It's so exciting


Earlier today I stopped by Frances's Sunday Salon post, in which she links to some GORgeous cover art and an interview with its creator, one David Pearson. Man, his stuff is good-looking. And it turns out that, before he quit his job at Penguin, he was involved with a super-cool project I hadn't known about previously: the Penguin Great Ideas series.


It is no secret in my social circle that I have a weakness for appealing "setups": matching sets, coordinated collections, appealingly-packaged kits and contraptions. I got so excited about these beautifully-curated, bite-size chunks of philosophy that I woke David out of a sound sleep just so I could share the wonder with him.


You know what I think? I think anything that makes me psyched to read Francis Bacon (not to mention willing to read Henry David Thoreau) is pretty great. Of course I started building castles in the clouds around the idea of reading all eighty volumes in this series (there are twenty each in the red, blue, green and purple lines), but I thought I would start small and order the first four books of the first series to begin. That's Seneca's "On the Shortness of Life," Marcus Aurelius's "Meditations," St. Augustine's "Confessions of a Sinner" (which I read in my senior seminar in college, and which my thesis buddy would probably faint if she knew I'm planning to re-read), and Thomas à Kempis's "The Inner Life."


With a few exceptions, none of these are pieces I've ever considered reading. Three or four of them I've read before, five or six more I've had excerpted in college readers, but many more I've never even heard of - and that's actually one of the most exciting parts to me. In addition to the beautiful covers and appealing setup-ness of it all, I love the idea of reading philosophy essays in a curated environment, one that puts them into dialog with each other and juxtaposes something totally predictable with something that hits you out of the blue.


(Um, hits you out of the blue like murder and air raids? I didn't really intend that to happen.)

Anyway, hopefully I'll start reviewing these beauties quite soon. I'm really racking up the reading projects, but another one's still so exciting!


  • Aahhhhh.. bad Emily!! You just made me add so many title to my wish list!!!

    I've also only read very few of these pieces, and all for philosophy classes in university.

    Now, since you're starting with the first four, does this mean you're actually going to go through ALL of them one by one?

    I've already added the Seneca, too, and the Marco Polo, and Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling, to the very top of my wish list. Possibly getting them in a month or so.. hee hee.

  • You make it so easy to love you. Gorgeous post and thanks for the link love. Series 1,2 3, and 4 is a lot of great ideas to get through but I have faith in both of us - in both our analytical skills and our acquisitive ones. I have not posted on these as I have read them, and I am not sure why. I still find that I hide part of my reading life from my blog, and there is really no sound reason for it as you demonstrate here every day. So maybe, if you don't mind, I will post on some too?

  • *sigh*

    I hope everyone I know just gives me money for Christmas, so that I can buy books, books, and more fabulous books!!

  • Claire: Haha, sorry/you're welcome for adding to the list! :-) Well, I don't want to set myself up for burnout by saying for sure that I'm GOING to read all 80 of them...but I might end up doing it! I thought I would just order four at a time for as long as I'm interested, and hopefully my acquisitiveness (as Frances so astutely points out) will keep me wanting the next installment. :-)

    Frances: Absolutely! Which ones do you have? Which ones have you read? I'll be so excited to compare notes when & if our Great Ideas reading starts to overlap! And aww, thanks for the nice words.

    Sarah: No kidding! People always have to badger me for non-book-related Christmas presents. :-)

  • Oh, I've seen these at the bookstores! They look wonderful (but are too pricey for me to collect). They are intimidate me quite a bit, despite the slimness. Nietzsche's name alone scares me. But now that I've gotten over my fear of 'N' and have read more closely into your post, I see that there are some wonderful ones too. The Proust sounds interesting - I love reading about reading (hence my obsession with Alberto Manguel).

    Anyway, I looked up the complete list of titles, and turns out I've read a grand total of two: A Room of One's Own and Why I Write. So many of them I've studied, but not read - Marx & Engels, Rousseau, Machiavelli, Hobbes...

    Emily, I think you've got me hooked on a new project :)

  • Those are pretty. I especially like the green ones.

  • These are gorgeous!!! And I've never heard of most of these! I think I need to seek some out.

  • Tuesday: I'm really looking forward to the Proust - I absolutely love In Search of Lost Time, but I've never read any of his essays. And "Thoughts on Peace in an Air Raid" is something of Woolf's I've never read - which is getting hard to come across! There are certain ones I'm not looking forward to as well, but who knows? Maybe they'll surprise me.

    Stefanie & Isabella: Aren't they lovely? I can't wait for my first four to arrive!

  • These books are lovely. I would like to see all eighty lined up on a shelf or four shelves with one color series to each shelf.

    This is so me too: It is no secret in my social circle that I have a weakness for appealing "setups": matching sets, coordinated collections, appealingly-packaged kits and contraptions.

    In fact, I wrote a story (not published yet)about this kind of a predilection. Its title is "Little Things."

  • Augustine is one of my least-favorite "important" writers ever (my definition of hell: having to read his story about the stealing of the pears one more time), but that's what happens when you get assigned to read the Confessions for two or three classes in a row. Oddly enough, I'm still looking forward to tackling his City of God one of these days...even though Orosius' 7 Books of History Against the Pagans has a way-cooler title! In other words, nice post, Emily, especially since I just became aware of this series this past weekend in a Boston bookshop (a little unsolicited trivia for you, my reading pal). P.S. Naturally, I also hope you're brutally honest when it comes time for that Thoreau review of yours! :)

  • Cynthia: Glad to know I'm not alone in my weakness for setups. I imagine it could be rich fodder for a psychological portrait in fiction!

    Richard: Stealing the pears! Oh man, I know what you mean. Well, we'll see how this goes - and I think we'll all be in for a treat if I get as far as Thoreau!

  • Wow, that series sounds great and looks great too! I can see why those books would make you want to read some pretty unlikely people.

  • I've been doing some research on the best way to get ahold of these books - it seems the only place you can get all of them is direct from Penguin UK, although a couple are available through Amazon and The Book Depositry - where are you getting them from? Just curious. :)

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    link to Wolves 2011 reading list
    link to more disgust bibliography