Penguin Books

The history of Penguin is almost as interesting as the thousands of titles published by this company over the past 75 years. Step back to 1935 when Allen Lane decided that he wanted to turn book borrowers into book buyers and published the first 10 Penguin books. Each one cost just six pence at a time when hard covers were priced at seven or eight shillings. Those 10 books revolutionized publishing by making great literature very affordable, and kicked off Penguin’s long and illustrious history.

In 1939, World War II began and Penguin’s popularity took off. Pre-war Penguin specials such as What Hitler Wants achieved record-breaking sales and troops were eager to carry cheap, light paperbacks in their kit bags. However it wasn’t just soldiers that wanted Penguins. After wartime rationing ended, Penguin kicked its operations into high gear and became the publisher of choice throughout every level of society.

Having firmly established itself as a publishing powerhouse, the company continued to develop during the cultural upheaval of the 1960s. Penguin took chances on risky books, including the first unabridged and uncensored version of D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley's Lover. It went to a legal battle under the new Obscene Publications Act and publisher eventually triumphed. More controversial books were to follow.

The real legacy of Penguin, however, is not longevity or the broad catalogue, but the amazing number of influential and award-winning books that have been published over the years. Even today, Penguin has its finger on the pulse of readers with megasellers like Three Cups of Tea and Eat, Love, Pray.


Related Video

Learn More About the Colors of Penguin Play Video



Penguin Decades Series: New Editions with Redesigned Covers

The Chrysalids by John Wyndham, cover by Peter Blake
50s - The Chrysalids
by John Wyndham
cover by Peter Blake

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, cover by Allen Jones
60s - A Clockwork Orange
by Anthony Burgess
cover by Allen Jones
A Kestrel for a Knave by Barry Hines, cover by Allen Jones
60s - A Kestrel for a Knave
by Barry Hines
cover by Allen Jones
Don't Look Now by Daphne du Maurier, cover by Zandra Rhodes
70s - Don't Look Now
by Daphne du Maurier
cover by Zandra Rhodes
Paradise Postponed by John Mortimer, cover by John Squire
80s - Paradise Postponed
by John Mortimer
cover by John Squire

Five Most Published Penguin Authors (aside from Shakespeare)

Penguin at War

What Hitler Wants by E.O. Lorimer
What Hitler Wants
E.O. Lormier
Aircraft Recognition by R.A. Saville-Sneath
Aircraft Recognition
R.A. Saville-Sneath
Europe and the Czechs by S. Grant Duff
Europe and the Czechs
S. Grant Duff
Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo by Capt. Ted W. Lawson
Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo
Capt. Ted W. Lawson
The Good Soldier Schweik by Jaroslav Hasek
The Good Soldier Schweik
Jaroslav Hasek

Controversial Penguins

Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence
Lady Chatterley's Lover
by D.H. Lawrence

Brought to trial under the Obscene Publications Act for its sex and use of "unprintable words."

The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie
The Satanic Verses
by Salman Rushdie

Caused uproar in the Islamic world. The most expensive Penguin paperback sold on AbeBooks was a banned Indian copy signed by Rushdie for $4,931.

Spycatcher by Peter Wright
Spycatcher
Peter Wright

Written by a former MI5 officer, this critical book riled the British Government.

Denying the Holocaust by Deborah Lipstadt
Denying the Holocaust
Deborah Lipstadt

Lipstadt accused David Irving of denying the Holocaust. Irving sued her and Penguin, and lost.

Love and Consequences by Margaret B. Jones
Love and Consequences
Margaret B. Jones

Margaret Seltzer, aka Margaret B. Jones, wrote a memoir about gang life but it was fabricated.

Much-loved Penguins

The Deep End of the Ocean by Jacqueline Mitchard
The Deep End of the Ocean
by Jacqueline Mitchard

Oprah Winfrey picked this Penguin as her first Book Club selection.

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
The Secret Life of Bees
by Sue Monk Kidd

This novel is the bestselling paperback in Penguin history.

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
Eat, Pray, Love
Elizabeth Gilbert

Released on the same day as Three Cups of Tea, this is one of Penguin's bestselling non-fiction titles.

Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson
Three Cups of Tea
Greg Mortenson

Another publishing phenomenon of the modern era – word of mouth drove initial sales.

Wolf Totem by Jiang Rong
Wolf Totem
Jiang Rong

Won the first ever Man Asian Literacy Prize in 2007.

Pulitzer Prize-Winning Penguins

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
The Grapes of Wrath
by John Steinbeck

Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
Death of a Salesman
by Arthur Miller

Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner
Angle of Repose
Wallace Stegner

Humboldt's Gift by Saul Bellow
Humboldt's Gift
Saul Bellow

Ironweed by William Kennedy
Ironweed
William Kennedy

Arab and Jew by David K. Shipler
Arab and Jew
by David K. Shipler (non-fiction)

The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields
The Stone Diaries
by Carol Shields

Practical Gods by Carl Dennis
Practical Gods
Carl Dennis (poetry)

Ghost Wars by Steve Coll
Ghost Wars
Steve Coll (non-fiction)

March by Geraldine Brooks
March
Geraldine Brooks

National Book Award-winning Penguins

Mr. Sammler's Planet by Saul Bellow
Mr. Sammler's Planet
by Saul Bellow

Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
Gravity's Rainbow
by Thomas Pynchon

White Noise by Don DeLillo
White Noise
Don DeLillo

In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick
In the Heart of the Sea
Nathaniel Philbrick

Europe Central by William Vollmann
Europe Central
William Vollmann

Booker Prize-winning Penguins

The Conservationist by Nadine Gordimer
The Conservationist
by Nadine Gordimer

The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch
The Sea, The Sea
by Iris Murdoch

The Bone People by Keri Hulme
The Bone People
Keri Hulme

Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha by Roddy Doyle
Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha
Roddy Doyle

The Colors of Penguin



More to Discover


All The Colors of Penguin's Rainbow Exquisite editions from Collectible Authors See our bookseller sales