A month-long celebration of favourite non-fiction reads
Nonfiction November is an annual challenge to read, critique and discuss non-fiction books through the most autumnal of months. The five hosts will each in turn post a different themed discussion prompt every Monday. This week’s topic is introduced by Julie at JulzReads (12th–16th – November).
Julie has asked us to: “…either share three or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), …put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert).”
I have opted to create my own list of books on the topic of Penguin (the publisher not the bird) in the hope of becoming an expert:
BECOMING THE EXPERT
Co-founded in 1935 by brothers Allen, Richard and John Lane, Penguin is a British publishing house with a fascinating history. The company revolutionised reading in the 1930s by producing inexpensive, high-quality paperbacks for the masses, which were sold for sixpence in Woolworths and other high-street shops. It became famous for its simple design of three horizontal bands (or ‘horizontal grid’) in varying colours depending on genre (orange and white for general fiction, green and white for crime fiction, dark blue and white for biographies etc.). Now an imprint of the international Penguin Random House, it has become one of the largest English-language publishers in the world.
The book I would most like to find under my tree this Christmas is the newly published The Penguin Classics Book by Henry Eliot – the Creative Editor at Penguin Classics. Described on the website as “a reader’s companion to the largest library of classic literature in the world”, encompassing “500 authors and 1,200 books,” it is apparently brought to life with “lively descriptions, literary connections and beautiful cover designs.” I experience psychogenic book buzz merely thinking about plunging into its 480 fact and design-rich pages.
There follows a brief list of books I intend to read at some point to develop my Penguin ‘expertise’ (plus a few links to features of interest). Sadly, some of these publications are out of print, so I will be compelled to scour the second-hand stores.
A Penguin Collector’s Companion by R. Edwards
A Sort of Dignified Flippancy: Penguin Books, 1935-60 by S. Wood
Allen Lane, King Penguin: A Biography by J.E. Morpurgo
Fifty Penguin Years: Exhibition Catalogue
Penguin by Design: A Cover Story 1935-2005 by Phil Baines
Penguin Portrait: Allen Lane and the Penguin Editors, 1935-1970 by Steve Hare
Penguins March On: Books for the Forces During World War II by J. Pearson
The Life and Times of Allen Lane by Jeremy Lewis
The Paperback Revolution by Hans Schmoller
The Penguin Classics Book by Henry Eliot
The Penguin Collector 90 edited by James Mackay
This Once Was Us: The Life and Death of Penguin Education edited by Jonathan Croall
History of Penguin archive – The Telegraph
Pelican books take flight again – The Guardian
Penguin and Random House merger to create biggest book publisher ever seen – The Guardian
Penguin paperback cover designs – V&A Museum
Penguin’s pioneering publisher – who never read books – The Telegraph