30 DoB, Day 23: Book You’ve Been Meaning To Read

Hi, my name is Stevil and I have a confession related to the next 30 Days of Books question:

Day 23 – A book you wanted to read for a long time but still haven’t

It’s not so much about a particular book, but about an author.  One of The Biggies.  One of The Biggies of whose numerous works I have never ever read one single sentence.

I am talking about Charles Dickens.


Yep, never read any of his works. Zippo. Nada. I’ve seen film versions of “A Christmas Carol” like 273 times, but have I read it? Nope.  Good Lord, the guy’s last name has been made into an adjective!

So, I thought it might be interesting for you, my likely more Dickens-read readers to suggest which book by the Chuckster would be a good choice.

Thanks for helping and for not judging me.  Much.

29 thoughts on “30 DoB, Day 23: Book You’ve Been Meaning To Read

  1. I picked D. Copperfield. Since I intensely disliked the three CD books I have read (Copperfield is not one of them), I had to pick from the three I had not read. And David Copperfield is an entertaining magician (I know, no connection….). Maybe the book will not be as boring and painful as the ones I read. Good luck.

  2. Good grief, Steve! You’re so well read, I never would have suspected you were a Dickens virgin!

    Then again, the language of Dickens is so Victorian, every sentence drawn out like spun sugar (or as a classmate in grad school said, “it feels like you’re being tortured on a rack”), that I can see why a lot of people avoid him. It helps if you read him in short bursts and focus on the characters: Dickens is best known for his sketches of people, which are so detailed that physicians have written articles for medical journals, attempting to diagnose the illnesses the characters were suffering from. (Tiny Tim has been thought to have suffered from kidney disease or rickets.)

    My favorite Dickens novel is Great Expectations, largely because of its wonderfully drawn characters and the twists in plot that had me reading until 3 a.m. Dickens’ portrayal of the London court system is marvelous, and Miss Havisham is deliciously creepy. It’s one of those books I’d consider bringing with me if I was being exiled to a desert island or shipped off to a space station for 10 years because it contains so much—a little mystery, a little humor, a little moral tale, and a lot of humanity.

      • Funny story. I read A Tale of Two Cities when I was 11. I was really freaked out by it, mostly because I’d just learned a random fact about beheading. Apparently your head has enough blood in it to realize it’s been severed and fallen in the basket. Not the thing an over bookish pre-teen needs to learn before reading a book about the French Revolution.

    • John — it looks like we’re in a 2-book heat between Two Cities and Great Expectations. I’ve got maybe 100 pages left in the book I’m reading. I’m surprised folks aren’t out there logging into different computers, trying to stuff the ballot box, as it were.

      I’m a little skeptical of Edwin Drood because I read Dan Simmons’ “Drood”, which was long and decidedly mediocre.

  3. I love “Nicholas Nickleby” but it’s a really hard and long read… not a good intro book, I think. “Tale of Two Cities” is fun, though, so I’d start with that one. I personally disliked “Hard Times” and “Great Expectations” (mainly because in GE, I wanted to strangle the snot-nosed brat of a main character – but, as Hangaku Gozen said, Miss Havisham is delightfully creepy).

  4. I voted for “A Tale of Two Cities”. I never read it, but I saw a “Wishbone” episode once where it was the featured novel. I can’t think of a more sincere endorsement. I did read “A Christmas Carol”. In it, Dickens sketches London’s poor even more vividly than Orwell.

    • Thorsaurus — I figured reading “A Christmas Carol” would be cheating since a) it’s short and b) I’ve seen film adaptations many times. In addition to never reading these books, I don’t think I’ve ever watched a film or tv adaptation!

  5. I have to confess I’m not a fan either – but Tale of Two Cities is my pick as well from a historical novel perspective. What a slog Dickens used to be for me – maybe I should try again?

  6. I vote for Bleak House, and let me do so by laying my case before you.
    1. Bleak House is the only Dickens book that has a female Narrator.
    2. The BBC and Masterpiece theater just did a remarkable and true to form miniseries on it just a few years back, including such great actors as Carey Mulligan, and Gillian Anderson, among others. Should you get bogged down by the large character list, watching the miniseries can help cement them into your mind.
    3. I’m currently reading it, and it’s the only Dickens I’ve really liked.
    4. (and this might be just one of my reasons) I just recently read a piece by Alexander McCall Smith about the differences between writing a novel for publishing, and writing a serial novel which will be produced in segments. It has helped me understand and appreciate better all the little muddling eddies of stories that permeate Bleak House.
    5. Despite some tragedy, this generally ends well for the people you want it to end well for.
    6. The audio book, while 29 disks long, is very well narrated.

    So there are my reasons. Hope I have persuaded you. :)

    • ginger — that’s an awesome comment! (Is there a like for comments here?)

      Actually, it was your twitter endorsement of Bleak House that made me think of Dickens a week or so ago when I was thinking about this post. I haven’t seen any adaptations either, though I remember the Bleak House one with Gillian Anderson was well-reviewed.

  7. One of the reasons Dickens is maybe not so popular is that I believe (and I could be very wrong, so someone correct me if that is the case) he wrote many of these stories for serials, and thus a segment was published by a magazine weekly or something like that. I think it made him a little more wordy than he needed to be.
    I did choose Great expectations…but any of them would be fine.

    • Miz — the serialization aspect is an interesting one. I wonder if that causes a lot of back-tracking between parts that had originally been installments?

  8. Ha! Well, I feel better–I’ve only read Great Expectations, and only because they made us in high school. And granted, we’re talking Alabama public school, so it was probably an abridged version that took out anything that might have suggested that evolution exists. Or that Nascar isn’t awesome.

    Gotta say, I don’t remember being in love with GE, so I’m going to put my vote in for David Copperfield–because it’s the one I’d be most likely to try, and maybe I can make you test the waters first. :)

    • Oh, and I neglected to mention–I saw a film adaptation of Nicholas Nickleby that was so terrible, I cringe whenever I see the book. I realize how unfair that is, but I think I was scarred for life. …Might also be related to the circumstances under which I saw the movie, but that’s a story for another day, eh? :P

    • You realize it’s supposed to be NASCAR, right?

      Maybe I could be like them college kids nowadays and just read the cliff notes, or better yet, maybe I’ll just read the plot summary on Wikipedia and consider myself done… :)

  9. My vote is for A Christmas Carol. It’s easy, it’s a great store, and it’s not 55 bajillion pages. I have no idea how many times I tried to read Great Expectations to no avail. Ugh. Dickens is not my favorite, try as I might to like him. (I’m supposed to like him, right? I’m uncultured or something if I don’t?)

    • Hannah — I left “A Christmas Carol” off the list because it seemed like cheating as a) it’s short and b) I already knew the story. And yes, I think there’s a pressure among the “learned” that you’re supposed to like Dickens and consider his works “classic”. Sort of like Citizen Kane for movie snobs — no one I know really likes it, but they say they do because they’re supposed to.

  10. How in the world did you get through Junior High and High School in the United States without reading anything by Dickens? I’m beginning to suspect you’re not a scientist at all! An imposter! (Shame on those nuns for neglecting your education!)
    Okay … I voted for ‘Great Expectations’ only because it was the one of those listed I actually finished. But I would highly suggest that if you just want to be able to brag that you’ve read Dickens, then read “A Christmas Carol” for exactly the reason Hannah said above. It’s short. It’s also pretty good.

    • GOM — oddly, in 12 years of Catholic school, I never had Dickens assigned to me. Maybe the break by the Church of England still stung after all those centuries.

      I think “A Christmas Carol” is sort of cheating for the reasons I put above. Though if I start something and it’s really brutal, maybe I’ll just switch.

  11. Um yeah, I’m not voting because I still have not read any Dickens either. . . too busy reading about ancient Aztecs, Chaco Culture, Russians in Alaska, Spanish Borderlands and such! You know. History!

    • Sandra — you know it’s funny, I think everyone that I know who has started this meme has almost been entirely fiction readers. It would be interesting to see it from a non-fiction perspective.

  12. Pingback: Book Review: A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens | Stevil

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