A package of 100 titles drawn from Penguin's Black Classics series is being aimed at secondary school children, with schools minister Nick Gibb offering his support to the venture.
The titles range from the earliest writings to early 20th century works, spanning fiction, non-fiction, poetry and prose, and include Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, John Buchan's The 39 Steps and Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup.
Penguin's offer to schools is 30 copies of each of the 100 books for £3,000, allowing students to read together.
Schools minister Nick Gibb has said he wants debate and discussion about what classic literature should be read in the classroom, and the Penguin list is said to be intended to broaden the literature which pupils are exposed to and allow them to enjoy stories and authors which might otherwise be beyond their individual reading level.
On the Penguin venture, Gibb said: "It is important that all pupils in secondary school are taught to read and enjoy challenging books from amongst the world’s greatest literature. The first few years of secondary education is an opportunity for pupils to be introduced to such literature free from the constraints and analysis of public exams. I welcome this initiative from Penguin and look forward to seeing the list grow so schools can discover great books together.
"But this is not the end of the debate and I want this to be a springboard for discussion on the impact a great story can have on us all.”
Penguin Classics publishing director Simon Winder said: "We have chosen 100 books from the Penguin Classics series to continue our tradition of engaging the next generation – to surprise, provoke and delight young readers. The opportunity to work with schools to make these 100 books available to their students is a unique one and we are thrilled to be involved.”