Lost Horizon by James Hilton
Lost Horizon was the first paperback ever published. It also originated the term “Shangri-La”, and in this utopia there is racial, cultural, political, sexual, and religious harmony. The inhabitants live by a philosophy of moderation, and feel that laziness in doing stupid things is a virtue. There is also a surprising sci-fi bent behind the purpose of the existence of Shangri-La that I won’t spoil.
This book was published in 1933 – and then started the paperback revolution in 1939 – and shows its age the same way an old movie does: the pacing is slower, the payoff is less intense, but the characters have surprisingly modern sensibilities which makes me wonder what we’ve been doing since 1933. If this kind of thinking was around 75 years ago, why does it seem that today’s society is even less modern than that?
British diplomat Robert Conway and a small group of civilians crash land in the Himalayas, and are rescued by the people of the mysterious, Eden-like valley of Shangri-La. Protected by the mountains from the world outside, where the clouds of World War II are gathering, Shangri-La provides a seductive escape for the world-weary Conway.