Books, Reading, Review
Comments 15

That Time I Read Some Little Black Classics

In celebration of Penguin’s 80th birthday, the publishing house has released 80 little black books; each one by a different author, but all miniature masterpieces in their own right.
As part of the 24in48 Readathon, I decided to read the Penguin Little Black Classics I’d bought a while ago. Unfortunately I only own four of them at the moment, but I hope to own all of them soonish.

As the books are so small, I thought small reviews of them would be appropriate. So here they are; four little reviews of four little books.

Title: Femme Fatale (Little Black Classics No.15)
Author: Guy de Maupassant
Rating: ★★★★

This is a collection of four short stories about the dangers that women present to men. However I think the stories say more about the men than they do about the women. They were pretty funny actually; I especially liked the last one, ‘Laid to Rest’.
FAVE QUOTE: “The other reason I like cemeteries is because they’re like cities in themselves, densely populated at that.” (From ‘Laid to Rest’)

9780141397139Title: Sketchy, Doubtful, Incomplete Jottings (Little Black Classics No.36)
Author: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Rating: ★★★★★

This is a literally Goethe’s random ‘jottings’  on a variety of topics. It’s the first of Goethe’s work I’ve read, and I really enjoyed it. Some (if not all) of his thoughts are still relevant today, and I got the impression that if he were alive today he would not be impressed with society.
FAVE QUOTE: (So hard to pick just one) “If one had to study all laws, one would have no time at all to transgress them.”

9780141397481Title: The Meek One (Little Black Classics No.44)
Author: Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Rating: ★★★

I wasn’t that big a fan of this one. I didn’t hate it by any means, but I found it a little bit hard to follow and quite ranty; but I think that was sort of the point. I will say that it was written well enough for me to dislike the two main characters – the Man and his Wife.
FAVE QUOTE: (I like this one as it made me laugh) “Come now, sirs: I knew that a woman, especially one who was sixteen years old, couldn’t help but submit completely to a man. Women have no originality, that’s – that’s an axiom, even now it’s an axiom for me!”

Title: Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime (Little Black Classics No.59)
Author: Oscar Wilde
Rating: ★★★★★

This was my absolute favourite of the four. Wilde’s tale of a man who commits a crime because he is told by a fortune teller that he will commit one in the future, when prior to that he had no thoughts of committing a crime (did you get all that?), illustrates perfectly the quite often ridiculous thinking of the human brain. Incredibly witty and funny, I wish it had been longer than fifty pages.
FAVE QUOTE: “His excellent common sense, however, soon asserted itself, and his sound, practical mind did not leave him long in doubt about what to do. Poison having proved a complete failure, dynamite, or some other form of explosive, was obviously the proper thing to try.”

Have you voted in my Holiday Reads Poll? If not, you can check it out here.


  1. It was you who sleuthed out that these are coming to the U.S. soon while we were discussing this over Twitter, I believe, and I can’t wait to get my hands on them! And I do love Oscar Wilde, I’m not surprised that one was particularly good.


    • I’m pretty sure they’re out next month actually. I don’t think the box set is available here though which is really annoying. But I think I can get it on Fishpond though.

      The Oscar Wilde one was a hilariously accurate depiction of human foolishness. It was amazing.


  2. What a beautifully put-together review! The Oscar Wilde short story sounds fantastic, I’m going to have to pick that up. I’d never heard of Penguin’s 80 little black book release, I’m going to have to look more into this — I’m such a book hoarder.


    • Thanks so much 🙂 The Oscar Wilde story was amazing. It’s about murder and therefore not a topic that’s usually funny, but the actor’s of the main character are just so ridiculous, it’s hard not to laugh.

      You should definitely check them all out. You can see them all here (why I didn’t include that link in my post I’ll never know).
      There’s a box set coming out in September I think, which works out a little bit cheaper than buying them all individually (if you’re like me you’ll need to have all of them).

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I hadn’t heard of the little black classics, but now I might have to go out and BUY THEM ALL. No, really, I’m serious. 🙂 I’ve read several Guy de Maupassant stories over the years, but not the one you quoted from. The Oscar Wilde story is on the virtual bookshelf of potential selections for a new “shorter works” reading group I started at the office. I’m looking forward to that one getting picked.


    • You’ll love the Oscar Wilde story. I laughed so much at the antics of Lord Savile, despite the fact that he was plotting murder. But the way he goes about it is just ridiculous.

      Don’t worry you’re not alone – I’ll be buying them all as well. I think there’s actually a box set coming out later in the year so I might get that instead as it’ll be a little bit cheaper than buying them all individually.

      I’ve found the ones I have are a really good tester to see if I want to read more by an author. I’d never read de Maupassant before, but I like his writing so I’d definitely like to read some more of his work.
      So I anticipate that after I read all the classics I’ll have a whole lot more authors I want to read!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Rae Oestreich says

    Ohmygosh, these little books sound like so much fun! Definitely the first one you mentioned caught my eye based on what you had to say – it’s really lovely when the subject is one thing, but the message to a reader years and years later winds up completely different than what the author probably had in mind. I think I’ll pick that one up the next time I’m at the bookstore.

    Thanks, Heather!


  5. I love the sleek, simple look of these books! I haven’t read any of them, but the Oscar Wilde novella sounds fascinating. I’m going to see if I can find it on Project Gutenberg.


    • They look amazing on the shelf in the bookstore. I think the way they look is half the reason I bought them.

      I hadn’t heard of Project Gutenberg, but I just checked it out and it looks amazing. There’s an Australian one as well. Looks like I’ll be spending many hours browsing on there!


  6. These little books do sound interesting! Some of them I already have though, as I have so many of those “Complete Works of…” volumes of different authors (albeit back in a storage unit in Australia). The Wilde tale I can’t help but feel is ever more relevant today, where people seem to be in complete denial of their influences and how much they let their influences, well, influence them. Wow I explained that terribly, but I’ve just woken up so that’s my excuse. 😛


    • My mind just went in circles trying to figure that out! Buuuut I got there eventually. I think. I think in terms of consumerism we’re definitely like that. We’ll see an advertisement for something that we didn’t want, but then want it because the ad tells us we want it.

      Out of the 80 books I haven’t read any of the stories so they’re all new to me. I’ll definitely be getting some more soon. But I think there’s a box set coming out so I might try and get that.


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