There are certain works of the contemporary literature scene that, like pillars, have provided a creative structure and context that other magnificent books have built upon. They are also a great investment! Though these writers all approached their work very differently, they have all ensured that their books will give a high rate of return to those who own them
In Our Time, by Ernest Hemingway
Two years before he released The Sun Also Rises, the master of minimalism compiled this collection of short stories. These 18 tales include motifs now considered intrinsic to the author’s oeuvre, and explore the damage inflicted by conflict, with bull fights and the despair of WW1 providing backdrops to the action.
In Our Time was published in 1924, by the Three Mountains Press in Paris on handmade paper. There were only 170 copies originally available for sale, but subsequent iterations released after print runs in 1925 and 1930, contain up to three extra stories, and are instantly recognisable thanks to the title being capitalised. In 2014, Heritage Auctions sold a first edition for US$25 000.
The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien
A book that ignited a passion for the written word among many young readers, along with providing a gateway to the fantasy genre as a whole, Tolkien’s The Hobbit, or There and Back Again lost none of its magic for most adults. It first appeared in 1937, and details the epic adventures of Bilbo Baggins as he forsakes the warmth of his hobbit home to assist dwarves in liberating treasure from Smaug, the Dragon Dread. Baggins’ character arc goes from indifferent isolationist to self-sacrificing hero thanks to the battle royal between good and evil and continues in the subsequent trilogy, The Lord of the Rings.
George Allen & Unwin, a UK publishing house, released only 1 500 copies originally, and these sold out in less than three months. In 2015, a copy containing a personalised inscription from Tolkien himself sold for US$210 500 through Sotheby’s.
Ulysses, by James Joyce
Held as a masterpiece of the modernist movement in literature, James Joyce’s Ulysses can be described as literally maze inspired by the Homeric ancient poem The Odyssey. Rather than detailing the adventures of the valiant Odysseus and his struggles to return home, however, it tracks Leopold Bloom as he makes his way through Dublin on the 16th of June 1904.
What makes it a challenging read is the author’s frequent forays in to stream of consciousness writing that broke with tradition and inspired an entirely new way of writing upon its release.
Initially premiering piecemeal in the US periodical Little Review between 1918 and 1920, it was first released as one novel by Sylvia Beach, a Parisian publisher, in 1922.
Thanks to While Ulysses premiered piecemeal in the Little Review (a periodical in the United States) between 1918 and 1920, it was first released as a single novel from Paris-based publisher Sylvia Beach in 1922.
Due to the limited run of just 1,000 copies, first editions are as sought after as the book’s ultimate meaning. In 2002, a copy sold through Christie’s for $460,500 (RM1.89 million).
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