Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Book 10: My Hatred of Charles Dickens.

I have a deep and abiding hatred for a Mr. Charles Dickens. My first exposure to him was somewhat positive, with his A Christmas Carol. To be perfectly honest, you are a scrooge if you don’t at least halfway enjoy that tale.

My second exposure was in ninth grade Honors English when we had to choose between reading David Copperfield and Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card (now my favorite book). After reading the back covers of each book, and weighing them in my hand (a very scientific process), I decided on Card’s book, which eventually led to my love of science fiction. I thought to myself at the time that I made a very narrow escape, as the kids who choose David Copperfield all confided that it was a miserable bore.

Unfortunately for me, later that same year we were all assigned to read Great Expectations. And I hated every minute of it. I believe I read the first 100 or so pages before deciding I would rather gouge my eyes out than read more about Pip. After that, I went to and managed to squeak through the rest of that unit—sorry mom. I never finished the novel and I thought to myself that I would rather die than read any more Dickens.

Alas, for an English major, it is quite hard to avoid Dickens, but I tried my best to do so. I actually switched sections for one of my required classes because I heard that the professor I had class with LOVED Dickens and FOUR of his novels were on our reading list. Switching ended up being a good decision. There was only one Dickens novel on the list, Hard Times.

In that class, the professor told us we could manage to get away with only reading half the books if the reading was too much. I had never heard that from an English professor before and all of the kids in my class had their mouths open. Then he amended what he was saying and said that if you read half the books, you could squeak by with a passing grade of 1.5.

That class ended up being my favorite English class I ever took at MSU and the professor, Professor Watts, was my favorite. We read A LOT and while some things I didn’t enjoy, I discovered a love for many 19th century authors in his class.

When it came time to read Hard Times I would like to say that I tried. In fact, I think I read 5 pages before making a very hard decision. Hard Times became the ONLY BOOK in my entire college career that a professor assigned that I did not read—again, sorry mom. I couldn’t stand those five pages and my prejudice from my previous experiences with Dickens solidified my decision.

I graduated with and English degree without reading any Charles Dickens. Doesn’t that sounds horrid??

Well, when I decided to embark on this little challenge of mine, I was kind of annoyed to find that so many of Charles Dickens novels were on the A.P. list and on “best of classics” lists. I even thought about ignoring his work and pretending he didn’t exist, merely so I wouldn’t have to read anything written by him. After deciding that I would be cheating if I did so, I relented and put on the novels written by Mr. Dickens that seemed to pop up the most. They ended up being the following:

1. Bleak House
2. David Copperfield
3. Great Expectations
4. Hard Times
5. Nicholas Nickleby
6. Oliver Twist
7. Tale of Two Cities

7 books to challenge me more than any others (well…perhaps the Russians might give Dickens a run for his money). You might notice that I left A Christmas Carol off the list, mostly because I know it too well and I wanted to keep the number on my list to a rounded 250 titles.

Instead of leaving these to the end and sloughing through them, I have decided that since I have read 9 wonderful books, I might as well throw in an awful Charles Dickens experience to get it out of the way. Besides, six is a much better number to have looming over my head than seven.

So, Book 10 is a Dickens wonder (HA!). And to make it even more super-duper fun, I have decided to give my arch-nemesis a go and get it over with. Great Expectations has the honor and privilege of being Book #10 and I will probably hate it just as much this time as I did the last time through.

Let’s just say that I have no great expectations for Book 10 (HA!).

Here I go.


  1. In all honesty, I feel the same about Dickens. I would rather not than do. And unfortunately, it too began with an attempt at reading it in 9th grade (which funnily enough, was the book report I received the highest marks on though only reading half of it). Maybe Dickens is more of an author we grow into loving, if you find it difficult in the beginning. Needless to say, I will definitely have to take a leaf from your book and make a second attempt, because I guess it's really only fair. Good luck! ~ShadowPhoenix

  2. Just so you know, I'm glad you're finally reading a book you don't like. It'd make me feel like a failure as an English major to actually know someone who doesn't dislike ANY of the "classics." In fact, I was just thinking that a few days ago - that you like a lot of them, and that I felt like it wasn't fair that you found a way to like all of these books so far and I knew there was no way I would have (Especially Chekov, blagh).

  3. My apologies, I meant Dostoevsky. I guess you could say Russian authors in general. I just saw a play by Nikolai Gogol, and while it was MUCH easier to keep track of when put right in front of me, I still find myself not very fond of the Russian style overall.

  4. Amanda-
    To be quite fair and honest, I picked a few things to read at the beginning that I knew I WOULD like to keep me motivated (with the exception of Dostoevsky. I was positive I would hate him). Now I am going to try and venture into some things that I am slightly unsure of, so hopefully things liven up and I can write some scathing reviews. :)

  5. WOW! As time goes on, I sure do find out more and more about what my adult children did and did not do. We all have our favorite authors, I know I do. So I guess at this point, I will look at what you didn't do as a great learning experience that adds to your ability to analyze your books. Love, Mom

  6. The problem with Dickens is that a lot of his stuff seems a bit outdated. Not many people care about chimney sweeps and the industrial age anymore.


    p.s. I do like Hard Times...stick that in your chimney =)

  7. I hated Hard Times too but I liked Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities. I really liked the BBC adaptations recently of Bleak House and Little Dorrit and so I have started acquiring lovely antique editions of Dickens as I know I don't read anything that isn't in my house. If it's in my house, I may read it.