8 Must-Read Penguin Modern Classics

The Penguin Modern Classics series was launched in 1961 and comprises an ever-growing list of authors who have written/are writing in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The books included in this series express various truths and experiences of modern and contemporary life and take their readers on a journey that is often as much inward as outward. 

The Modern Classics series includes voices from across the spectrum of human existence and often includes ideas that hadn’t been able to find expression in literature before the twentieth century. Including various writing styles, narrative techniques and themes, this series is an ideal place for a reader to get acquainted with the shift that occurred in writing post the two world wars and beyond. Here’s a list of eight books that should be on your TBR from this ever-expanding collection.

Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin

Giovanni’s Room tells the story of an American living in Paris who falls in love with an Italian bartender Giovanni. Dealing with themes like the conflict between traditional morality and sexuality, guilt and shame, Giovanni’s Room is considered to be one of the finest novels written by Baldwin. 

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Set in America during the Jazz age, The Great Gatsby is both a love story as well as the tale of a man’s perusal of the great American dream. The titular character Jay Gatsby and the book’s themes have given it a sense of timelessness and the book continues to be enjoyed by readers today.

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Chinua Achebe’s debut novel Things Fall Apart deals with the intrusion of white missionaries into the life and culture of the Igbo people and the disastrous results this leads to. The book has been instrumental in changing the landscape of African literature and has been included in BBC’s list of “100 Novels that Shaped Our World.”

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Set in a South American community, Love in the Time of Cholera is the love story of Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza whose love comes to fruition after a lifetime of waiting, longing and despair. Described by The New York Times Book Review as “one of the greatest love stories ever told” and written in quintessential Marquez style, Love in the Time of Cholera is a book to be savoured.

Wild Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

Jean Rhys’ famous novel is set in Jamaica and is a retelling of the classic novel Jane Eyre from the perspective of Antoinette aka Bertha Mason, the woman in the attic. A feminist-postcolonial text, Wild Sargasso Sea is a must-read for everyone who loves Jane Eyre.

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John le Carre

Considered by many to be one of the greatest spy novels ever written, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold is le Carre’s masterpiece. The story of Alex Leamas, who is called for one last mission before he can return becomes a commentary not just on the nature of spying but also on what it means to be human. Published in 1963, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold was le Carre’s third book and it cemented his reputation as a writer.

Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

A slim book, Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway is the story of Clarissa Dalloway, a woman married to a British parliamentarian and the party she is due to give on the day the book takes place. It portrays her disillusion with the life she is living within the barriers of her class. The novel is considered to be one of the greatest works of Woolf and has inspired other novels in its wake.

A Passage to India by E. M. Forster

Considered by many to be Forster’s finest, A Passage to India deals with the complexity of relationships between the colonial and the colonised through characters like Dr Aziz, Fielding and Adela Quested. A meditation on the themes of racism, prejudice and colonialism, A Passage to India is a timeless classic.

Pick up any of these 8 Must-Read Penguin Modern Classics from any Kunzum store or WhatsApp +91.8800200280 to order. Buy the book(s) and the coffee’s on us.

Dr Sneha Pathak

About the Reviewer:-

Sneha Pathak has a PhD in English Literature and has taught at the collegiate and university level. She currently works as a freelance writer/translator. Her writings have appeared in various publications such as Muse India, Purple Pencil Project, The Wise Owl Magazine, The Curious Reader, Mystery and Suspense Magazine etc. She recently published her first book of translation, an anthology of stories translated from Hindi. Follow her here: Instagram

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