When I met my good friend Erin for dinner on Monday, I noticed the square-shaped, impeccably wrapped present sitting on our table at Panera and thought, Book? Like recognizing the iconic Barbie-shaped box when you were a kid, I can spot a book-shaped gift a mile away.
Well, it was a book — but not the kind I’m used to. With a squeal, I unveiled Postcards From Penguin: One Hundred Book Covers In One Box — and, if I’m being honest, it’s probably the most perfect gift for me. Ever.
Erin and I have been friends for a very long time — like, I-was-14-and-an-unequivocal-hot-mess long time. She’s seen me caked with mascara, face running with tears, but also bobbed with me in poodle skirts for our high school’s production of “Bye Bye Birdie.” We’ve survived the madness of high school, college and the “real world” (part of it) together, and stayed friends as we morphed from teens to young adults to grown women trying to Figure It Out. She knows my secret crushes and deepest fears, and I can share with her anything. And everything. And everything that comes between anything and everything.
In an age when friendships come and go based on jobs, school and proximity, I know that Erin will always be a treasured co-conspirator and ally — a woman I’d trust with my life. She’s getting married in September and I’m teary-eyed just thinking about it. We took a Shakespeare class together in college, and the afternoons when we’d walk to our cars together and talk boys, life and poetry are crystalline and untouchable in my memory. Through every major life change, she’s been at my side — and I hope to always be by hers.
I’m going to be one soggy, frazzled mess of a bridesmaid.
But postcards! This post was supposed to be about postcards. And there I go, getting all sappy and emotional on y’all.
So sayeth Amazon:
This is a collection of 100 postcards, each featuring a different and iconic Penguin book jacket. From classics to crime, here are over seventy years of quintessentially British design in one box. In 1935 Allen Lane stood on a platform at Exeter railway station, looking for a good book for the journey to London. His disappointment at the poor range of paperbacks on offer led him to found Penguin Books. The quality paperback had arrived. Declaring that ‘good design is no more expensive than bad’, Lane was adamant that his Penguin paperbacks should cost no more than a packet of cigarettes, but that they should always look distinctive.
Ever since then, from their original — now world-famous — look featuring three bold horizontal stripes, through many different stylish, inventive and iconic cover designs, Penguin’s paperback jackets have been a constantly evolving part of Britain’s culture. And whether they’re for classics, crime, reference or prize-winning novels, they still follow Allen Lane’s original design mantra. Sometimes, you definitely should judge a book by its cover.
Yes, Penguin. Yes, you should.
I’d love to say that all my bookish friends should soon expect a little something in the mail, but it hurts my heart to think about breaking up my set. I’m thinking about creating some sort of modern art with a selection of my favorites, and maybe keeping the rest handy to look at the pretty whenever I feel like it.
Years ago, my sister bought me a super-awesome collection of original London art on a series of postcards, and I enjoy going through those and lovingly running my fingers over the textured lines from time to time. I won’t send them, and I haven’t framed them, but I like to just . . . know that they’re there.
It’s one of my many endearing quirks.