Why a Penguin will beat a Pokémon every time (in my book)

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Martin Moodie
Martin Moodie is the Founder & Chairman of The Moodie Report.

My recent Blog about a charming little girl’s old-fashioned reading habits in a dumbed down, mobile device-obsessed age seems to have struck a chord with many readers, judging by the amount of correspondence I received on the subject.

Perhaps there is hope after all for literature; perhaps our children’s children will once more turn to Pasternak (Boris, the Russian author rather than Lois the Editor of Travel Markets Insider, good though the latter is), Pynchon, Proulx (E. Annie) or Poe rather than Pokémon; Salinger, Shakespeare or Steinbeck rather than Super Mario.

So, in that literary but I hope not pompous spirit, I salute WHSmith for an initiative that I saw in the retailer’s Arrivals store at London Heathrow Airport Terminal 5 at the weekend.

It’s a line-up of Penguin Modern Classics called ‘The Greatest Books You’ve Never Read’ and I indeed fear that many of them, staple reading in the distant slipstream of my youth, are complete unknowns to anyone on the favourable side of 30 (and perhaps 40).

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Take a look at the line-up above and below. How many have you read? There are some real beauties in here. The woefully neglected Stoner by John Edward Williams (warm, sad, poignant, wonderful in equal measure); Truman Capote’s masterpiece In Cold Blood (as chilling as it sounds); the seminal To Kill a Mockingbird by the recently departed Harper Lee (mandatory reading for anyone living in the deep south of the USA and, hey, just about anywhere in an age where prejudice, racism and bigotry on every level are on the rise); the quintessential tale of teenage rebellion Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger; Graham Greene’s wonderful The Quiet American (clearly written in a pre-Trump era); the ultimate road novel in every sense, Jack Kerouac’s On the Road; Ken Kesey’s life-affirming yet tragic One flew over the cuckoo’s nest (hard to think of anything being better than Miloš Forman’s film version but the book is); Kurt Vonnegut’s satirical anti-war masterpiece Slaughterhouse 5; George Orwell’s horribly precipitous Animal Farm and many more.

These are books to read before you die. “Gotta’ catch ’em all’ as today’s generation might say. Especially with that buy one, get one half price offer. To my mind that’s the best value proposition I have seen in airport retailing for a long time. Hallelujah, there is hope for mankind after all. Bravo WHSmith for showing why a Penguin will beat a Pokémon every time. At least in my book.

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