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Susan in TX

I find myself still drawn to unread "classics" if for no other reason than to consider for myself why something was labeled a "great book" or "classic. I've never read any George Eliot, but I would like to, and even have one sitting on my tbr shelf. I don't think I feel any pressure to read these, it's more of a personal quest to enter into the age old great conversation. That said, I read broadly and whatever I'm in the mood for at the moment. :)

Julie Fredericksen

I have never read any of William Faulkner's work - not the novels, at least. He is one of America's literary giants, and I was an English lit major in college! I feel guilty, but every time I pick up one of his books I don't peruse it very long before putting it down again. As I lamented in another comment, I read so many of the classics when I was a teenager. I feel I should go back and re-read some of them, but there are so many new books to try. I know I will never re-read "Middlemarch" by Eliot. I had to finish it too, because it was an assigned read. Don't start with "Middlemarch", Susan in TX, or I feel you will be put off Eliot forever.


I have read only a few of Dickens' books, and while I acknowledge his genius, they are definitely NOT for me. I much prefer Anthony Trollope, and my own highly unscientific inquiries have led me to believe that this is not uncommon -- readers tend to like one or the other, but not both.

adele geras

I no longer feel any obligation to fill up the gaping holes in my reading nor pressure from anywhere else really...I just read what I feel like at any given time. But you have a treat in store with Dickens. Perhaps because he's so often on tv and movies, you feel you sort of have read it him after all. Do give him a whirl. Start with David Copperfield, I reckon. What do others think Cornflower ought to start with if she decides to give old C.D a try?

Thomas at My Porch

I love this post and I love all the comments so far. I love reading classics but I read what appeals to me and I don't feel bad for not wanting to read others. Susan, I just read my first Eliot this summer (Mill on the Floss) and liked it. Julie I can't stand William Faulkner. I was forced to read him in grad school and refuse to try ever again. And I don't feel bad about it either. Karen: Trollope rules! Like him so much more than Dickens. I enjoyed Hard Times when I had to read it in college, but I can't tell you the number of times I have triend to read A Tale of Two Cities or Bleak House.

Dark Puss

Adele, I have read a number of novels by Dickens (pause for gasps of amazement) and I found him in general a tricky author to get on with (and I didn't like Pickwick Papers at all). I find myself in complete agreement with you in suggesting David Copperfield, which I have (I think) fond, if distant memories of.


Like Dark Puss, I've grown out of that feeling that I 'ought' to read; maybe that's why I've never been attracted by the various reading challenges on book blogs. (I'm a hopeless bookgroup member too, as the set book so often feels like homework ... Cornflower's bookgroup, of course, is the exception.) On the other hand, I'm glad I went through those 'ought to read' years, because it made me dip my toe into literary waters. Even if I never did quite get to the end of Ulysses and War and Peace. And never managed more than the first chapters of Moby Dick or anything by Conrad.
But Karen, I came late to Dickens, too, having loathed him at school ... I have a feeling you'd love him. (My favourites are Bleak House and Dombey and Son, perhaps because they were untainted by O/A-levels.)


PS However, completely agree with Dark Puss that Pickwick Papers is a pain ... apart from wonderful descriptions of food!


Guilt should not influence you, but I do agree with Adele -- Dickens is terrific and if you did warm to him you would have such a wonderful collection of novels to look forward to. My own favourite is Bleak House, but I think Great Expectations would be a good place to start. I also love Dombey and Son -- but I love most of them, though like DP I'm not at all keen on Pickwick Papers.


I thought I would like Pickwick Papers, indeed tried to read it twice. One of the authors I feel I should read is Wilkie Collins. My grandmother enjoyed these books when she was young (before 1st World War) and entertained her non reading friends when telling them the stories.


Oh. please read Wilkie Collins, not because you 'should' but because they're such brilliant stories. I completely understand why some readers wouldn't care for Dickens, but I don't think I've ever come across anyone who didn't like Wilkie Collins. You'll be addicted before you know it!


You are not the only one Cornflower. I have never read any Dickens although it was read to me when I was far too young by my well intentioned mother who adored him. It put me off for life. I have reached the age when I read what I want to read, although occasionally I get a "should have" moment about some thing "classic". It passes though and I continue to read purely for my own pleasure, rejecting books if they do not sit with me well.


How different we all are! I love Dickens. My favourites are Bleak House and Great Expectations. I agree with those who say,don't try Pickwick Papers; that's one I'll never read again, along with A Tale of Two Cities.
Do try David Copperfield!

Jennifer Dee

Why not try 'A Christmas Carol', I know its not Christmas, but with the weather we've all been having, you can pretend. And if you haven't read any Wilkie Collins then you are really missing a treat with these two authors. Dickens was an admirer of Collins and you can see this in his writing. Just brilliant.


It was only after I purchased 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die that I did realise how many lives I would need as I am a slow reader. I still feel a bit silly admitting I never read any Austen, Brontë and Dickens. Yet at this time in my life I prefer reading what comes my way and it gave me William Maxwell and Kader Abdolah to name just two not in the 1001.


What a great blog - just like being part of a wonderful book club! I'm not and never have been a great Dickens fan, though I absolutely adored Peter Carey's "Oscar and Lucinda" which was written very much in Dickensian style. My favourite classic writer is Wilkie Collins though I had to read "Woman in White' twice to really get my teeth into it.


I grew up in a house with shelves stuffed full of classics in these editions with small print and thin paper, bound in various non-saturated shades of red, green & blue. I read most of them and so have no guilt left, except the usual background level. I agree that Wilkie Collins is very acessible and in the right mood, most classics have a spell to weave.

In fact the modern novel is a thing I have found in adult life, to my great delight. But there are too many to fit into one lifetime - hence the need for Cornflower!

desperate reader

I like having the atlas - having a list of books I think I should read, even if it doesn't really match the list of books I do read stops me getting complacent and keeps leading me to new (or old) and exciting things. It works for me, even though I've almost totally given up on the Russians...

Simon T

Great post, Karen, got me thinking! There are still all sorts of authors I feel I ought to read, but I think it's to satisfy my curiosity rather than to make myself feel better or look superior. I don't feel I need to re-read, or even read more than one book by, any particular author if I haven't got on with them.

But Dickens... you should! He's very funny, and quite unlike any other author I've read. But somehow I haven't read any Victorian novels for about three years or more. I think it's a number-of-pages issue...


I certainly seemed to read more 'worthwhile' books when I was in my late teens and early twenties (pre-children in other words)but it all seemed to go downhill from there.
I am trying to catch up with classics now, more as a challenge to my brain and concentration than anything else! I've just begun my first (Anthony) Trollope and am enjoying it very much and have promised myself that this year I will read a Jane Austen that isn't Pride and Prejudice and a Bronte novel that isn't Jane Eyre, both of which I have re-read more times than I can remember while failing miserably to progress onto any of the other novels by any of those writers. The Bronte wont be Wuthering Heights though as I have tried to read it five times and have never got past chapter 3!

Julie Fredericksen


Why hasn't anyone mentioned "Oliver Twist"? Is it deemed to be too childish by your readers? That's the one I started with. You could start with it too, or - definitely - "David Copperfield".

I am also going to use this post as a forum to announce to the world that Jane Austen bores me to death!

claire (kiss a cloud)

I find myself drawn to classics mostly because I want to find out what people of several generations have found in it worthy to be read. I know that classics mostly end up being such enjoyable reads that I begin to stop wanting to experiment with newer books for the fear that they will be a waste of time and money. But, really, you should read Great Expectations. I think you'll love it. It's wonderful.

Sue Rosly

I wonder if you have seen any televised or filmed Dickens novels? I think he was ahead of his time, a natural script writer, which is why his books make such compelling television and films. I can't put my finger on why this is so - whether it is his style of writing, his characters, his subjects - whatever- he is the writer with the the most wonderful visual sense. Okay. I have not read James Joyce, William Faulkner, Herman Melville, but I have loved George Eliot, Jane Austen and Henry James. I have recently been reading Anthony Trollope and he has been a revelation - such fun and so absorbing, I am really enjoying his books. In the end it's about pleasure. If you decided to read Dickens I agree that David Copperfield would be a good starting point.

A terrific post, thank you.


My main reaction would be one of envy that you had never read Dickens. Envy that you have all this delight ahead of you.

No I don't feel guilty any more because I have not read certain books. I have given up on Tolstoy, Doestoevsky and Russian lit in general as I find it so depressing but I am aware while writing this, that this is a very sweeping statement indeed!

Dark Puss

Elaine, if you haven't already, perhaps I could suggest that you try Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov for a non-depressing Russian "classic".

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