The NYRB Classics series has always felt like an imposing challenge.
A couple hundred books by authors most people have never heard of, vouched for by the esteemed editors of the New York Review, and usually featuring introductions written by authors and critics whose names are just familiar enough to remind you that you really know very little about literature. The series concentrates on unjustly forgotten or poorly-translated works of any genre, making their catalog a remarkable grab-bag of noir fiction, muckraking exposés, Viking epics, psychological treatises, etc…
As with most large, imposing collections though, all it took was a gentle introduction to get the ball rolling. I think I began with a new translation of the original Pinocchio (it turns out that, pre-Disney, that little puppet was a real little sh*t), and since then every NYRB book I’ve picked up has felt like a long-lost revelation.
My latest discovery is the recently (re)published Three Christs of Ypsilanti by Milton Rokeach: a psychological study which brought together three paranoid schizophrenics, each convinced that he was Jesus Christ, in the hopes that they might be able shock each other out of their mental illness. How could you not pick that book up?