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Penguin Classics v. Oxford World Classics

epic face off

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#1 ShotgunGold

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Posted 19 November 2012 - 01:05 PM

Yes it's the big one guys.

The mammoth face off!

Basically I bought a couple of books by OWC. But then also bought a few more recently which are Penguin Classics (if you must know the Last Days of Socrates and Descartes' Meditations - well recommended).

I know I'm going to be a buying a few more - even literature ones as I quite fancy delving into the old British classics - the likes of Dickens I'm sad to say I've never actually read before.

So yes I'm wondering from experience whats best? Obviously the series with the most books (biggest range), generally the cheapest, the most extra information etc would be the best for me. Particularly the range concerning non-fiction.

Or is it a case that it depends on each individual book. Or are they even that significantly different?! Anyone with an extensive knowledge picked up quite a few so could tell me?

The Rugby League World forums are such an intelligent, intellectual community that surely some (or most?) of you guys have picked up a range of these books and could tell me their thoughts.

Thanks guys!!

Also any book recommendations: like must read before you die, very much appreciated. :)

Edited by ShotgunGold, 19 November 2012 - 01:24 PM.


#2 Futtocks

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Posted 19 November 2012 - 02:22 PM

Never done a head-to-head comparison between different editions. If I'm looking for something in this line, I tend to buy the first one I see.

Though I suppose if you are looking for scholastic, annotated editions, that's another matter.

A mind is like a parachute. It doesn’t work if it isn’t open. Frank Zappa (1940 - 1993)


#3 gingerjon

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Posted 19 November 2012 - 03:54 PM

Penguin Classic *look* nicer.

And often have a better introduction and notes.

But I'm in no position to judge which is more likely to be using the definitive text or most accurate translation.
Cheer up, RL is actually rather good
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#4 Saintslass

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Posted 19 November 2012 - 07:52 PM

I know I'm going to be a buying a few more - even literature ones as I quite fancy delving into the old British classics - the likes of Dickens I'm sad to say I've never actually read before.

You have to be a very committed reader of deep and meaningful fiction, and not be averse to long words and convoluted paragraphs, to get to the end of a Dickens book (unless it is The Christmas Carol, which is primary school stuff by comparison!). So good luck with Dickens. I've tried and tried but I managed more of Dosteyevski.

So yes I'm wondering from experience whats best? Obviously the series with the most books (biggest range), generally the cheapest, the most extra information etc would be the best for me. Particularly the range concerning non-fiction.

I have read more Penguin than probably any other publisher but that is likely to have been simple coincidence. Penguin offer different series. So there is the Penguin Popular Classics (The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins is an example I have of that series) and Penguin Modern Classics (an example in my collection is Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe). But then there are those which come under 'Penguin Books' but could be considered classics, for example E M Forster's A Passage to India. And others that aren't classics (at least not widely known as such anyway), for example Heat and Dust by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. So I would say that Penguin has a very broad range of extremely good books (and probably some naff ones along the way too).

The Modern Classics range tends to have quite detailed introductions, whereas the Popular Classics range doesn't go into as much detail. But there may be other ranges they have which provide more detailed introductions than the Popular Classics does, I don't know. Penguin prices in paperback tend to be the usual: between £6.99 and £8.99, depending on the volume of material in the book. I think all publishers charge pretty similar prices really.

#5 Severus

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Posted 19 November 2012 - 08:24 PM

Have you thought of using a kindle or e reader on your phone? Classics out of copyright are usually free.
Fides invicta triumphat

#6 gingerjon

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Posted 19 November 2012 - 10:03 PM

Also any book recommendations: like must read before you die, very much appreciated. :)


I've just 'read' Moby Dick.

The reason 'read' is in inverted commas is because I did it via audio book. Apparently that's over 24 hours of listening I've done - mostly on the way to and from work.

I have to say it's an incredible book, absolutely amazing and I'm still thinking about what it might all mean even though I got to the end a few days ago. But I also know I would never have even come close to finishing it by reading normally - I wouldn't have read, let alone actually enjoyed, the deep, deep digressions the novel takes.
Cheer up, RL is actually rather good
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#7 Saintslass

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Posted 19 November 2012 - 10:31 PM

Also any book recommendations: like must read before you die, very much appreciated. :)

A couple really. The Bell by Iris Murdoch and Regeneration by Pat Barker. Both are very profound books. For total weirdness and freak-you-out value, The Woman in the Dunes by Japanese author Kobo Abe. (Although I probably wouldn't class that last one as a 'read before you die' book but more of a 'read by the time you retire'!)

#8 Northern Sol

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Posted 19 November 2012 - 10:34 PM

"Read" in the audiobooks sense the Socrates work. Interesting if you like classical philosophy not if you don't.

#9 Mistress_Marlowe

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Posted 19 November 2012 - 11:55 PM

For me, it depends on the text. The PC version of Bram Stoker's Dracula is far superior to the OWC, but yet when it comes to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, The OWC wins hands down.

It suppose the question is what you are using them for. If you are just doing some general reading and want a good, general introduction, then either will be a safe bet. That said, if you're using them for academic purposes, the same applies, because any further reading you do on a particular text will go over and above anything that either edition will supply.

Go with the ones you like the look, feel and smell of. Check charity shops for bargains too, classics are abundant and you can get some really interesting covers that have long since been made obsolete. The experience of reading a book is about more than the words on the page, which is why I avoid a Kindle at all costs.

A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal. ~ Oscar Wilde


#10 ShotgunGold

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Posted 20 November 2012 - 07:07 AM

You have to be a very committed reader of deep and meaningful fiction, and not be averse to long words and convoluted paragraphs, to get to the end of a Dickens book (unless it is The Christmas Carol, which is primary school stuff by comparison!). So good luck with Dickens. I've tried and tried but I managed more of Dosteyevski.


Really I didn't realise they were that hard I remember reading around 40% of Oliver Twist a few years back and certainly didn't struggle. Got to admit I didn't quite realise why it was a 'classic' thought I was hoping that would be revealed in the latter 60%! But yes I didn't exactly mean to but for some reason stopped reading it.

I have read more Penguin than probably any other publisher but that is likely to have been simple coincidence. Penguin offer different series. So there is the Penguin Popular Classics (The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins is an example I have of that series) and Penguin Modern Classics (an example in my collection is Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe). But then there are those which come under 'Penguin Books' but could be considered classics, for example E M Forster's A Passage to India. And others that aren't classics (at least not widely known as such anyway), for example Heat and Dust by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. So I would say that Penguin has a very broad range of extremely good books (and probably some naff ones along the way too).

The Modern Classics range tends to have quite detailed introductions, whereas the Popular Classics range doesn't go into as much detail. But there may be other ranges they have which provide more detailed introductions than the Popular Classics does, I don't know. Penguin prices in paperback tend to be the usual: between £6.99 and £8.99, depending on the volume of material in the book. I think all publishers charge pretty similar prices really.


Thanks for that that is very helpful.

Have you thought of using a kindle or e reader on your phone? Classics out of copyright are usually free.


Well I actually got a Kindle last Christmas and really struggled with it for two months. Perhaps it was the books I was reading but I just didn't seem to be able to properly concentrate when reading. For instance I would start reading again with the Kinde but would forget what happened in the previous pages and ended up going back to re-read them. I just couldn't seem to be able to 'look at the book as a whole' on the Kindle.

I seem to be the only one who has that problem as Kindle's are flying off the shelf. Waterstones have started selling them now and I did wonder whether they are shooting themselves in the foot???

I've just 'read' Moby Dick.

The reason 'read' is in inverted commas is because I did it via audio book. Apparently that's over 24 hours of listening I've done - mostly on the way to and from work.

I have to say it's an incredible book, absolutely amazing and I'm still thinking about what it might all mean even though I got to the end a few days ago. But I also know I would never have even come close to finishing it by reading normally - I wouldn't have read, let alone actually enjoyed, the deep, deep digressions the novel takes.


Hmmm never thought of that. I presume you took it all in fine. The only audiobooks I hve are the Harry Potter Stephen Fry ones and I must admit I did find them fine. But I had read them previously.

A couple really. The Bell by Iris Murdoch and Regeneration by Pat Barker. Both are very profound books. For total weirdness and freak-you-out value, The Woman in the Dunes by Japanese author Kobo Abe. (Although I probably wouldn't class that last one as a 'read before you die' book but more of a 'read by the time you retire'!)


I have just had a look at The Woman In the Dunes (I like bizarre stuff!) and it seems very interesting. I have no idea how someone can make a novel (or at least half of it) out of just shovelling sand so I will definitely pick it up! Thanks.

Regeneration sounds great too so I'll have a look for that. The Bell doesn't sound like my cup of tea really.

For me, it depends on the text. The PC version of Bram Stoker's Dracula is far superior to the OWC, but yet when it comes to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, The OWC wins hands down.

It suppose the question is what you are using them for. If you are just doing some general reading and want a good, general introduction, then either will be a safe bet. That said, if you're using them for academic purposes, the same applies, because any further reading you do on a particular text will go over and above anything that either edition will supply.

Go with the ones you like the look, feel and smell of. Check charity shops for bargains too, classics are abundant and you can get some really interesting covers that have long since been made obsolete. The experience of reading a book is about more than the words on the page, which is why I avoid a Kindle at all costs.


Ah a fellow Kindle-disliker! Yes I suppose you are right then. Certainly literature I just read for pleasure but Classics (G/R I mean)/Philosophy is more academic because I like to really look at them in detail.

#11 gingerjon

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Posted 20 November 2012 - 09:20 AM

Hmmm never thought of that. I presume you took it all in fine. The only audiobooks I hve are the Harry Potter Stephen Fry ones and I must admit I did find them fine. But I had read them previously.


I've tried a few. Some have worked really well - The Night Circus, Ray Bradbury short stories & Moby Dick - and a couple haven't at all - Cannery Row by John Steinbeck being the prime example. I've since read the latter normally and really enjoyed it.

Horses for courses. I have the new Ian Rankin on audio as it'll be good for the train and I don't want to carry it round with me.

As for recommendations: Madame Bovary is one of my favourite novels of all time and very easy to read.

Edited by gingerjon, 20 November 2012 - 09:21 AM.

Cheer up, RL is actually rather good
- Severus, July 2012

#12 Futtocks

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Posted 20 November 2012 - 10:13 AM

I read 'Moby Dick' a long time ago, and there were many times when it felt more like an onerous duty than a pleasure. I'm glad I did it, but am not planning to repeat the experience any time soon.

I'm a a fan of the American style of prose humour, and would recommend the following as good additions to anyone's bookshelf:
  • Mark Twain - Cannibalism in the Cars and other Humorous Sketches
  • S.J.Perelman - The Most of S.J.Perelman
  • H.L.Mencken - A Mencken Chrestomathy
  • Woody Allen - Complete Prose
There's a common stylistic thread running through Twain, Perelman and Allen, even though the language becomes more modern.

Also from across the Atlantic, Eduardo Galeano's 'Memory of Fire' trilogy is a unique history of the Americas, starting with accounts of creation myths, right up to the second half of the 20th century.

And I am currently re-reading 'The Great Shark Hunt' - the first compilation of Hunter S.Thompson's work. It's a mixture of straight journalism, the more Gonzo stuff, coverage of the Watergate hearings and the downfall of Richard Nixon, a meeting with Muhammad Ali, plus sample chapters from 'Hells Angels' and 'Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas'. A good overview.

A mind is like a parachute. It doesn’t work if it isn’t open. Frank Zappa (1940 - 1993)





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