelaisian novel of Hitler’s Germany.
- Things Fall Apart Chinua Achebe
Nigeria at the beginning of colonialism. A classic of African literature.
- The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie Muriel Spark
A writer who made her debut in The Observer – and her prose is like cut glass.
- To Kill A Mockingbird Harper Lee
Scout, a six-year-old girl, narrates an enthralling story of racial prejudice in the Deep South.
- Catch-22 Joseph Heller
‘He would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn’t have to; if he didn’t want to he was sane and had to.’
- Herzog Saul Bellow
Adultery and nervous breakdown in Chicago.
- One Hundred Years of Solitude Gabriel García Márquez
A postmodern masterpiece.
- Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont Elizabeth Taylor
A haunting, understated study of old age.
- Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy John Le Carré
A thrilling elegy for post-imperial Britain.
- Song of Solomon Toni Morrison
The definitive novelist of the African-American experience.
- The Bottle Factory Outing Beryl Bainbridge
Macabre comedy of provincial life.
- The Executioner’s Song Norman Mailer
This quasi-documentary account of the life and death of Gary Gilmore is possibly his masterpiece.
- If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller Italo Calvino
A strange, compelling story about the pleasures of reading.
- A Bend in the River VS Naipaul
The finest living writer of English prose. This is his masterpiece: edgily reminiscent of Heart of Darkness.
- Waiting for the Barbarians JM Coetzee
Bleak but haunting allegory of apartheid by the Nobel prizewinner.
- Housekeeping Marilynne Robinson
Haunting, poetic story, drowned in water and light, about three generations of women.
- Lanark Alasdair Gray
Seething vision of Glasgow. A Scottish classic.
- The New York Trilogy Paul Auster
Dazzling metaphysical thriller set in the Manhattan of the 1970s.
- The BFG Roald Dahl
A bestseller by the most popular postwar writer for children of all ages.
- The Periodic Table Primo Levi
A prose poem about the delights of chemistry.
- Money Martin Amis
The novel that bags Amis’s place on any list.
- An Artist of the Floating World Kazuo Ishiguro
A collaborator from prewar Japan reluctantly discloses his betrayal of friends and family.
- Oscar And Lucinda Peter Carey
A great contemporary love story set in nineteenth-century Australia by double Booker prizewinner.
- The Book of Laughter and Forgetting Milan Kundera
Inspired by the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, this is a magical fusion of history, autobiography and ideas.
- Haroun and the Sea of Stories Salman Rushdie
In this entrancing story Rushdie plays with the idea of narrative itself.
- LA Confidential James Ellroy
Three LAPD detectives are brought face to face with the secrets of their corrupt and violent careers.
- Wise Children Angela Carter
A theatrical extravaganza by a brilliant exponent of magic realism.
- Atonement Ian McEwan
Acclaimed short-story writer achieves a contemporary classic of mesmerising narrative conviction.
- Northern Lights Philip Pullman
Lyra’s quest weaves fantasy, horror and the play of ideas into a truly great contemporary children’s book.
- American Pastoral Philip Roth
For years, Roth was famous for Portnoy’s Complaint . Recently, he has enjoyed an extraordinary revival.
- Austerlitz W. G. Sebald
Posthumously published volume in a sequence of dream-like fictions spun from memory, photographs and the German past.
To celebrate World Book Day on 5th March, Raul Lemesoff — an artist from Argentina — has created what he calls “Arma de Instruccion Masiva” or Weapon of Mass Instruction. This is a travelling library he intends to use to combat ignorance and spread knowledge. For this campaign, Raul has visited remote, impoverished towns in Argentina where almost half the children do not have the privilege of going to school.
What exactly is this weapon? It’s a 1979 Ford Falcon that has a rotating turret, a pseudo gun and about 900 books, which include poetry, novels and biographies. Raul offers books for free and his only request to people is to read the book he has given them. Isn’t that great?
Apart from promoting knowledge and education, this symbolic campaign also aims to “to contribute to peace through literature.” Awesome work Mr Lemesoff.
Here’s hot news for the booklovers. Amazon has recently announced its pick of 100 Books to Read in a Lifetime. It’s a pretty intriguing list because it differs substantially from similar existing lists.
Sara Nelson, the editorial director of Amazon said that the list is not based on sales figures or any other typical benchmarks. The list was compiled by the editors based on how much the books appealed to the readers over the years. They whacked off homework books like Joyce’s Ulysses and focused on the ones that readers of all ages enjoyed.
The list includes books from Victorian era to the post-modern and contemporary period. The books are not ranked in any particular order to emphasize that all are equally important. While Harry Potter made it to the list, classics like Moby Dick and Les Misérables were left out.
Amazon has also compiled another list based on user votes on Goodreads. Click here to check it out.
What’s your reaction to this list? Happy, angry, excited, surprised?
- Meet Big Brother: 1984 by George Orwell
- Explore the Universe: A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
- Memoir as metafiction: A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
- A child-soldier’s story: A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah
- Wicked good fun: A Series of Unfortunate Events #1: The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket
- The 60s kids classic: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
- A short-form master: Alice Munro: Selected Stories by Alice Munro
- Go down the rabbit hole: Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
- Unseated a president: All the President’s Men by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein
- An Irish-American Memoir: Angela’s Ashes: A Memoir by Frank McCourt
- The angst of adolescence: Are You There, God? It’s me, Margaret by Judy Blume
- A literary page turner: Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
- The ghosts of slavery: Beloved by Toni Morrison
- Why and how we run: Born To Run – A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall
- A journey from Haiti: Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat
- Launched its own catchphrase: Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
- Vintage Roald Dahl: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
- The timeless classic: Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
- Ambitious and humane: Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese
- Vulnerability breeds courage: Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brene Brown
- For reluctant readers: Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Book 1 by Jeff Kinney
- A science fiction classic: Dune by Frank Herbert
- “It was a pleasure to burn.”: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
- Gonzo journalism takes flight: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream by Hunter S. Thompson
- Marriage can be a real killer: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
- First published in 1947: Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
- Dickens’ best novel: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
- Understanding societies: Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared M. Diamond
- Meet the boy wizard: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
- True crime at its best: In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
- Award-winning short story debut: Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
- A literary milestone: Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
- A brilliant graphic novel: Jimmy Corrigan: Smartest Kid on Earth by Chris Ware
- Don’t eat while you read this: Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
- One of the best of 2013: Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
- Childhood on the frontier: Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
- Nabokov’s triumph: Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
- A Latin American masterpiece: Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
- A saga set on the reservation: Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich
- A life-changing book: Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
- Funny and poignant: Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
- A beautifully-written novel: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
- Rushdie’s breakthrough: Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
- Lewis hits it out of the park: Moneyball by Michael Lewis
- A writer’s writer: Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham
- The essence of the Beats: On the Road by Jack Kerouac
- A remarkable woman’s story: Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen
- A groundbreaking graphic novel: Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
- Roth at his finest: Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth
- The perennial favorite: Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
- The birth of ecology: Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
- The absurdist WW2 novel: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
- How Lincoln led: Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin
- 19th Century high society: The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
- Chabon’s magnum opus: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
- A classic modern autobiography: The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X and Alex Haley
- The international sensation: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
- The trials of a “ghetto nerd”: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
- Meet Holden Caulfield: The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
- Exploring a mother’s past: The Color of Water by James McBride
- Great, but divisive: The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
- A triumph of narrative nonfiction: The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson
- Moving and eloquent: The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank
- A soulful young adult novel: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
- Classic dystopia: The Giver by Lois Lowry
- Pullman’s fantasy classic: The Golden Compass: His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
- The rich are different: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
- Feminist speculative fiction: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
- A boy, a bear, a honeypot: The House At Pooh Corner by A. A. Milne
- Reality tv writ large: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
- Race, ethics, and medicine: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
- A darkly funny memoir: The Liars’ Club: A Memoir by Mary Karr
- Monsters, Mythology, and a boy: The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 1) by Rick Riordan
- Unique and universal: The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
- First-rate Chandler Noir: The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler
- The history of terrorism: The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 by Lawrence Wright
- One ring to rule them all: The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
- A deeply human account: The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat: And Other Clinical Tales by Oliver Sacks
- The origins of food: The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan
- An odd and original journey: The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
- Missionaries in Africa: The Poisonwood Bible: A Novel by Barbara Kingsolver
- The Enforcer: The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York by Robert A. Caro
- The inner life of astronauts: The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe
- This way to the apocalypse: The Road by Cormac McCarthy
- A modern classic: The Secret History by Donna Tartt
- Chilling and thrilling: The Shining by Stephen King
- Existentialist fiction: The Stranger by Albert Camus
- Meet the Lost Generation: The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
- The best book on Vietnam: The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
- Baby’s first book: The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
- Mole, Toad, Rat, and Badger: The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
- From the modern Japanese master: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: A Novel by Haruki Murakami
- Beware the “Undertoad”: The World According to Garp by John Irving
- Life, Love, Death: The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
- Tradition vs. change: Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
- A beloved family story: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
- An American inspiration: Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
- Addictively entertaining: Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann
- The joys of imagination: Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
- Let the wild rumpus start! : Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak