Penguin Editor Jessica Harrison recommends 5 lesser-known books from the highly anticipated new set of the Penguin English Library. See the full series.
I’d always avoided Jack London’s stories, assuming they were for those with warm feelings towards animals. That was a mistake because they turn out to be brilliant. ‘To Build a Fire’ and ‘Love of Life’, in which everyman protagonists, dogs and wolves fight for survival in the American wilderness, are as gripping and relentless as thrillers and written in terse, diamond-hard prose. Not just for dog-lovers after all.
This novella scandalized readers in the 1890s with its aura of decadent horror and descriptions of sexy pagan magic. Stephen King called it ‘one of the best horror stories ever written’, while Mick Jagger is a fan of ‘The Novel of the White Powder’, a demented tale of drug-addled madness. Both are included in this entertaining collection of Machen’s best stories.
One of the funniest and darkest satires ever written about the American Dream, West’s novel reimagines 1930s Hollywood as a kind of Bosch-inspired vision of hell, as seen through the eyes of neophyte set-designer Tod Hackett.
Bonus trivia: The novel features a hopeless loser called Homer Simpson – later the inspiration for Springfield’s most famous resident…
Elizabeth von Arnim wrote this delightful, semi-autobiographical novel while living in a remote part of Germany with her domineering, much older husband and five children. A massive hit from first publication, the book argues that women need a garden (and preferably a retinue of gardeners) of their own just as much as a room.
Guillermo del Toro has been trying to make this Antarctica-set story of madness and horror into a movie for years, but the studios won’t let him make it as scary as it needs to be to do justice to the source material. In the meantime, this novella is the ideal introduction to the father of modern horror.