Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Jackets required

I've just seen these eyecatching covers for Penguin's Central European Classics series, out now in paperback. I wonder if the inspiration behind gray318's slightly retro designs - or, at least, the idea for branding the 10 books in this manner - comes from Harper Perennial's Classic Stories books, which also come in a fun little format (Herman Melville's The Happy Failure, pictured in part, also includes Bartleby, the Scrivener, mentioned in the post below).

I've always pretty much judged whether to buy a book by its cover, otherwise they wouldn't have them (pity those countries that don't rate jacket design). The name of the publisher, plot synopsis and review quotes all help me make up my mind in a bookshop (this is discounting the little bookbuying I do on the internet, largely due to recommendations from friends). One sure sign, in the past, used to be if there was a positive mention from Time Out, but the London magazine's resources have been so depleted, I'll have to find some other indicator of a good buy.

Penguin regularly finds ways to repackage its backlist - Essential Penguins, Red Classics and lately Deluxe Classics. Though obviously a marketing exercise, the publisher manages to inject enough verve to make the reprints worth more than a cursory look. I've only read a couple of these Central European Classics but would very highly recommend Karel Capek's satire, War With the Newts, while The Cowards is one of Josef Skvorecky's more minor works but enjoyable nonetheless. Now, which of the rest should I start with?

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