how many have you read?

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  • Dante | Inferno
  • Thoreau | Walden
  • Sophocles | Oedipus Rex
  • Kafka | Metamorphosis
  • Melville | Moby-Dick
  • Shakespeare | Hamlet
  • Homer | The Odyssey
  • Austen | Pride and Prejudice
  • Bronte | Jane Eyre
  • Steinbeck | Of Mice and Men

the number 2 pick

In this clip, Courtney Allison, Associate Publicist, Viking Books, and Caitlin Altendorf, Sales Administration Coordinator of Hardcover Sales, talk about Charlotte Brontë's classic. Click here to watch the complete twenty-minute video program, The Ten Essential Penguin Classics, highlighting each of the essential books.

Jane Eyre

Charlotte Brontë
Jane Eyre
ISBN 9780141441146 | $8.00 |

Caitlin also sent us these thoughts about why Brontë's book is essential, and you can also read Courtney's essay "The Ten Essential Penguin Classics: The Brontë Sisters, by Courtney Allison" on the Penguin Blog

Why you should read it:
So many reasons, but the best one for me is that regardless of when this book was written, it is really just the story of a not-so-special girl who, against all odds and circumstances, is able to find love. Jane's conviction is so strong; she is an independent woman who, unlike most of us, follows her mind rather than her heart. But the beauty of this story is that when love comes back to her, she can trust and fully believe in its sincerity. There is no greater tale for a woman looking to find love.

Why it's a classic:
Because it is a love story hidden within the themes of women's equality, religious faith, and the constraints of society. Jane Eyre has been able to reach and inspire readers for decades due to the fact that it isn't a conventional cut-and-dried story of boy meets girl. Charlotte Bronte's success and real value was to create characters that were able to tell the unconventional story of life during the nineteenth century.

What about this book influenced you:
Never having read it before, I picked it up in my early twenties with the hopes of getting in touch with some classic literature. I was actually surprised by how relevant it seemed. At first it's just the sad story of a lonely girl, but then it turns into the invigorating tale of a woman who finds herself with a new job, a new home, and a new love. Being one of the many who come to New York looking for these things, Jane's experiences—although different from mine—struck a chord of similarity with me. Also, I admire Jane's dedication to principle. There are moments where she could have made the easier decision, but true to her beliefs she chooses head over heart.

Contemporary example of this book's theme/story:
This is a very contemporary example, but for my generation a very comparable narrative is the main story of Carrie Bradshaw and "Big" from Sex and the City. Both Jane and Carrie are from small beginnings, and both have made it on their own and have found love with a man of stature, wealth and unavailability. They have also both been deceived by these men. The underlining theme of self-discovery through love and loss connects these two characters and stories to one another.

Related Classic:
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, or Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (which may be the Jane Eyre for men).

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