#Essential Reads: The Penguin Classics Book

Editor | Non-fiction

Spanning 4,000 years from the legends of Ancient Mesopotamia to the poetry of the First World War, with Greek tragedies, Icelandic sagas, Japanese epics and much more in between, The Penguin Classics Book is filled with lively descriptions, cover designs, literary connections and the surprising stories behind the 1,200 books in the world-famous list. Every title in the Black Classics series has an entry in the book and is illustrated by its original cover design.

Penguin Classics is the largest and best-known classics imprint in the world. From The Epic of Gilgamesh to the poetry of the First World War, and covering all the greatest works of fiction, poetry, drama, history and philosophy in between, this reader’s companion encompasses 500 authors, 1,200 books and 4,000 years of world literature.

Stuffed full of stories, author biographies, book summaries and recommendations, and illustrated with thousands of historic Penguin Classic covers, this is an exhilarating and comprehensive guide for anyone who wants to explore and discover the best books ever written.

Insights from the book:

Alexander Pope (1688 – 1744) read an illustrated edition of Homer at the age of eight, which inspired a lifelong passion for poetry. The publication of The Rape of the Lock confirmed him as one of the most celebrated poets of his age, but after the death of Queen Anne he was socially side-lined. His final masterpiece, The Dunciad, made him so generally unpopular that he never left home without a pair of loaded pistols and his Great Dane called Bounce.

Charles Kingsley (1819 – 1875) was an Anglican minister, chaplain to Queen Victoria and a private tutor to the Prince of Wales, the future Edward VII. As well as children’s books he wrote Christian socialist fiction and the historical novel Westward Ho!, after which a village has been named on the North Devon coast, the only place name in Britain with an exclamation mark.

Tsangnyön Heruka (1452 – 1507) was a tantric yogi, who called himself the ‘Madman of Tsang’ and the ‘King of the Blood-Drinkers’. He smeared his skin with cremation ashes and tied human fingers into his matted hair.

About the author

Henry Eliot has spent the past decade immersed in literature, working for creative industries and organising literary tours of all kinds. His projects have included a mass public pilgrimage inspired by William Morris for the National Trust; an interactive app edition of The Tempest featuring Ian McKellen; a recreation of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales to raise money for the National Literacy Trust; and a quest for the Holy Grail based on Malory’s Morte D’Arthur published. Eliot has spent months in the archives in Rushden while compiling The Penguin Classics Book, handling and documenting every first edition in the Black Classics series to produce a reader’s guide like no other.

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