Penguin Books, and the Importance of Accessible Literature

Over seventy years ago, a man named Allen Lane, who often took the train from Exeter train station, had found the reading material to be limited. He had asked the same question, time and again, the same question one would assume would always ask when trying to find something of value in their media.

Why is there nothing good to read?

At the time, in 1935, good books were just hard to find on the fly, especially decent ones. At said train station, and convenience stores, Lane had only found cheap pulp novels and magazines, and that is often not enough when trying to curb the boredom of traveling by a train (nothing really can, but still). Yet, Lane had had an inspired idea; why not utilize the same kind of physical production of the pulp novel, so called due to the paper of these books being made from the remaining pulp of better quality paper, and redistribute that to other forms of literature? Why could books like Great Expectations or The Canterbury Tales not be published in the same vein?

And so Penguin Books was born.

Established in 1935, Allen Lane wanted to produce and distribute quality and attractive looking books that could be “bought as easily and casually as a packet of cigarettes.” ( Penguin Books have been around ever since, in many forms and incarnations, but always with the same penguin on the spine. What Allen Lane gifted to many was the accessibility of literature, well known classics and a growing number of contemporary stories. I myself have several books, all from differing genres and time periods, all telling a different story. And none of these would have been as easy to get if it had not been for that little Penguin.

This month, we celebrate that ingenuity and the gift of stories, with our monthly display at Central Library, in the Center for the Reader. On our display, besides the little penguin, are several different pieces of fiction, all from different authors and times, from different walks of life, and even a few hardcovers.

So this month, please take the time to study these little books and look around our room for more of the penguin!

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