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5 lesser-known books to read from the Penguin English Library series

Penguin Editor Jessica Harrison recommends 5 lesser-known books from the highly anticipated new set of the Penguin English Library. See the full series.

The Call of the Wild

Jack London

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. 

 

The Great God Pan

Arthur Machen

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.

 

The Day of the Locust 

Nathanael West

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 and her German Garden

Elizabeth Von Arnim

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.

 

At the Mountains of Madness

H.P. Lovecraft

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.  

 


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