There comes a time in everyone's life when the best thing to do is to spend the weekend reading a damn good book and although most of us will pick up something modern and exciting, there are a few of us book lovers who have discovered the pure joy to be found in the $10 Penguin Classic. These books are a different breed to most, often vastly deep and intricate albeit sometimes a little dry they convey long lost lessons and confront you with alien concepts. These little orange books are well worth the extra effort they require to read and the following 5 books are what I consider to be some of the best (and most approachable) penguin classics.
1. The Picture of Dorian Gray - Oscar Wilde
The Picture of Dorian Gray was Oscar Wilde's only novel which is unfortunate because it is a work of literary genius. The stand out feature in this book is not the story but the way it is written. It uses such beautiful and intricate language that simply does not exist in our modern world. Wilde uses words that you would have forgotten could be used in every day speech and this book will fill you with an intense urge to speak to everyone as if you were constructing an elaborate, flowery poem. It's a short book and you could easily finish it in a weekend although I suggest having some post stick notes handy as there will be quotes you will want to mark for future reference.
2. Our Mutual Friend - Charles Dickens
A book about money and what it does to people, Our Mutual Friend is one of Dickens's most sophisticated novels and out of all of his works has the most commentary on social and psychological issues. Although it is most certainly an in depth piece of writing it is also a whimsical story told in true Dickens style. This is a book that will make you feel genuine warmth (and hatred) towards its quirky characters as well as a sense of intense curiosity as the plot surrounding a large inheritance unfolds.
3. Down and Out in Paris and London - George Orwell
The usual George Orwell book to make these lists is Nineteen Eighty-Four however that book is far from a nice weekend read so instead we have Down and Out. This is Orwell's autobiography documenting his time living in poverty in Paris and London. It is a fantastic book and easy to read since Orwell uses very straightforward language. This book will present you with a class of society you never really thought much about but by the end you'll find yourself siding with the tramps and dregs of British and French society. This is a short but very worthwhile read which will make you approach other Orwellian books with a slightly different perspective.
4. Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
This novel is satire at its finest. Catch 22 refuses to take itself seriously and you shouldn't either. This is a war novel of a different kind, it's funny witty and still thought provoking. This book is just one big joke and once you get the punch line it just seems to become funnier. Joseph Heller managed to write a war novel which unlike most, doesn't scare off the reader and that is a real accomplishment. I recommend this to be a feature of every gentleman's library.
5. The Jeeves Stories - P.G Wodehouse
There are a lot of Jeeves stories so it's best to just pick one book and go with it. These stories personify hilarious old English fun and anyone who reads them will later remember Jeeves with a chuckle and a fond smile. The basic plot is generally the same in all the stories. Wooster gets himself into trouble and Jeeves, the ever present, perfect English butler steps in and sorts everything out. This routine never seems to lack originality and Wodehouse has succeeded in making a lovable pair in Jeeves and Wooster. Since many of these stories are short they are great for a quick read. There is also a brilliant TV show based on the books for anyone who, like me, has a fondness for Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie.
There are obviously many worthy books not included in this list so please comment with your own suggestions. Happy reading guys!