What makes a good hardcover classic lit book?

I recently finished reading Animal Farm as published by The Everyman’s Library. It was my first time reading a book published from that collection, and I was thrilled at how easy and pleasurable the book was to read.

Why?

  • The size was fantastic – it’s slightly bigger than a paperback but can still fit in the back pocket of my jeans. Animal Farm is a thin book in any edition, so I’m sure this will be a rare occurrence, but it was lovely to have a durable good-looking cloth-bound book in my pocket.
  • The published cared about the text – a lot of hardcover classics just get whatever cheap version or translation that’s in the public domain (looking at you B&N Classics and Dover Thrift Editions), but Everyman’s Library sourced the most recently-corrected version, included an introduction by a contemporary of Orwell, and included Orwell’s original introductions to the book that were never included in the published English edition as well as the introduction he wrote for the Ukranian version.
  • Good quality paper – the paper was thick enough to turn easily, good typefaces and margins, and a nice cream color.
  • Ribbon bookmark – always a plus! I tend to use index cards as bookmarks, but the ribbon is nicer because I don’t have to worry about stuffing it elsewhere while standing.
  • A nice bibliography that includes all of Orwell’s fiction and non-fiction books and essays/letters/memoirs, but also selected criticism of Orwell.
  • A nice chronology that includes events from Orwell’s life alongside literary works published in that same year and major historical events.
Excellent chronology!

All of this makes me want to seek out any new classics to see if they’re published in The Everyman’s Library. I’m curious to see if any of the thicker novels (Les Miserables, War and Peace) are printed in multiple volumes–that would make reading easier.

Can anyone else recommend other hardcover classics series that are as nice as The Everyman’s Library? I’d love to find similar quality copies of the Peavear and Volokhonsky translations of Dostoevsky/Tolstoy/Gogol.

If you’re looking for good editions of classic lit on Amazon, be careful! They tend to lump several ISBNs together on one product page. I’ve been burned before and will now find the specific ISBN of the edition I’m looking for and will search for that. If you look at the Amazon page for Animal Farm – Everyman’s Library Edition it looks like it is for that specific edition, but if you read the reviews, you’ll see that Amazon lumps together all reviews for the same book regardless of edition.

2 thoughts on “What makes a good hardcover classic lit book?

    1. I like those too, but I tend to buy hardcovers after decades of reading mass-market paperbacks on thin paper and newsprint. If I’m going to invest hours of my life into a “great book”, I want it to be a good reading experience. There are tons of nice paperbacks out there, and I have plenty on my bookshelf!

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