Old Stories, New Life: Persephone Books

*This is a guest post written by Shelbi Starnes, writer of The Nobby Life. Check out her awesome post and fantastic blog. Thursdays are guest post day. If you would like to be featured email toborroworbuy@gmail.com.*

Old Stories, New Life: Persephone Books

Shelbi Starnes

If you’re a reader (and if you’re reading this post, I assume that you are), you can sympathize with the fact that it can often be a challenge to find new, compelling books to read when you are in need of a fresh story that is simply a pleasant experience. I often find myself in bookstores, scanning the shelves for the elusive book to pop out at me, or to discover a beloved author’s lesser-known work that I can probe and explore. Perhaps the most rewarding of all is to find an author I’ve never heard of before – and thanks to Persephone Books, this happens more often than not these days.

I discovered my first Persephone book several years ago when it was sitting primly on a Barnes & Noble bookshelf, and I must admit, it was the cover that caught my eye. On closer inspection, I noticed with interest that the book was a story by Frances Hodgson Burnett, of The Secret Garden fame. That she had written other novels had never occurred to me, but now that I held The Marchioness in my hands, I wondered how many more she had written, and how many other authors had books that they had labored over but, for whatever reason, had never enjoyed success.

I also found another Persephone on the same visit (it was Christmastime and I believe the store had received a special shipment, as I have never been lucky enough to discover Persephone books at Barnes & Noble again), and I noticed with interest that it had been penned by Monica Dickens, Charles Dickens’ granddaughter. Wondering if she was as compelling an author as her grandfather, I purchased it and began reading it shortly after with my book club. When we met the following month to discuss it, we all agreed that we hadn’t been able to put it down. Who knew that Charles Dickens had offspring who wrote? and wrote in a style worthy of her literary heritage? Since then I have been on a quest to collect more of Monica Dickens’ books (not easy here in the US, as they were published in Britain quite some time ago) and have been interested in discovering more unknown literary greats.

Persephone books not only brings overlooked authors to life, they also focus on women authors by publishing works that were neglected over the years because they were not written by men. In bringing these novels to life at last, Persephone is helping to right a literary injustice. It is also interesting to note that this publishing company is owned by a woman, and her extraordinary vision and dedication to her business has imparted a unique credibility to her desire to publish female authors.

Not only am I discovering “new” authors and works, but there are authors who became successful without all of their books being well-received. To that end, Persephone brings out those neglected, overlooked novels and introduces them to a new audience.

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Persephone Books is not just a publisher, but the creator of a reading experience, as their books are lovely in their simple gray covers with exquisite interiors awaiting those who crack the covers open to peek inside. A matching bookmark will begin to slide out as you open the book further, and if you’re not hooked by now then you are probably not appreciative enough of a bookish experience (of course I speak tongue in cheek…).

Should you happen into their store in London (which sits on the cutest, quietest street that just begs you to stop awhile and take it in), you will be greeted with more of the publisher’s simple, but elegant aesthetic. Clean bookshelves bearing neat stacks of their gray books beckon invitingly from a tiny, sun-filled room. Just beyond the counter, you may glimpse employees having afternoon tea. While I was visiting, a young employee popped into the shop with a profusion of flowers in her hand “just because”. It is perhaps because of their attention to beauty that Persephone has been able to succeed in creating a literary life of its own – one that is simple, beautiful, and worth exploring.

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