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


In this clip, Jeremy Tescher—National Account Manager, Paperback Sales—talks about Melville's classic. Click here to watch the complete twenty-minute video program, The Ten Essential Penguin Classics, highlighting each of the essential books.


Herman Melville
ISBN 9780142437247 | $14.00 |

Over a century and a half after its publication, Moby-Dick still stands as an indisputable literary classic. It is the story of an eerily compelling madman pursuing an unholy war against a creature as vast and dangerous and unknowable as the sea itself. But more than just a novel of adventure, more than an encyclopedia of whaling lore and legend, Moby-Dick is a haunting, mesmerizing, and important social commentary populated with several of the most unforgettable and enduring characters in literature. Written with wonderfully redemptive humor, Moby-Dick is a profound and timeless inquiry into character, faith, and the nature of perception.

Another Penguin staffer, Mark Gottlieb—a Production Assistant at Berkley Books—sent us these thoughts about why Melville's book is essential...

Why It's a Classic:
Moby-Dick is a classic because it grapples with some of the greatest human struggles: the battle of good versus evil, how man cannot enact revenge upon nature, not to mention sacrifice, racism, greed, and obsession.

Why You Should Read It:
Melville takes his readers on an epic journey, making one feel as though they are on the whale ship along with Ishmael. In fact, Melville actually worked on a whale ship for some time, thus providing the research for Moby-Dick. There are even chapters that delve into incredible detail on how to tie knots on a ship, the subtle differences—between sperm whales and right whales—in bone structure, blowhole position and shape, teeth, etc.

What It Influenced:
Melville's themes influenced countless generations of American writers, especially the "lost generation": Ernest Hemmingway's The Sun Also Rises, and even Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man.

Another Great Book By This Author:
Short stories and tales such as "Bartleby,""Billy Budd" and "Benito Cereno."

Is the Movie Version Any Good?
The movie version is seldom good as the book, but there is a decent television series featuring Patrick Stewart as Captain Ahab.

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