Friday, 4 August 2006

PUFFIN' PENGUINS

It's the 60th anniversary of Penguin Books and that is rightly the cause for much jubilation and celebration: especially for those of us who (when young and with limited resources) owed much of our entertainment and education to the irrepressible march of the penguins, puffins, pelicans, peacocks and ptarmigans…

It pains me, therefore, to have a bit of a rant at the headlined story in yesterday’s edition of The Times


I turned to the article - sorry, Lead Story - that took up four pages of the paper and went through the list in order to check off just how many of this essential 100 I’d actually read. I was determined to be completely honest and not to count Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep because I’d watched the movie version or Damon Runyon’s Guys and Dolls because I went and saw the musical…

My score?

A very modest 35 out of 100. Not even 50%!!

Hmmm!

I was, however, pleased to have read all five of 'The Best Spine-Tinglers' and four out of five of ‘The Best Laughs’, although I admit I did considerably less well on the categories of ‘Best Sex’, ‘Minxes’, ‘Adultery’ and ‘Debauchery’: which shows what a sad life I’ve lived - even when it comes to my reading habits!

But then I started worrying…

How can there possibly be a category called ‘Best Journeys’ that does not include J R R Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings or one designated ‘Best Science Fiction’ that doesn’t list Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. And, come to that, how did Steerpike - from Mervyn Peake’s Titus Groan and Gormenghast - get passed over when the ‘Best Villains’ list was being drawn up?

The answer is simple: Rings and F451 are published in paperback by HarperCollins and the Peake novels by the Overlook Press --- NOT, you will notice, by PENGUIN

So this list of THE 100 GREATEST BOOKS is really only an inventory of the THE 100 GREATEST PENGUIN BOOKS… And then possibly only maybe, since there are quite a few (some would have said) King Penguins missing from the flock including these two...



Oh, yes, and anything by Shakespeare!

As a result, now I don’t feel quite so bad about my score because I’ve read a great many more than 35 Penguin books in my life and I could probably rustle up as many again that could reasonably be called Great Books from the catalogues of other publishers.

So, my only remaining question is did Penguin pay for this premium coverage as in The Times or did the editor genuinely think this was a 'Lead Story' when - paid for or unpaid - it is, quite obviously nothing more than a puff piece for Penguin…

It’s possible - as others are doing - to visit TIMES ONLINE and ‘Have Your Say’ or you could just get on with reading a good book!

4 comments:

David Weeks said...

So maybe, rather than a puff for Penguin Books they should have done a 'lead story' on Puffin Books.

At least the 'puff' would then have alliterated, assonated and rhymed!

Cafrine said...

Be proud of your 35. I checked and I've read exactly 2, which is the worst I've ever done on one of these lists. I feel so ashamed.

I'd be interested to hear, Brian, what, say, your top ten greatest books of all time would be. We'll even let you pick books from every publisher and not limit you to simply Penguin Books.

Brian Sibley said...

You have to take my age into account when evaluating my score and the fact that for at least half the years of my youth we didn't have a TV, so books were my only major source of amusement...

As to my listing 'The Ten Greatest Books of All Time', that would be way too presumptuous an undertaking, since I KNOW that there are a great many (very probably) GREAT books that I've still not read - and will probably never will get around to reading...

But I'll think about what MY personal Top Ten titles would be - though it really wouldn't have any more value than anyone else's list...

Now, where to start...?

Diva of Deception said...

OK - went to the list and found out I'd read 23 without cheating in the way you explained (by knowing the film rather than the book).

Was quite surprised to find that many of those books were actually Penguin rather than any other publisher.

See my blog for my top ten all time books from anywhere...