Nic's New Reading Lists

Ambitious girl that I am, I have decided on new reading lists. Yes, I meant to pluralize that, I have 4 separate lists. Some I’ve read, some I’ve meant to read, some I’ve never heard of until I went searching. I don’t expect anyone to sit there and read my new reading lists; it’s more for my benefit. When I go to a used bookstore, it helps to pull out a copy of the list so I can figure out what I still need to buy, thus, my current posting. Also, I’ve decided not to read these in any specific order (mainly because some of these will be difficult to find), and if anyone gives me a book that’s not on these lists, you’re out of luck, I won’t read it.

As a side note, I went to
Camelot Books this afternoon and I was blissfully happy there. I’m serious; it’s my favorite store on earth. I love the smell of the books, the workers are incredibly friendly and knowledgeable not to mention the thousands and thousands of books floor to ceiling!

Novels by The Bronte Sisters
¨ Jane Eyre
¨ Shirley
¨ Villette
¨ The Professor
¨ Wuthering Heights
¨ Agnes Grey
¨ The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

Novels by Elizabeth Gaskell
¨ Mary Barton
¨ Cranford
¨ Ruth
¨ North and South
¨ Sylvia’s Lovers
¨ Wives and Daughters
¨ The Moorland Cottage
¨ Mr. Harrison’s Confessions
¨ The Old Nurse’s Story
¨ Lizzie Leigh
¨ My Lady Ludlow
¨ Round the Sofa
¨ Lois the Witch
¨ A Dark Night’s Work
¨ Cousin Phillis

Novels by George Eliot
¨ Adam Bede
¨ The Mill On the Floss
¨ Silas Marner
¨ Romola
¨ Felix Holt, The Radical
¨ Middlemarch
¨ Daniel Deronda

Must Read British/Scottish/Irish Literature
¨ The Dream of the Rood
¨ The Canterbury Tales – Geoffrey Chaucer
¨ Utopia – Thomas More
¨ The Faerie Queene – Edmund Spencer
¨ The Spanish Tragedy – Thomas Kyd
¨ Doctor Faustus – Christopher Marlowe
¨ Sonnets – William Shakespeare
¨ A Midsummer Night’s Dream – William Shakespeare
¨ Hamlet – William Shakespeare
¨ Poems & Sonnets – John Donne
¨ To His Coy Mistress – Andrew Marvell
¨ The Mower Against Gardens – Andrew Marvell
¨ Volpone – Ben Johnson
¨ Paradise Lost – John Milton
¨ The Way of The World – William Congreve
¨ Robinson Crusoe – Daniel Defoe
¨ Moll Flanders – Daniel Defoe
¨ Gulliver’s Travels – Jonathan Swift
¨ Pamela Virtue Rewarded – Samuel Richardson
¨ Joseph Andrews – Henry Fielding
¨ The Castle of Otranto – Horace Walpole
¨ The Expedition of Humphrey Clinker – Tobias Smollett
¨ Poems – Robert Burns
¨ Songs of Innocence and of Experience – William Blake
¨ Castle Rackrent – Maria Edgeworth
¨ Lyrical Ballads – William Wordsworth
¨ Poems – Samuel Taylor Coleridge
¨ Don Juan – Lord Byron
¨ Poems – Lord Byron
¨ Odes – John Keats
¨ Poems - Percy Bysshe Shelley
¨ Frankenstein – Mary Shelley
¨ Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
¨ Poems – Alfred, Lord Tennyson
¨ Poems – Robert Browning
¨ Poems – Elizabeth Barrett Browning
¨ The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – Robert Louis Stevenson
¨ The Importance of Being Earnest – Oscar Wilde
¨ Tess of the d’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
¨ The Portrait of A Lady – Henry James
¨ Poems – William Butler Yeats
¨ Howards End – Edward Morgan Forster
¨ Sons and Lovers – David Herbert Lawrence
¨ Ulysses – James Joyce

Martin Chuzzlewit

It’s difficult to choose one aspect of this story I like the best, it must be the vast array of characters. Of those many characters, I suppose my favorites would be Mark Tapley the cheerful servant and Tom Pinch, the sweetly innocent protagonist. Tom Pinch’s character is so amazingly kind and meek; his end seems hardly fair... Certainly he deserves the girl and everything good that can come to him, but Dickens had other ideas. Mark Tapley is one of those characters quite like Sam Weller (Pickwick Papers) or Clara Peggoty (David Copperfield)… Steadfast and inspiringly faithful.

At the other end of the spectrum, Mercy and Charity are absurd, flighty characters who add much humor to the novel (though Merry comes around by the end of the story). Although it is often considered Dickens’ least popular novel, it’s still a thoroughly wonderful story line full of classic Dickens characters.


A Christmas Carol

Why don't more people read A Christmas Carol? It's a fraction the size of any of Dickens' other novels, but just as wonderful! I'm constantly asking people if they've read the story and I almost always get the same answer: "No, I'm familiar with the story though. I've seen the movies."

Let me just take a moment to clear the tears of sorrow from my eyes...

How could anyone possibly think that a film, any film, can do justice to Charles Dickens?! I can't stand how our society thinks that watching a film is an acceptable alternative to reading the novels themselves! At any rate, I encourage everyone to read this novella and see the original beauty of the story.

"I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach." -Ebenezer Scrooge


Little Dorrit

Oh I love this novel so much! As always, I adore the hero and heroine of the story, Amy Dorrit (aka Little Dorrit) and Arthur Clennam. But the spectacular main story of Amy and Arthur is quite fittingly twisted among numerous subplots all of which are equally interesting. Naturally the villains are villainous indeed, Rigaud, Jeremiah Flintwinch even Mrs. Clennam along with Amy’s own family at times (with the exception of Edward). One of my favorite minor characters is the hysterical Flora Finching mainly because she’s such a good hearted character mixed with an insane amount of ridiculousness. There are mysteries, triumphs, heartbreaks and excitement abounding in this novel and it’s not merely a love story look deeper and you’ll find an impressive social commentary on Victorian society.

This novel especially leads me to wonder how on earth Charles Dickens knew how to write people so well, each of his characters is well developed and believable… The man was truly masterful. Little Dorrit only took me 4 days, though I’d have gladly sat for a few hours and read it in one day! Apparently the BBC adaptation is really something great, although I love Andrew Davies' adaptation of Bleak House... I hate his version of Pride and Prejudice with a deep passion… So I’ll reserve judgment until I see it.

***I hereby issue a profound apology to Mr. Andrew Davies. By some terrible mistake, I mixed up two VERY DIFFERENT versions of Pride and Prejudice. I adore Andrew Davies' version, it's splendid (in fact I've watched it so many times, my DVD skips in certain places)! The version I deplore would be the shoddy Keira Knightley version. Two very different adaptations. I am contrite and most sincerely sorry. To prove my trust in Mr. Davies, I will now go and buy a copy of Little Dorrit***


The Mystery of Edwin Drood

Admittedly, I had never read this partial novel, perhaps out of a total lack of willingness to read an incomplete mystery novel that left me with more questions than answers… Perhaps out of the uneasy feeling that once I read this novel, it would actually sink in, Charles Dickens is most certainly no longer alive nor is he writing anymore. As long as I had a book or two of his that I hadn’t read, there was a sort of illusion that remained, like there were still things to look forward to. Yes, I’m well aware that I’m crazy.

So, here I sit simply trying to accept the fact that I finished a novel I purposely avoided for so many years… And resigning myself to the fact that there is no ending to this splendidly mysterious beginning of a novel. It is fitting, I suppose, that Charles Dickens left the world with one unfinished novel… He’s left us wanting more. My mind is reeling with tons of possibilities of how the story of Edwin Drood was going to end… Oh how sad not to know the actual ending that was planned!

I guess I’ll go read my next novel now, that’ll be my comfort.


Our Mutual Friend

‘Money, money, money…’ the pervasive theme throughout Dickens’ final completed novel. Though money and class issues were prevalent in Dickens’ other novels in moderation, Our Mutual Friend sweeps up dozens of characters into the world of finances, greed, class distinctions and even racial intolerance. It’s difficult in this particular novel to choose a favorite pairing of characters between John Harmon/Rokesmith and Bella Wilfer, Mr. and Mrs. Boffin, Eugene Wrayburn and Lizzie Hexam… you’re hard pressed to find a favorite story line.

I do love John Harmon’s devotion to the mercenary Bella and his beloved Mr. and Mrs. Boffin, I love Mr. Boffin’s antics, Mrs. Boffin’s good natured love of those around her, Eugene’s slightly silly personality and Lizzie’s strength. As an added bonus, Jenny Wren is a fantastic character who adds sweetness and humor to the story. Mr. Riah, is certainly one of the best and most lovable characters (a sharp contrast to Fagin of Oliver twist) and serves as a balancing character to Jenny’s slight strangeness.

By the way, I read this in less than a week. Not quite 6 days. I love you, Charles Dickens.


Dombey & Son

It took me 1 week to read this novel, rather a short time for almost 1000 pages of novel, I think. It helps that I'm extremely familiar with the story, and not being the first time I've read Dombey and Son made it faster. The fabulous thing about Charles Dickens' style of writing: his stories don't get any less interesting with multiple readings, in fact you always catch more the second (or third... or fourth...) time around.

Dombey and Son abounds in antagonists, and the troubles that arise within the novel make for a truly dramatic yet thoroughly Dickensian story. One word especially seems to appear more often in Dombey and Son than most of Dickens other novels: Proud. Yes, it's an excellent illustrator of what happens to people, their families and lives when they only consider their pride. Of course, in Dombey and Son, you'll find one of the most satisfying literary endings, considering all the troubles and woes that plague the central characters Florence, Mr. Dombey and Walter.

In a slightly unrelated event, I've only once seen this book in hardback, and I didn't buy it. I saw it at my local used book store for about $15 and was one of the most splendid old copies I've ever seen... printed in the late 1800s, leather bound and rat chewed. If only I could have gotten that creepy feeling to go away when I thought about rats actually eating the book, I probably would have bought it. But alas, I still make do with my paperback copy.


Modern vs. Classics

Rejoice!!! I just went back and read my post "Oh Charles!" and it occurred to me: I didn't technically have a whole year in which to complete my goal. If I went from when I began to when I plan on finishing, I suppose I should technically have until January 24, 2011. Excuses, excuses, I know, but I just can't believe I let myself get tangled up in reading other people's stuff when I had my own goal! Next year, it won't happen like that.

Here's the thing... I don't like modern day books. Ooh I know I just lumped a vast amount of literature together and flippantly said "I don't like them" but the truth is: I'm a classics kind of girl, and I don't like today's writing styles. Maybe I need to force myself to read some modern day books? No, I've noticed that with the present day stories, they're almost always based on my beloved classics, so not only am I familiar with the contents of the story, I'm disappointed when it's not even near as good as the originals.

I still shudder to think of the Danielle Steel novel a loved one asked me to read last Christmas. It took me about a day and I was miserable. I sped through the painfully cheap version of Jane Austen's masterful Pride & Prejudice and ended up supremely embarrassed that I'd just read a few hundred pages of that stuff. Never again.

Here's hoping everyone will stop giving me books I "just have to read" because "I'll love it"... If indeed, I find a modern day novel that I enjoy half as much as my familiar old classics (and let's be honest, there are hundreds upon hundreds of classics I can still discover), I will happily recant my firm beliefs. As it stands, I'm content sticking with what I love!

Bleak House

Where to begin with this exquisite novel? Part mystery, part romance, part court drama, part coming-of-age tale, part tragedy… there are so many components and so very many illustrious characters that make this such an incredibly complex story. This is one of those rare stories that has something for everyone, while still remaining true to Charles Dickens’ form.

My favorite components of Bleak House (in no particular order):

*Mr Bucket the witty and brilliant inspector
*Esther’s narratives, those parts of the novel that humanize the story
*George (I imagine if he were a real person, I’d be in love with him)
*Mr Guppy reminiscent of Mr. Collins in P&P though perhaps a little less sycophantic on the whole
*The triangle between Mr. Jarndyce, Allan Woodcourt and Esther is fascinating and strangely sweet

This may be a very short post on such a wonderfully long novel, but my words are incapable of doing Bleak House justice. I adore this novel, that's all there is to it.

Great Expectations

It's been a long while, but have I continued reading? Yes. Will I finish by the end of 2010, not quite... In my own defense, I am often given books to read or borrow and people who give them to me expect me to be quick about it. So there I go, I set down whatever literature I happen to be reading at the time and I fall behind. However, I am still determined to read Dickens' novels in succession. Back to it.

Great Expectations. The very title evokes fond memories for me, I'm not the girl who read Dickens once in high school and then swore off his novels. Oh no. I passionately love his novels, every one of them, but this one's truly a childhood memory I cherish. I remember reading it for the first time and being enchanted by the world painted by Dickens... It's not that it's an overly cheery fairy tale type of story, but somehow the characters exist and overcome and that's what makes it so very magical.

Needless to say, Joe Gargery is my favorite character... So any part of the story containing him always makes me smile especially since the sweet simplicity of good Joe reminds me of Ham in David Copperfield. Not leaving out, of course, Miss Havisham, one of my very favorite villains... Ah, the monstrous creatures we can become when those we love betray us! Great Expectations is by far one of the best novels ever written, both in imagery and in character development. Try reading it, whether you liked it the first time or not, just try it, you may find you like it.