There are plenty of cheap editions of classic books around, but some of us prefer good looking paperbacks that can be read more than once without falling apart. Big publishers like Penguin and Harper have some great deluxe editions that provided me with the perfect excuse to re-read some classic titles.
With To Kill a Mockingbird, her one and only novel, Harper Lee managed to write one of the strongest and most successful literary debuts ever, which is as relevant now, almost fifty years later, as it was when it was first published in 1960.
Eloquently narrated by young miss Jean Louise Finch, better known as Scout, the novel focuses on the life of the Finch family in the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama, during the time of the Great Depression, and centers around the case of Tom Robinson, a black man wrongfully accused of raping a white woman. Atticus, a lawyer and Scout’s father, is called upon to defend him, from which the obvious tensions and troubles ensue.
Delving deep into the heart of Alabama, To Kill a Mockingbird beautifully but also mercilessly depicts the two faces of this southern state, with on the one hand the good, the hospitable, and the well-mannered side that the Bible Belt is generally known for, and on the other its dark and horrid side of blatant racism, and should be regarded as absolutely essential reading for anyone interested in American life.
Told from the perspective of eighteen year old Mary Katherine Blackwood, We Have Always Lived In The Castle tells the story of the (remnants of the) Blackwood family, who live in a remote and gothic mansion near a bland and nameless town. Together with her cat Jonas, her sister Constance, and an old uncle named Julian—who aside from Constance is the only survivor of a fatal family dinner six years past—Mary lives in her own secluded world, shunned and despised by the townspeople who simultaneously envy the family’s wealth and fear the veil of death that shrouds them. With Mary’s romantic—though morbid—neuroticism on the one hand and the villagers’ envious and fearful cruelty on the other, the reader is drawn into a world that is both tender and harsh, providing not only a fantastical escape from, but also a relentless mirror to, our own.