Book-a-palooza: Penguin’s Great Ideas

I meant to unveil one book-a-palooza post a day, but I got impatient. All the text and pictures were ready, I couldn’t resist dumping them all at once. 

And if these Penguins don’t interest you (!) scroll down there are plenty of other book treasures that follow.

I saved the best Book-a-palooza post for last.

Some of you may remember my obsession in getting all 20 volumes of the Penguin English Journey’s series. Well obssessions ran amok on my recent trip to London. As you saw earlier, I couldn’t help buying almost all of the Penguin Great Loves series. But far crazier was my last minute decision to acquire all 100 volumes in the Great Ideas series.

What possessed me? I already owned two that I had picked up a year ago at an English bookshop in Den Haag. And then when I was in the original Daunt Books on Marylebone High Street on a rainy Friday night a few weeks ago, I picked up a copy of Nationalism just because I loved the cover (see below).

Later that weekend right before drifting off to jet-lag enhanced slumber I noticed that the volume was numbered and that there are 100 books in the series. One thing led to another and our last full day in London I found myself in Daunt Books on Fulham Road where I managed to snag about 45 volumes in one fell swoop. But this still left fifty-some still to buy. As we wended our way across central London that day I called in at every new bookshop we passed to see if they had more of them. The giant Waterstone’s at Picadilly. Nothing. At the fantastically wonderful Hatchards just a few doors down from that, not one to be found. Foyles on Charing Cross Road, another goose egg. I was starting to despair, the helpful folks at Hatchards explained that they once had them all in one section but after the original promotion they put them into general stock which made them worse than a needle in a haystack given the time I had left. Then, after almost not even going in, I walked into the Blackwell’s on Charing Cross Road and asked at the information counter. He pointed me toward a full display of the whole series. Earlier at Daunt I had noted down all the numbers that were still missing. I took that list and started grabbing the ones I needed off the shelf. I soon had to enlist John’s help to hold the ones I was going to buy as I went through my numbered list. Within five minutes John had about 52 books in his arms. I had managed to find all the volumes that were missing. I couldn’t believe my luck. Finding all missing 97 volumes in one day. The best part is that Blackwells had them on sale 3 for the price of 2!

And let me tell you, they are beautiful. Most of covers have some element of embossed design. Some are very intricate and some are extremely simple. Below are a selection of my favorites.

Penguin knows at least two things: 1) Pretty covers matter; and 2) Create a numbered series and OCD book collectors will spend way too much money, like climbing Everest, just because it is there.

Can you spot the rainbow of Great Ideas on the top shelf?

The cover that started it all for me.

26 thoughts on “Book-a-palooza: Penguin’s Great Ideas

  1. Teresa November 30, 2010 / 10:31 pm

    I have that Ruskin one, purchased in honor of/preparation for his home in the Lake District! It is indeed beautiful, and I completely understand the desire to have them all. It's also a great concept for a series, the words of the great thinkers, but in small, nonthreatening doses.


  2. Mystica November 30, 2010 / 10:37 pm

    I am glad for you as I can feel the love and enthusiasm coming through thousands of miles away!


  3. Randall November 30, 2010 / 11:38 pm

    This is the first I have heard of these wonderful, beautiful books. WANT.


  4. Daniel-Halifax November 30, 2010 / 11:39 pm

    LOVE rabindranath tagore…this is the first time i've seen him on a blog other than my own! that cover is a show stopper.


  5. bookssnob December 1, 2010 / 12:07 am

    Oh my goodness, Thomas! When you shop, you SHOP! Those books are beautiful though, and it's hard to resist when such designs are placed before you. I have seen these quite frequently and thought about getting one, but never did. Now I am desperate to get my hands on them! Lucky, lucky you!


  6. Melody December 1, 2010 / 1:46 am

    Beautiful books! I'm loving all your pictures of books and book stores.


  7. novelinsights December 1, 2010 / 5:18 am

    Beautiful! I am now scouting for a copy of A Room of One's own so maybe I can keep my eyes peeled for this edition.


  8. LifetimeReader December 1, 2010 / 8:12 am

    I am so envious! Next time I go book shopping, I'll have to take you with me!


  9. JoAnn December 1, 2010 / 1:09 pm

    It's a good thing I'm reading this at home… I'm drooling over all the photos!!


  10. makedoandread December 1, 2010 / 2:19 pm

    I have a few of those, but I had no idea there were so many in the series. What beautiful covers!


  11. Paperback Reader December 1, 2010 / 3:39 pm

    You don't do things by halves, do you, Thomas?! I only have the 'Why I Write' by George Orwell from that series although I spy the Penguin Great Loves collection, of which I own in a complete boxset.


  12. Amy December 1, 2010 / 4:26 pm

    Ooooohhhhhh beautiful!! I'm drooling just a little bit here! ALSO LOVE seeing Chinua Achebe there :)


  13. Brenna December 1, 2010 / 5:40 pm

    These look fabulous! I'm happy you were able to track down the complete collection. Enjoy!


  14. pickygirlfoodfilmfiction December 1, 2010 / 6:02 pm

    Gorgeous. I mean, beautiful. I'm hoping to get Lowe's gift cards instead of presents for Christmas so I can make a wall of bookshelves.

    I LOVE yours. And the books? To die for.


  15. Susan in TX December 1, 2010 / 7:34 pm

    All I can say is, “Shazam!” If I brought in that many new ones at once, I think it would send me into a tailspin of activity reorganizing my book shelves. :) A wonderful collection, and beautiful pics — thanks for sharing them with us.


  16. Thomas at My Porch December 1, 2010 / 10:07 pm

    Teresa: Nonthreatening doses is right. I think Ruskin has more than one title in this series.

    Mystica: I'm glad it came through.

    Randall: Aren't they amazing. Also amazing is the fact that you are from a place called Petal.

    Daniel: I must admit I bought it for the cover. But since reading the blurb on the back cover I am very interested in the contents.

    Rachel: I definitely got the shopping bug that day.

    Melody: Glad you liked it.

    Polly: Make sure it is unabridged. I know some of these are abridged.

    Lifetime: Usually I am the model of restraint.

    JoAnn: They are fun to look at.

    Make do: Which ones do you have?

    Claire: I wish my Great Loves was a box set.

    Amy: I am looking forward to the Achebe.

    Brenna: They were a lot of fun to collect.

    Picky Girl: I wish I had the talent to actually build a bookshelf.

    Susan: I played with these for a few days before I found the right place for them. Still not sure I have them in their final resting spot.


  17. Ti December 2, 2010 / 1:13 pm

    I am in love with the Orwell cover.


  18. LifetimeReader December 3, 2010 / 1:03 pm

    Is that Anthony Powell I see on the left side of the top shelf? Have you read him? I love your taste in books otherwise and would be curious to hear what you think. (Or have you reviewed it already somewhere?)


  19. Care December 5, 2010 / 10:16 am

    Those ARE beautiful!


  20. Ash December 6, 2010 / 12:45 am

    I think I just had a Penguingasm.


  21. Frances December 6, 2010 / 9:15 pm

    Love your OCD ways! Just lovely. Good design means so much. And Penguin definitely understands that.


  22. kissacloud January 1, 2011 / 2:44 pm

    The Great Ideas series is so covetously gorgeous. I aim to get them one by one, how lucky you, all at the same time!


  23. Thomas at My Porch January 3, 2011 / 3:42 pm

    Ti: I was also particularly drawn to that cover.

    Ted: They are wonderful aren't they?

    Lifetime: It is AP on the shelf. Haven't read them yet. I am thinking about tackling them this year.

    Care: Hard to resist.

    Ash: LOL

    Frances: I am just glad I was able to find them all. Who knows if I would have slept otherwise.

    Claire: They will be fun to collect. But may get more challenging as time goes on. I am not sure thy are still printing them. I think they may have been a one off for Penguin's 75th.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.