My Little Black Books

During the weekend, at one of my local bookstores, I discovered these little gems – Penguin’s Little Black Classics.

To celebrate their 80th year, Penguin is releasing 80 short books by Classic writers. They are cute, little books that are about 50-60 pages long that cost only around $1.50.  Some are collections of short stories, folk tales, or fables; some are collections of spooky, and ghost stories. There are also collections of poems, stories on mythology, and excerpts of popular works of philosophy or Classic works of literature.  (You can find a complete list here).

I’m not a big fan of short stories / short fiction, but when I saw these little black books, I couldn’t resist.  I currently have 9 of the 80 books.  I don’t know if I want to collect all 80 – for now I’m just buying the ones I find interesting.

The ones I’ve bought so far:

  • No. 7- Wailing Ghosts (Pu Songling) – A collection of traditional Chinese ghost stories.
  • No. 16 – Travels in the Land of Serpents and Pearls (Marco Polo) – An excerpt from the author’s collection of tales from his travels.
  • No. 22 – How a Ghastly Story Was Brought to Light by a Common or Garden Butcher’s Dog (Johann Peter Hebel) – A collection of traditional German folk tales.
  •  No. 33 – Beautifull Casandra (Jane Austen) – A collection of funny short stories.
  • No. 39 – The Old Nurse’s Story (Elizabeth Gaskell) – 2 stories in 1; a ghost story, and a re-telling of a classic fairy tale.
  • No. 42 – The Yellow Wall-Paper (Charlotte Perkins Gilman) – A classic short story about a woman battling mental health issues.
  • No. 44 – The Meek One (Fyodor Dostoyevsky) – Based on a news story about a man who drives his wife to despair and suicide.
  • No. 63 – The Night Is Darkening Around Me (Emily Bronte) – A collection of poems.
  • No. 73 – The Fall of Icarus (Ovid) – From Daedalus and Icarus.

It’s so hard to decide which to read first, but I finally decided on starting with Elizabeth Gaskell’s The Old Nurse’s Story.  I didn’t get very far last night, but it reminds me a little of Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw, but only because it’s a ghost story that involves children.

These little books are perfect for people who love reading everywhere!  You can:

  1. Put 1 or 2 (or 3 or 4) in your bag without feeling like you’re carrying your weight in books on your back, and read it during your daily commute to work/school; read it during your lunch break, or while waiting around, etc.
  2. Leave it in your car for when you’re stuck in traffic, or if you’re a passenger, while riding around.
  3. Leave it in the bathroom for some interesting reading while you hide from the world.
  4.  Put it in strategic places around the house you tend to gravitate towards.
  5. Leave it on your bedside table to read when you don’t feel like reading the book you are currently reading.

The possibilities are endless!  Do you seriously need a reason?  Go out and buy these little books of happiness!

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6 thoughts on “My Little Black Books

  1. You remind me that we bought several of these delightful little books a few years ago (60pence in the UK). I’m not sure what’s happened to them all (think my daughter must have most)- I could only locate three this morning: The Murders in the Rue Morgue (Edgar Allan Poe), Mina Laury (Charlotte Bronte) and First and Last (Truman Capote). There were 60 on the list then, including incidentally The Yellow Wallpaper, and different offerings by Austen and Dostoevsky.

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