Translated by Malcolm C. and Ursula Lyons

Penguin Classics, Each Volume $20

If you’ve never read The Arabian Nights, and you pick up this three-volume set from Penguin Classics, you’re in for a real treat. This fresh translation of the classic Arabian Nights is entrancing. Professor Lyons’ prose is clear, and engaging. The Arabian Nights: 1001 Nights, a collection of Persian and Arabic folk tales, is framed into the story of Shahrazad, the young wife of a King, who plans to have her killed the morning after her wedding night. In order to save her life she begins to tell her husband a story. For 1001 nights, she spins yarns that never quite end. The folk tales are comedies, romances, adventures, morals, and poems. The stories interlace, with each other, characters in a story told by Shahrazad, who in turn tell other stories, each leaving a cliffhanger to be never-quite-fulfilled by the end of each night. Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, the Seven Voyages of Sinbad, Aladdin and the Lamp, these stories are familiar, and like Shahzarad’s husband, you’ll want to keep turning the pages to see how it all turns out.

Reviewed by Bradley Wright