Penguin Essentials are “some of the twentieth-century’s most important books. When they were first published they changed the way we thought about literature and about life. And they have remained vital reading ever since.”
I’m sure you’ll agree that they make an interesting collection of modern classics, and pictured below are some of the titles in this series.
The good folk at Penguin recently ran a little competition for book-bloggers to suggest some titles for an imagined selection of essentials for the noughties. Which books that were published between 2000 and 2010 would we recommend for a new 21st century series (not necessarily Penguin titles).
I took up the challenge, but decided to limit myself to books I had actually read. Here are my picks, and read on for my own competition/giveawat at the bottom of this post …
- The Road by Cormac McCarthy (2006) – Prizewinning – and a strangely beautiful read for a book set during a nuclear winter, and one of the saddest stories I’ve ever read.
- The Good Man Jesus & the Scoundrel Christ by Philip Pullman (2010) – Controversial – A master storyteller pares the plot of the ‘greatest story ever told’ down to the bones, and finds something new in it.
- Winter’s bone by Daniel Woodrell (2006) – A new kind of noir – In a mere 193 pages, you get a icy clear picture of the hard life in the brutal winter of the Ozark mountains. Although there’s little cheer, the teenaged heroine Ree has a true pioneer spirit and you root for her from page one on her quest to find her Pa.
- Never let me go by Kazuo Ishiguro (2005) – Speculative – This spare and unsettling novel is set in a near future that could so easily happen.
- Let the Right One in by John Ajvide Lindqvist (2004) – Simply the best vampire novel I’ve read, and I’ve read a lot of them. (2004)
- Remarkable creatures by Tracy Chevalier (2009) – Ground-breaking women – The fictionalised story of Mary Anning and the Victorian fossil hunters. Chevalier really brings her characters and the period to life. My favourite of her novels.
- The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery (2008) – Very French – The French have a tradition of philosophical novels, and this one following the inhabitants of a Parisian apartment block is no exception. Utterly charming.
- Old filth by Jane Gardam (2004) – At the height of her powers – The story of a retired judge who was an orphan of the Raj. Funny, moving and understated.
- The time traveller’s wife by Audrey Niffenegger (2003) – A phenomenon – This book does required persistence at first to get into, but within about fifty pages I was hooked. The first book for ages back then that made me cry.
- The Uncommon reader by Alan Bennett (2007) – National Treasure – Pure wit and whimsy but as it features Her Maj will have staying power. A perfect little read, and I giggled out loud all the way through.
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Now to my competition/giveaway…
What book originally published between 2000 and 2010 would you add to my list, and why?
It’s not really a competition as I will pick winners at random until I get homes for all the prizes. Thanks to the lovely folk at Penguin, I have eight of the current Penguin Essentials series to giveaway … the titles on offer are those you saw at the top of the page, repeated below. Pick which title you prefer, or go for a lucky dip. I will send worldwide, (surface outside Europe).
- Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
- On the Road by Jack Kerouac
- Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons
- A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
- Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote
- Out of Africa by Karen Blixen
- A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
- Cats Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut