The paperback Penguin Classics, with their nostalgic old Penguin covers, are now very familiar to book-buyers. Perhaps less familiar are the hardback ‘keepsake’ collectibles which have included Henry Handel Richardson’s The Getting of Wisdom, Helen Garner’s Monkey Grip and Joan Lindsay’s Picnic at Hanging Rock. The hardbacks are also recognizable as a family of books, their cloth cover designs by Adam Laszczuk done in a spare, bold fashion that is reminiscent of magazine illustration of the fifties. The colours also are distinctive – flat areas of black or grey or lemon playing against flat simple images in blocks of contrast. The edges of the pages are dyed to match the dominant colour of the book. Neat.
Now, in time for the Christmas market, Penguin have added four more of ‘Australia’s Favourite Books’: The Bodysurfers (Robert Drewe), A Fortunate Life (Albert Facey), The Tall Man (Chloe Hooper) and Cloudstreet (Tim Winton). All these books, three fiction, one non-fiction, are key parts of the literary landscape of Australia. Again the covers are very much part of the package. Particularly striking is the silhouette of the man carrying his horse on his back on the cover of A Fortunate Life. Irresistible is the teeny orange bikini top hanging from the white deck chair on The Bodysurfers.
If you are lucky enough to get all four in your stocking, be careful because they are likely to weight the stocking down, as the paper and binding are pretty heavy. But you won’t be taking them to the beach will you – these are collectible treasures to line up on the bookshelf and remind you to take your e-reader or your old battered copies out with you for joyful reading under the umbrella.