It is that time of year again and everyone is scurrying around, wondering what Christmas gifts to buy everyone from distant relatives to the children’s school teachers.
At OUP, we have come up with a handy guide to the Oxford World’s Classics that might help make the search for gifts a little easier.
Oxford World’s Classic: War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
Summary: Tolstoy’s epic masterpiece intertwines the lives of private and public individuals during the time of the Napoleonic wars and the French invasion of Russia. The fortunes of the Rostovs and the Bolkonskys, of Pierre, Natasha, and Andrei, are intimately connected with the national history that is played out in parallel with their lives. Balls and soirées alternate with councils of war and the machinations of statesmen and generals, scenes of violent battles with everyday human passions in a work whose extraordinary imaginative power has never been surpassed. The prodigious cast of characters, both great and small, seem to act and move as if connected by threads of destiny as the novel relentlessly questions ideas of free will, fate, and providence. Yet Tolstoy’s portrayal of marital relations and scenes of domesticity is as truthful and poignant as the grand themes that underlie them.
Perfect as: a literary status symbol for anyone with an ornamental bookcase full of books they plan to read, one day… War and Peace is an ideal addition to anyone’s aspirational bookcase.
Oxford World’s Classic: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Summary: At its simplest, Anna Karenina is a love story. It is a portrait of a beautiful and intelligent woman whose passionate love for a handsome officer sweeps aside all other ties – to her marriage and to the network of relationships and moral values that bind the society around her. The love affair of Anna and Vronsky is played out alongside the developing romance of Kitty and Levin, and in the character of Levin, closely based on Tolstoy himself, the search for happiness takes on a deeper philosophical significance.
Perfect as: a gift for the happily single. Or, if you dare, for young couples as a warning to avoid the pitfalls of Anna and Alexei’s disastrous marriage. If the story of deceit, despair and destruction seems a little grim for the happy couple, consider Sense and Sensibility.
Oxford World’s Classic: Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
Summary: For Elinor Dashwood, sensible and sensitive, and her romantic, impetuous younger sister Marianne, the prospect of marrying the men they love appears remote. In a world ruled by money and self-interest, the Dashwood sisters have neither fortune nor connections. Concerned for others and for social proprieties, Elinor is ill-equipped to compete with self-centred fortune-hunters like Lucy Steele, whilst Marianne’s unswerving belief in the truth of her own feelings makes her more dangerously susceptible to the designs of unscrupulous men.
Through her heroines’ parallel experiences of love, loss, and hope, Jane Austen offers a powerful analysis of the ways in which women’s lives were shaped by the claustrophobic society in which they had to survive.
Perfect as: a gift for the young and starry-eyed who are trying to find their way in the social and romantic world, weighing up the merits of ‘sense’ and ‘sensibility’.
Oxford World’s Classic: Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Summary: Crime and Punishment is the story of a murder committed on principle, of a killer who wishes to set himself outside and above society. The perpetrator, Raskolnikov, is confesses the crime and goes to prison, where he realises that happiness and redemption can only be achieved through suffering. The book is marked by Dostoevsky’s own harrowing experience of his prison days, and yet there are moments of wild humour.
Perfect as: a gift for anyone who has an interest in human psychology, including guilt, suffering and redemption. It is also recommended for those interested in modern politics, as it is considered to be a critique of political ideology that is still relevant today. To be avoided as an end-of-year gift for the primary school teacher who is a little overzealous in their approach to discipline.
Oxford World’s Classic: The Great The Great God Pan & Other Horror Stories by Arthur Machen
Summary: Perhaps no figure better embodies the transition from the Gothic tradition to modern horror than Arthur Machen. In the final decade of the nineteenth century, the Welsh writer produced a seminal body of tales of occult horror, spiritual and physical corruption, and malignant survivals from the primeval past which horrified and scandalised late-Victorian readers. Machen’s ‘weird fiction’ has influenced generations of storytellers, from H. P. Lovecraft to Guillermo Del Toro-and it remains no less unsettling today.
This new collection, which includes the complete novel The Three Impostors as well as such celebrated tales as The Great God Pan and The White People, constitutes the most comprehensive critical edition of Machen yet to appear. In addition to the core late-Victorian horror classics, a selection of lesser-known prose poems and later tales helps to present a fuller picture of the development of Machen’s weird vision.
Perfect as: a gift for anyone who grew up reading RL Stines’ Goosebumps books, and is ready to get their adrenaline flowing with this classic collection of horror stories and poems. To be avoided as a gift for the easily spooked or those susceptible to nightmares.
Visit the OUP website for more on the Oxford World’s Classics.