Gift Guide: Modern classics collections

We are back with another gift guide. This time we are focusing on modern classics collections.

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We are back with another gift guide. This time we are focusing on modern classics collections. These are the collections that you would want to show off on your bookshelves, because they are gorgeous, and because they show how great your reading taste is. Without further ado, let’s dive into six of our favourite modern classics collection.

Virago Modern Classics

The Virago Modern Classics collection has been around since 1978, dedicated to championing women writers (and showing off pretty covers that are originally textile designs). We would like to highlight that got (re)released this year — The Group by Mary McCarthy and Heartburn by Nora Ephron, who penned the screenplay for When Harry Met Sally. Heartburn is inspired by Nora Ephron’s own divorce and reads like a messy journal (in a good way). This is a very easy read — you can almost picture a character from Nora Ephron’s screenplays ranting the entire monologue to you. And you will definitely want to hear her story.

Now, about The Group, it is a book that is very frank about all topics relating to sex, which might explain why it was a banned book previously. It is also the book that Rory Gilmore was reading in Season 1, so if you are wondering why Rory was reading about sex — wait. It is not erotic but will definitely make you 1) feel amazed by the fact that this is a book from 1963, and 2) reflect how this is still as relatable now as it was in 1963. And most of all, Mary McCarthy did a great exploration of how diverse women’s paths could be, and there is not one path that we all have to take. We cannot wait to find out whether the Virago Modern Classics will have new titles next year.

Best of Granta

This August, Granta released a series called “Best of Granta”, and there are currently 8 titles out. The books in this series are all contemporary classics, such as Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill that was first published in 2014 and was shortlisted for many literary awards.

At 177 pages, Dept. of Speculation is a short read, but Jenny Offill manages to get readers hooked on page 1, as readers attempt to unravel who the narrator is. There is also so much wisdom packed in, such as quote from Hesiod and facts about sparrows. And you know what, the book has large enough margins that you can annotate to your heart’s content. Another favourite we have from this series is Vegetarian by Han Kang, but stay tuned for our Korean translated fiction round up to learn more about it!

Faber Editions 

First launched in 2021, there are currently 10 titles in the Faber Editions. This year saw the release of Termush by Sven Holm, and The Mountain Lion by Jean Stafford.

You might recall seeing the marketing campaign Termush on Twitter previously, which had many people fooled thinking there is an actual hotel. Unfortunately, there is no such thing but the descriptions in Termush are so vivid and the atmosphere is built so well that you would almost feel like you were sent to the dystopian hotel along with the characters. You’ll find yourself thinking about the “worst-case scenario” of Covid while reading Termush. As for The Mountain Lion, all we can say is that Jean Stafford did a wonderful job in portraying adolescence, how it can be difficult without the right adults with you, but how it can be even more difficult if you have peers growing up at different paces.

Picador Collection 

First started in 2022, the Picador Collection has grown quite a bit these two years. The collection has very simple white spines, but a pop of color to bring them to life. One of our favourites, A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, is part of this collection of modern classics and this book needs no introduction. It is a chunky read, but worth it all the same for this unforgettable story of 4 friends.

The rest of the collection is quite different from other modern classics series — some authors, such as Bret Easton Ellis, Cormac McCarthy, Oliver Sacks, and Don DeLillo, have multiple books under the Picador Collection.

Vintage Quarterbound series

A very new collection, the Vintage Quarterbound series only got released in October this year. These have colorful clothbound spines and the illustrations on the covers are pretty refreshing, which fit the titles well. There were nine titles out this year and there is a good mix of translated fiction, such as If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler, which is translated from Italian, and classics such as Catch-22. 

In particular, today we would love to highlight If on a Winter’s Night a Travelers. It serves as a wonderful addition to your “books about books” shelf. However, instead of spoiling you, we just want to rave about how great the first few pages already are — Italo Calvino laid out the instructions for a perfect reading session for us, including a reminder to pee(!). He then turned to “roast” how readers behave in bookstores. Isn’t that so fun?! As for Stoner by John Williams, it might seem like an unremarkable story following an unremarkable man called William Stoner but we guarantee it’s one of those books that will stay with you for a long time. In fact, we would even argue that we would put Stoner in the same category as A Little Life, in terms of the feels that we got. We definitely look forward to exploring more titles from this series.

Pushkin Classics 

The newest Pushkin Classics series also came out this year. The range is very diverse; from Japanese translated novel Coin Locker Babies, which we covered in our Japanese translated books round up, to the short story collection Hunger by Lan Samantha Chang, Pushkin Classics has a title for everyone.  Today we want to highlight The Unhappiness of Being a Single Man, which is a short story collection by Franz Kafka. The short stories are very short, some only half a page long but all very impactful. You will find yourself imagining Poseidon doing bookkeeping, reading about a mouse finding the world getting narrower, and thinking about the law as a physical object. While this short story collection is a quick read, we would encourage you to take the time to explore the meaning behind each fable, each tale. After all, you know what “Kafkaesque” means.

And as for Journey by Moonlight, to keep it short, perhaps this is one of the reasons why we love the Pushkin Classics collection so much. This is translated from Hungarian, and while we have shown our love for Japanese translated books before, we definitely need to keep diversifying our reading tastes. And while the main theme covered in this book, i.e. nostalgia for our youths, is universal, you will definitely treasure the many great settings that this book is based in. We can’t wait to read more titles from the Pushkin Classics collection.

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