I love keeping up with new releases, but even more exciting is when a book crosses space and time to reach you at the perfect moment. That, my friends, is the joy of reissues.
Reissues are books that haven’t been available for a period of time but are now back in print, allowing them to be rediscovered by a new generation of readers. These finds are especially exciting if the themes resonate with today’s headlines.
McNally Editions is a new series of paperbacks devoted to hidden gems. Their website proclaims,
“Our books have stood the test of time and remain as singular today as when they were written. We believe that often the most enjoyable books lie off the beaten path, waiting to be rediscovered, and that rediscovery is what reading culture is all about.”
Originally published 1958
With its abortion plotline, I'm shocked that this didn’t getting more press coverage this year. The writing was crisp and chilling. It reminded me most of Mrs. Bridge.
Originally published 1933
This novel was written in real time as Hitler was rising to power and shows the day-to-day effects on a wealthy Jewish family. Kirkus Reviews says,
"Readers will be struck by how little the language about white supremacy, antisemitism, the swapping of lies for facts, the discrediting of the press, and the embrace of violence over reason has changed. It's hard to imagine a 90-year-old book being more timely."
Other recent McNally reissues
Rattlebone by Maxine Clair (1994), Winter Love by Suyin Han (1962), and They by Kay Dick (1977)
New York Review Books Classics
I first encountered reissues through New York Review Books Classics. The NYRB website explains,
“NYRB Classics are, to a large degree, discoveries, the kind of books that people typically run into outside of the classroom and then remember for life.”
Two of my favorites feature unreliable narrators:
Originally published 1962
This book is about the weekend in which Cassie attempts to sabotage her twin sister's wedding. The genius of the book is that we can see Cassie's increasingly bizarre rationalizations and manipulations, but Cassie herself is unaware of them and sees herself as the reasonable and wronged party. The writing style is fresh and witty – it reminded me a little of Dorothy Parker.
Originally published 1982
This was a really skillful portrayal of a woman slowly going mad. The Boston Globe review got it exactly right: "This is one of those satisfying stories that is told in the first person by one who does not understand the import of what she’s revealing." The narrator doesn't realize that she's becoming more eccentric and manic by the day, but the reader watches in growing dismay.
British Library Crime Classics
This series is dedicated to re-releases of British mysteries from the Golden Age of crime fiction. The series is overseen by Martin Edwards and is about to publish its 100th title, Death of a Bookseller by Bernard Farmer, in March 2023. NPL has a large selection from this popular series.
Originally published 1938
This book centers around one of my favorite narrative devices: a plan slowly falling apart, accompanied by panic and guilt.
Many other publishers have imprints devoted to reprinting lesser-known classics. These were two of my favorite reads of 2022:
Originally published 1991
Try this if you liked Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle. It has a classic children's book vibe, although much darker. It also features an excellent introduction by Maggie O’Farrell.
Originally published 1921
You may know Elizabeth von Arnim for her book The Enchanted April. This altogether different and harrowing novel, based on her second marriage, shows a husband's gaslighting, abusive behavior get progressively more oppressive and controlling. The scene with the tea and the toast about did me in. I love when older works like this seem modern and fresh. It is also believed to have inspired Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca.
And finally, sometimes a publisher will reissue several books by the same author in an effort to promote a reappraisal of that author’s work. Recent examples of this phenomenon are Ann Petry, John Wyndham, and Laurie Colwin. Check out the titles below and then look for these authors' other beautiful new editions.