Sunday, 8 November 2009

Penguin Modern Classics


Do you remember my silver bookshelf? If you do (or if you click on the link to refresh your memory) you will know that I possess silver Penguin Modern Classics in abundance and have more than an entire shelf-full. Of the newer white Penguin Modern Classics I have only added three -photographed above- to my collection this year and two only because they are new releases and unavailable in the silver.

I do like the new white Penguins but mainly for their tactility; the paper is pleasant to the touch and I like the matte finish. Aesthetically though I prefer the glossy silver Penguins. I have tried to convey with my choices above the richness and diversity of the cover art (photographs and paintings) available in the silver; in my opinion the bottom Penguins pop more as they are vivid and striking whilst the white ones above are muted. Granted, the white ones have a more classic and uniform design and I do like the boldness of the author and title. I'm not sure ... is it change that I am averse to? I admire Penguin's development through the years and their trailblazing progress in book cover design but are the white Penguins really more modern and fresh than the silver? Are we as consumers more attracted to an understated, classic design nowadays or do we not judge by the book cover at all?


23 comments:

Juliet said...

I also like the quality of the paper in the new ones, but don't like the artwork so much as the silver ones, or the previous pale jade green ones which had fab black and white photos on the covers and look very distinctive on a shelf. As they reinvent the covers every few years, most of us will be destined to have a mixture.

I am the first to admit that a good cover will help to influence me into buying a book, but of course it's what's inside that ultimately matters, and the penguin modern classics list is pretty brilliant.

kimbofo said...

This year I decided to start collecting the Penguin Modern Classics range - the matt white ones. I've got about 25 in total now. Not only do they look gorgeous, I reckon you can't go wrong in terms of the quality of the writing. I've enjoyed so many classic 20th century novels this year, including Muriel Spark, Shirley Jackson, Sam Selvon, Randolph Stow and George Orwell.

I've got a few silver ones... but do you remember the pale green ones, which pre-date the silver?

kimbofo said...

Hahaha, Juliet beat me to it re: the green covers. Her comment wasn't here when I wrote mine, so we must have been commenting at the same time!

Annabel Gaskell said...

Claire - the post from Juliet was actually from me - my daughter was logged on to check her email!
Cheers
Annabel

Paperback Reader said...

Haha, thanks for the explanation, Annabel! I am definitely destined to have a mixture (I have some of the pale green covers) and resign myself to that. The paper is high quality (or feels like it) but ultimately for me it is style over matter (excluding content)!

The Penguin list is brilliant and recently there are so many obscure titles I have come across that I wouldn't have if it wasn't for the strength of the publisher.

Kim, some of the titles you have acquired have intrigued me and your reviews of some Penguin Modern Classics have brought to my attention titles that I was oblivious to e.g. The Shiralee. Penguin Modern Classics have become synonymous with quality writing.

I have some of the pale green ones but not as many as the silver and imagine that the whites will be added to (I have one at the top of my wishlist currently - The Cat Inside by William Burroughs).

anothercookiecrumbles said...

To be honest, I prefer the white ones to the silver ones. Like you said, it's something about the boldness of the author and title.

Also, I'm a sucker for matte over glossy. Photographs, books, laptop displays, etc.

I have a few of the silver ones, but I think have far more of the newer white ones.

Paperback Reader said...

anothercookie, I think the white ones will grow on me. I like a mixture of matte and glossy, like my macbook :).

savidgereads said...

I am unashammed to admit that I am a cover fan. I know that you cant see them when they end up on your TBR pile or you bookshelves but they very much can when you are on the tub eor even in the lounge when no one is around. I had to hunt down a different cover from the cheapest amazon version of book group book especially. Worrying isnt it ha.

I will say I prefer the overs on the new white penguins I am not sure why they just seem much more classic and modern all at once and completely agree with you on the feel. I wonder what the next rebranded/repacked series will look like?

farmlanebooks said...

I used to select books on their cover, but now almost all of the books I buy are via blogger recommendation, so the cover has no influence at all.

I do like it when a preety cover drops through my letter box, but it isn't the most important thing to me.

Paperback Reader said...

Simon, we are very similar - I'm a sucker for a pretty cover! I will hunt down specific ones I want too, which is worrying but at least now we both know that we're not alone!

I think it will be some time until the new rebranding but Penguin designs are always so exciting.

Jackie, we definitely differ in that respect: even if I am buying online after a recommendation, I will search for the prettiest cover! Book design is very important to me although, as you say, not the most important thing, but it is a factor I consciously consider.

Rachel said...

My favourite penguins are the old pale green ones with the pictorial covers. I have a fair few of those and I love the faded beauty of them. I just like old books. While I have a few silver penguins that I've picked up over the years, my favourites will always be the pale green and the original orange and white stripe. The new white ones are very nice and very striking but they don't beat the classic pale green in my opinion!

Paperback Reader said...

Rachel, I am very attached to my pale green edition of Lolita - I love the cover art! I unashamedly prefer new books but every so often I love adding an old Penguin to the mix as they are such elegant and timeless books.

Kathleen said...

Thanks to you and Eva at A Striped Armchair I now notice covers and the colors of my books! I have gone so far as to arrange all of my white and cream books together. Next I will tackle blues and greens!

Karen said...

Like so many others I'm often attracted to a book because of it's cover - I know it's something I "shouldn't" do but the look of the book on the outside does impact on my reading of the inside. I love the new Penguins too - love the matte and the striking look.

Megan said...

I just came across your blog via a recommendation from Books of Mee--I LOVE your bookshelves! I did something similar last year!

Paperback Reader said...

Kathleen, I'm looking forward to seeing them (hope you post photos)! I've become more conscious of book colours now. I acquired a new book through nonsuch book and was excited to realise it is purple! Hoping to accumulate enough to create purple shelf.

Karen, it doesn't make us superficial to literally judge a book by its cover. Publishers wouldn't spend so much time and money to invest into the branding of their books if they didn't know that it sells them. I love book cover posts :).

Hi Megan, thanks for commenting! I love your shelves and hope to have all of mine like yours one day. I meant to mention in your comments that I agree it's far easier to find a book than people think.

Vintage Reading said...

I picked up that Nancy Mitford in a London bookstore recently and I really wanted it because the cover was so striking. I resisted because I've already got two editions sitting on my bookshelves!

Have you read the Wide Sargasso Sea? Love that book.

fleurfisher said...

I loved the silver editions, but I can't deny that the new covers are striking. What disappoints me though, is that this new design lacks any common element with the design used for the older classics.

Paperback Reader said...

Nicola, I pounced on the Mitford copy when I found it in a secondhand bookshop earlier this year; it was completely justified as I didn't have a copy and don't like the branding of the new editions.

I love Wide Sargasso Sea too! It's the only Jean Rhys novel I've read yet although I have a couple more on the silver shelf. It seems to be a love-hate book but I'm definitely in the former camp.

Jane, I agree that there is no cohesion between the new and old designs. I love the retro stripes and the merchandise you can now purchase devoted to the iconic design.

mee said...

I can't help it. I love the new covers! I like matte finishing a lot more than glossy one as well. I have to admit that the actual photograph of the old ones might work better in some cases. The Achebe's one for example. The new ones do look a bit uniformed, don't they?

Paperback Reader said...

mee, that's one of my main issues with the new covers (I do love the matte): the lack of wow-factor of the photos. I included my copy of Things Fall Apart because I think its photograph is one of the most striking. I remember being in a bookshop when I was about 21yo, before I'd ever heard of Achebe, and seeing that cover; I was hooked by it and wanted to know more. A couple of years later I studied the novel at Uni using that same copy. The new Penguin cover doesn't compare: http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/book/9780141186887/Things-Fall-Apart

claire said...

I love both the silvers and whites. I think it has to do with the photograph being used. For example, that silver Achebe you have is much more striking than the photo used on the white. While Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse has a more striking photograph on the white than on the silver.

I do admit that the white covers have the strongest design. I actually splurged on Garcia Marquez's Cholera and One Hundred Years, because I couldn't resist the gorgeous covers. Even if I already had hardcovers of both. Crazy, I know. All for the love of covers. Lol.

Paperback Reader said...

Claire, for the love of covers, indeed!

I actually prefer the silver photograph for To the Lighthouse - I love pebbles :). I think it is to do with the quality of the photograph and personal preference; the white covers are too subtle for me, albeit classic and elegant.