About the Penguin Vitae series
I’m enjoying reading a few of the new titles in the deluxe Penguin Vitae series that was first released in early 2020 (belatedly making its way to Oz).
The series title ‘Penguin Vitae‘ loosely translates to “Penguin of one’s life” (which is gorgeous imagery by the way, and I really want to have the ‘penguin of my life’ as a personal companion now). Its conception was apparently sparked by the question “What classic books would you place together on a shelf to represent the course of your life”.
Penguin’s answer to this question includes “a diverse world of storytellers from the past” that speak to us “at pivotal chapters of our lives and connects a community of readers across time and space” [quotes from the Penguin Classics Instagram account]. Which is just a fancy way of saying that apparently this is the first time that the Penguin Classics ‘brand’ has released a series that specifically features writing on race, gender and LGBTQ issues – and the fact that Penguin and others are working hard to diversify the understanding of what makes a ‘classic’ novel and make it more inclusive is excellent progress.
Penguin Vitae Design Features
This is another series designed by talented Penguin creative director Paul Buckley, and these hardbacks have a number of lovely features, including metallic foil stamped on the covers and spines, along with delightful illustrated endpapers. As part of the Penguin Classics brand, the volumes also have valuable introductions and or/notes to assist with getting the most out of your reading. For shelf size reference, the books are slightly larger than the standard black spine or Sisterhood Collection paperback classics and just marginally smaller than the Penguin Classics Deluxe and Penguin Galaxy editions. Pages are acid-free, but the binding is (sigh) glued.
The represent a diverse selection of contemporary writers, and I have also listed anticipated future releases below which are available for preorder. The series includes fiction, non-fiction and poetry and there will likely be some interesting titles here that you don’t already have in a nice edition if you’re looking to expand your library in this direction.
List of books in the Penguin Vitae series
Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya, foreword by Erika Sánchez, introduction by the author.
ISBN 9780143137221, Mar 2022
Hemingway’s classic novel of post-war disillusionment.
The smallest bit of good can stand against all the powers of evil in the world.– Rudolfo Anaya, Bless Me, Ultima
The Color Purple by Alice Walker, foreword by Kiese Laymon
A powerful cultural touchstone of modern American literature.
ISBN 9780143137047, Jan 2022
Don’t let them run over you…you got to fight.
Don’t let them run over you… you got to fight.– Alice Walker, The Color Purple
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway, introduction by Amor Towles.
ISBN 9780143136866, Jan 2022
Hemingway’s classic novel of post-war disillusionment.
I can’t stand it to think my life is going so fast and I’m not really living it.– Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises
The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald, notes by Philip McGowan, introduction by Min Jin
ISBN 9780143136347, Dec 2021
Nick Carraway, a World War I veteran who moves to New York with the hope of making it big, finds himself attracted to Jay Gatsby and his flamboyant lifestyle.
And I like large parties. They’re so intimate. At small parties there isn’t any privacy― F. Scott FItzgerald, The Great Gatsby
Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, notes by Elaine Showalter, foreword by Jenny Offill, edited by Stella McNichol
ISBN 9780143136354, Dec 2021
An engulfing portrait of one day in a woman’s life.
He thought her beautiful, believed her impeccably wise; dreamed of her, wrote poems to her, which, ignoring the subject, she corrected in red ink.
We by Yevgeny Zamyatin, foreword by Masha Gessen, introduction by Clarence Brown
ISBN 9780143136293, Dec 2021
The Russian dystopian novel of totalitarian mass surveillance that inspired George Orwell’s 1984.
A man is like a novel: until the very last page you don’t know how it will end. Otherwise it wouldn’t even be worth reading.
How the García Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez, foreword by Elizabeth Acevedo
ISBN 9780143136552, Nov 2021
A modern Latinx classic that gives voice to four sisters as they grow up in two cultures.
Once they got started on words, there was no telling what they could say.
In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez, foreword by Maxine Hong Kingston
ISBN 9780143136545, Nov 2021
A modern Latinx classic about four sisters known as Las Mariposas, or the Butterflies, who fought to liberate the Dominican Republic from Rafael Trujillo’s dictatorship.
It’s about time we women had a voice in running our country.
The Yellow Wall-Paper and selected writings by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, introduction by Kate Bolick.
ISBN 9780143134794, Feb 2020
A collection of the groundbreaking feminist writer’s most famous works.
“But I MUST say what I feel and think in some way — it is such a relief! But the effort is getting to be greater than the relief.”― Charlotte Perkins Gilman, The Yellow Wall-Paper
Sister Outsider Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde.
ISBN 9780143134442, Feb 2020
The essential writings of an influential black lesbian poet and feminist voice in twentieth-century literature.
“Poetry is not only dream and vision; it is the skeleton architecture of our lives. It lays the foundations for a future of change, a bridge across our fears of what has never been before.”— Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider
The Awakening and selected stories by Kate Chopin, introduction by Claire Vaye Watkins.
ISBN 9780143134800, Feb 2020
A groundbreaking depiction of a woman who dares to defy the expectations of society in the pursuit of her desire.
“Mrs. Pontellier was beginning to realize her position in the universe as a human being, and to recognize her relations as an individual to the world.”— Kate Chopin, The Awakening
Before Night Falls: A Memoir by Reinaldo Arenas, translated by Dolores M. Koch, foreword by Jaime Manrique
ISBN 9780143134848, Feb 2020
The acclaimed memoir of homosexual Cuban author Reinaldo Arenas chronicling his life from his impoverished upbringing in Cuba to his imprisonment at the hands of a Communist regime.
The difference between the Communist system and the capitalist system is that when they give you a kick in the ass, in the Communist system you have to applaud, in the capitalist system, you can scream.— Reinaldo Arena, Before Night Falls
Passing by Nella Larsen, introduction by Emily Bernard, notes by Thadious M. Davis.
ISBN 9780143129424, Feb 2020
A powerful, thrilling, and tragic tale about the fluidity of racial identity that continues to resonate today.
“The trouble with Clare was, not only that she wanted to have her cake and eat it too, but that she wanted to nibble at the cakes of other folk as well.”― Nella Larsen, Passing