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The History of English Literature by Perry Keenlyside; narrated by Derek Jacobi and Cast

• Audiobook: 0 pages

• Publisher: NAXOS Audiobooks, 2001

• ISBN: 9626342218

• Genre: Nonfiction–Literary History and Analysis

• Recommended For: Anyone looking for a quick overview of the entire history of English Literature, from Chaucer to Ishiguro, in an easy listening audiobook format.

Quick Review: Quick and easy listening to a very, very brief synopsis of the history of English literature. Highly recommended for its quick access to authors and tidbits of English history that one might have forgotten or overlooked. Is also brilliantly read by Jacobi and the rest of the cast, who read snippets from the classics expertly.

How I Got Here: I was returning a book to the library, and decided that I wanted an audiobook for the car. There wasn’t much of a selection, but then I spotted this title and decided it would be perfect for my driver’s short attention span.

The Book: Goodreads’ Synopsis

The remarkable story of the world’s richest literary resource, the story telling, poetry, the growth of the novel and the greatest histories and essays, which have informed the language and the imagination wherever English is spoken.

My Analysis and Critique:

This audiobook was perfect for my quick drives to and from work each day! Each track focuses upon one writer from a certain time period, providing a bit of history of the author and the world around them, and then usually providing a reading of a snippet of one of their most notable works. So, usually, I could learn about three to five different authors and works on a one-way trip to my work, and not have to think/listen too hard.

Each disc is also separated into two to three different literary movements/time periods. Being a history, the text obviously moves chronologically. Thus, it is set up as thus:

Canterbury Tales

1. The Age of Chaucer (Middle Ages: Chaucer, Gower’s Sir Gawain, The Bible, and Langland’s Piers Plowman)

2. The End of Chivalry (Mid 15th Century: John Lydgate, Mallory, and Skelton to Sir Thomas More’s Utopia and Le Morte D’Arthur to Wyatt’s love lyrics and Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer)

Queen Elizabeth; The Faerie Queene; Elizabethan Age

3. Triumphs of Oriana (Elizabethan Age: Spenser, Raleigh, and Sydney to the trio of Marlowe, Shakespeare, and Jonson, and the poetry and essays by Donne and Bacon)

William Congreve The Way of the World Restoration

4. Puritan’s Progress (Restoration: religious metaphysical poetry by Herbert and Vaughan; Cavalier poetry by Lovelace and Herrick; the epic works by Milton; Marvell; Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress; the first English novel in Defoe’s Moll Flanders; Dryden’s poetry; and finally, Congreve’s The Way of the World)

Gulliver's Travels Jonathan Swift

5. The Augustan Age (Age of Enlightenment: Pope’s poetry and essays; Swift’s satirical Gulliver’s Travels; Samuel Johnson’s criticism and Dictionary; the novels of Fielding, Richardson, Sterne, and Smallett; and Gray’s “Elegy on a Country Churchyard”)

The Eve of St. Agnes by John Keats

6. Romantic Revolution (poetry by Blake, Wordsworth, and Coleridge; Shelley’s Gothic Frankenstein; Austen’s novels; and the poetry of Shelley, Byron, and Keats)

7. Faith and Doubt (The Victorian Age: Dickens; the rise of children’s literature and the detective novel; the Brontes; Arnold’s “Dover Beach”; the novels of George Eliot; poetry by Tennyson, Rosetti, and Browning; the works of Kipling)

Modernism War Literature

8. The Age of Anxiety (Turn of the century/wartime: Hardy’s novels; Houseman’s poetry; the works of Henry James (?!); Conrad’s Heart of Darkness; Wells’ science fiction; controversial D.H. Lawrence; the war poetry of Wilfred Owen; the Irish writers Yeats, Shaw, Wilde, and Joyce; Woolf’s To The Lighthouse; the satire of Evelyn Waugh; Orwell and Huxley; and the poetry of Eliot and Auden)

Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis

9. Post-War, Post-Modern(Multitude of voices and styles, as genres mesh: Cecil Day Lewis; Keith Douglas; Dylan Thomas; Ivy Compton Burnett; Jean Rhys; Doris Lessing; Muriel Spark; Iris Murdoch; William Golding; Angus Wilson; Anthony Powell; Kingsley Amis; Philip Larkin; Ted Hughes; J.G. Ballard; Salman Rushdie; Kazuo Ishiguro; Carol Ann Duffy)

While obviously this text is just a brief skim, a tiny overview of the great expanse of British Literature, I appreciated it for its providing me with some authors and works that I need to check out in the future. I also appreciated that it flowed so nicely together that it sounded like a story–the story that is English literature.

I also relished the lessons learned on the evolution of the novel, as well as the information provided in the Post-War, Post-Modern section (I am shockingly poorly read in modern literature! This needs to be remedied!)

Overall, I highly recommend this to anyone interested in gaining some insight on the history of English literature and listening to some classics read expertly by various voices. I’m not sure how easy this audiobook is to come by, as I just happened upon it at my library, but if you can find it, I recommend it!

Links:

Goodreads Reviews

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If you get a book cover tattooed on your body, you must really love the book. Or, at least, have some sort of connection to the book. Perhaps the art is just that awesome.

Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut

After reading Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut, my husband loved the book and the book cover so much that he got it tattooed on his arm. It looks like this:

While I have absolutely zero plans to get a tattoo, if I were, I wouldn’t doubt that it would be bookish. Here are some book covers that I would consider tattooing on my body. Each has some sort of reasoning behind it.

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

1. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

This would be such a “tuff” tattoo. I would feel super punk rock with a Clockwork Orange tatt.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Marukami

2. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Marukami

I haven’t read this book, but I love the cover. It would make a lovely “girly” tattoo.

Maybe on my lower back instead of a fairy or dolphin.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

3. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

I love this cover, but hate the book. Have read it twice. This tattoo could be a reminder to not

ever try it again!

4. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll

I have a good friend with an Alice tattoo. I love it. I have always loved this book,

 and if I weren’t such a chicken, this would probably be my first choice for a tattoo.

the wonderful wizard of oz by l. frank baum

5. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

I have always been attracted to the art of this classic. I think it would make a wonderful tattoo!

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

6. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

This would be such an awesome tattoo. It represents so much to me,

 as a fan of the book, a fan of the genre, and a fan of the themes. I could see this on my arm!

Matilda

7. Matilda by Roald Dahl

Perfecto! I love the illustrations by Quentin Blake in this book, and Matilda is so wonderfully

 bookish that I feel that this would be a very good, meaningful tattoo.

8. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

I loved the book, and as a tattoo, Huckleberry Finn could also represent

 my young life spent traveling across the states. He was a traveler, I was a traveler. Another great tattoo idea!

The Portable Dorothy Parker

9. The Portable Dorothy Parker by Dorothy Parker

I would be proud to represent Dorothy Parker on my arm. She is (was) a

 most awesome woman, and my tattoo could remind me of everything I wish to be as a woman.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle

10. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson 

Such a wonderfully creepy book cover for one of my favorite horror classics.

This is a sister story, so this tattoo could also remind me of my close connection to my own sister.


This was a tough one, as it’s hard to choose between them all. At the same time, they’re just things, and many I have already read. If they burned up, they’d still be stored up in my memory, much like the rebels at the end of Fahrenheit 451.

So, I chose based upon whether or not I could replace them and/or their sentimental value. Here’s what I came up with:

First, I would have to save my antique books. I’m so lucky that my dad knows that I love antique books–when he can’t think of a Christmas gift, he sometimes buys me a new antique book!

1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

2. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

3. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (beautiful book from 1902)

Next are my books that might be hard to replace because they were signed.

4. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

A Dance with Dragons

5. A Song of Ice and Fire series (A Dance with Dragons is signed) by George R.R. Martin

6. American Gods by Neil Gaiman

A very underrated set of books are my anthologies from college, which are filled with footnotes and my own personal notes. Surely, these are irreplaceable!

Norton Anthology of English Literature volume 1

7. The Norton Anthology of English Literature: Volumes 1 and 2

Norton Anthology of English Literature volume 2

8. The Riverside Shakespeare (it has everything!)

9. Folk and Fairy Tales (for some reason, I sold

this book after I finished the class, and it was so

hard to find to buy again!)

10. The last book that I would grab would be whatever I was currently reading…there might be a lot of down time while I deal with the mess of house fire. Gotta finish my current read!


I’ve been getting all serious and intense with my writings on Dickens, so I wanted to take a break and get all gushy. Which is good because it’s easy and my brain is mush. So, here’s my top ten list of hotties from the different books that I’ve read over the years…

I have to admit, I feel a little silly and school girl-ish writing this one. If my husband reads this, he is soooo going to make fun of me. If you don’t want to read my gushy-ness, tune in tomorrow, when I return to our regular programming. Well, I just had to make that disclaimer.

1. Mr. Rochester from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

A very long scene that reflects what I love about Rochester:

I stood face to face with him: it was Mr. Rochester.

‘How do you do?’ he asked.

‘I am very well, sir.’

‘Why did you not come and speak to me in the room?’

I thought I might have retorted the question on him who put it: but I would not take that freedom. I answered–

‘I did not wish to disturb you, as you seemed engaged, sir.’

‘What have you been doing in my absence?’

‘Nothing particular; teaching Adele as usual.’

‘And getting a good deal paler than you were– as I saw at first sight. What is the matter?’

‘Nothing at all, sir.’ […]

‘Return to the drawing-room: you are deserting too early.’

‘I am tired, sir.’

He looked at me for a minute.

‘And a little depressed,’ he said. ‘What about? Tell me.’

‘Nothing–nothing, sir, I am not depressed.’

‘But I affirm that you are: so much depressed that a few more words would bring tears to your eyes- indeed, they are there now, shining and swimming; and a bead has slipped from the lash and fallen on to the flag. If I had time, and was not in mortal dread of some prating prig of a servant passing, I would know what all this means. Well, to-night I excuse you; but understand that so long as my visitors stay, I expect you to appear in the drawing-room every evening; it is my wish; don’t neglect it. […] Good-night my–‘ He stopped, bit his lip and abruptly left me.

At this point in reading, I knew

A. Mr. Rochester had it bad for Jane,

B. I had it bad for Rochester, and

C. My #1 for 10 years, Mr. Darcy, had been bumped from the top of my book boyfriends!

Mr. Darcy Colin Firth Pride and Prejudice

2. Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.

Oh Darcy. How I love your social awkwardness and your upfront ways. You had me at “she is tolerable.”

3. Julian from The Forbidden Game by L.J. Smith

Light to darkness, Jenny. Darkness to light. It’s always been this way.

My teen crush. He was the antagonist AND the love interest–it totally threw me for a loop that I was crushing on a bad guy. This one definitely influenced my love for Spike from Buffy.

Bill Denbrough from It by Stephen King; Jonathan Brandis

4. Bill Denbrough from IT by Stephen King

Bill was here, and Bill would take care; Bill would not let things get out of control. He was the tallest of them, and surely the most handsome. […] Bill was also the strongest of them–and not just physically. There was a good deal more to it than that, but since Richie did not know either the word charisma or the full meaning of the word magnetism, he only felt that Bill’s strength ran deep and might manifest itself in many ways.

-Richie Tozier on Bill Denbrough

Before I liked bad boys, I liked the good boys. And Bill was the best. I was 11, he was 11, it was perfect. This was before I knew that the class clown was the way to go–Richie Tozier would have been my book boyfriend if I read IT a few years later.

Benedick; Much ado about nothing; shakespeare

5. Benedick from “Much Ado About Nothing” by William Shakespeare

Benedick, Act 1 Scene 1: it is certain I am lov’d of all ladies, only you excepted; and I would I could find in my heart that I had not a hard heart, for truly I love no one.

Bendedick, Act 1 Scene 1, later: In faith, hath not the world one man but he will wear his cap with suspicion? Shall I never see a bachelor of threescore again?

Benedick, Act 2 Scene 3: The say the lady is fair; ’tis a truth, I can bear them witness; and virtuous, ’tis so, I cannot reprove it; and wise, but for loving me; by my troth, it is no addition to her wit, nor no great argument of her folly, for I will be horribly in love with her. I may chance have some odd quirks and remnants of wit broken on me, because I have rail’d so long against marriage; but doth not the appetite alter? […] No, the world must be peopled.

Oh Benedick–you have no interest in love and marriage until you find out Beatrice loves you, and then you’re all lovey-dovey. Benedick and Beatrice are one of my all-time favorite couples, as they are both so witty and are one of the most well-matched and equal pairs in literature.

Tyrion Lannister Game of Thrones Dinklage

6. Tyrion Lannister from A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin

My mind is my weapon. My brother has his sword, King Robert has his warhammer, and I have my mind […] and a mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge.

The beauty of Martin’s writing is that his characters develop so much and slowly through the book, that you find yourself and your opinions of them developing without your even noticing it! This was the case with Tyrion, whom I was amused by at first, then admired, and then, come A Feast for Crows, Tyrion is no longer in the book, and I truly missed him.  And no, that’s not a spoiler!

Gilbert Blythe ; Anne of Green Gables

7. Gilbert Blythe from the Anne of Green Gables series by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Nothing mattered much to me for a time there, after you told me you could never love me, Anne. There was nobody else–there never could be anybody else for me but you. I’ve loved you ever since that day you broke your slate over my head in school.

I think Gilbert might have been my first book boyfriend. Interesting how the very good guys get pushed aside for the rogues, scoundrels, and jerks as we grow up…I wonder what these book boyfriends say about me…

8. Rhett Butler from Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

‘Sir,’ she said, ‘you are no gentleman!’

‘An apt observation,’ he answered airily. ‘And, you, Miss, are no lady.’

This line runs through my head constantly, as I am truly not a lady either, and can hear Rhett in my head whenever I fall down stairs, curse, burp, punch, etc. I love Rhett’s honesty, and I love that he loves that Scarlett isn’t a lady. He’s the best kind of man–the kind who will let you be exactly who you want to be and are, and love you all the more for it. Plus, he’s witty and generous and experienced! Rhett is the best!

Divergent by Veronica Roth

9. Four from Divergent by Veronica Roth

 ‘You think my first instinct is to protect you. Because you’re small, or a girl, or a Stiff. But you’re wrong.’
He leans his face close to mine and wraps his fingers around my chin. His hand smells like metal. When was the last time he held a gun, or a knife? My skin tingles at the point of contact, like he’s transmitting electricity through his skin.
‘My first instinct is to push you until you break, just to see how hard I have to press.’ he says, his fingers squeezing at the word break. My body tenses at the edge in his voice, so I am coiled as tight as a spring, and I forget to breathe.
His dark eyes lifting to mine, he adds, ‘But I resist it.’
‘Why…’ I swallow hard. ‘Why is that your first instinct?’
‘Fear doesn’t shut you down; it wakes you up. I’ve seen it. It’s fascinating.’ He releases me but doesn’t pull away, his hand grazing my jaw, my neck. ‘Sometimes I just want to see it again. Want to see you awake.’

I don’t know how, but Four made me feel fourteen all over again! He is the newest inductee into my book boyfriends, the latest since Rochester. This scene in particular made me want to write “I heart Four” on my notebook cover and squee! with my girlfriends.

10. E.E. Cummings from “i carry your heart with me” (especially when I hear it read like this)

And then there’s this poet who wrote the most beautiful poem that I’ve ever heard. I didn’t quite realize how beautiful it was until I heard it read aloud—and it was read aloud by Heath Ledger, so that really made me take notice. I recommend you listen to it! A big thanks to Amy at Lucy’s Football and GreenGeekGirl of Insatiable Booksluts for introducing me to this poem and Heath Ledger’s reading of it!

[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]

By E. E. Cummings1894–1962


Charles Dickens: A Life by Claire Tomalin

Charles Dickens: A Life by Claire Tomalin

• Hardcover: 527 pages

• Publisher: Penguin, 2011

• ISBN: 1594203091

• Genre: Literary Biography

• Recommended For: Anyone who enjoys biographies and Victorian Literature; anyone who doesn’t mind reading about a well-respected author’s dirty laundry; anyone who doesn’t like Charles Dickens and wants to add fuel to their fire.

The Book: Goodreads’ Synopsis

In his time, Charles Dickens (1812-1870) was the most popular author not only in his native England, but also in America: In fact, in just two days, his American Notes sold 50,000 copies in New York alone. Claire Tomalin’s Charles Dickens captures the inner workings of a fiercely private workaholic, a man whose mistreatment of family and friends seems at painful odds with his philanthropic activities and the deep human warmth communicated in his novels. Tomalin’s mastery of the materials and writing skills enable her to untangle and weave together events in Dickens’ professional career and private life that other chroniclers have missed. By any standard, a major biography of a major author by an award-winning biographer.

Why This Is Not a Review:

I’ve said it before, and I will say it again, I don’t like biographical writing. So, why did I pick this one up? Because I have been loving my reading of Bleak House and have been noticing that Dickens had some strong feelings about philanthropy, and I wanted to know where these stemmed from, and how they appeared in his own life. When I read Tomalin’s biography on Dickens, I pretty much got this answer. However, I also got a lot more of his personal life than I wanted. Too much that I didn’t want to know.

So, it turns out Dickens was a big jerk and sort of a weirdo in his personal life. He wasn’t a good husband, and not a very good father, and his friendships equated to emotional rollercoasters that would make a teenage girl’s life seem positively stoic. Yet, he did some amazing things in his professional life. Unfortunately, Tomalin’s biography spent about equal time on both parts of his life, and I reluctantly read about all of his personal issues. While Tomalin’s book was very well-written, and did everything a biography is supposed to do, I couldn’t bear to read most of it. In fact, I wanted to stop reading after I reached the point when he stopped writing his novels and went on book tours. At this point in his life, it was just DRAMA. And I don’t want the drama, I’m only interested in his writing life.

So, I’m not writing a book review because I don’t think that I can be objective and do justice to Tomalin’s work. It wouldn’t be right. So, instead, I will provide a reflection on what I learned about Dickens’ writing life, as that is solely what I read this book for. This reflection will be in two parts, as it is rather long (I have struggled with writing this for DAYS, and this reflection was finally composed over a period of HOURS on Saturday), with the first half appearing today, and the second half appearing tomorrow.

One last personal reflection: after struggling with my reading of Tomalin’s biography on Dickens, I have decided that I will not read another biography on any author whom I admire. I just don’t want to know about their personal life! I don’t need to! Instead, I will read literary criticism on works and authors, and if I need a little personal history, I will simply reference a biography, and not read it in its entirety. Tomalin also wrote a biography on Jane Austen, and I’m not sure that I could read that either. Yet, give me a biography on Motley Crue or Tina Fey’s Bossypants, and I could handle that! I just don’t want to read about authors. I guess I’m not the only one though, as Lev Grossman discussed this very issue earlier this month in Time, and even referenced Dickens and Tomalin’s biography on Dickens. As Grossman put it, with some authors such as Dickens, Vonnegut, Ellison, and Roald Dahl, “the less said the better.”

Links:

“I Was a Teenage Samuel Beckett: Or My Literary Biography Problem” by Lev Grossman for Time

Lev Grossman’s Review of Charles Dickens: A Life by Claire Tomalin

Classic Authors: They’re Just Like Us! (if we’re best-selling novelists, that is)

or What I Learned about Charles Dickens, the Novelist

from My Reading of Charles Dickens: A Life by Claire Tomalin

Part One:

Charles Dickens essentially invented the model of the modern day New York Times best-seller novelist. He created and fit the mold in several ways:

1. He was extremely popular and well-known in his time.

2. He knew the power of public readings.

3. He went on book tours.

4. He tried to change the world around him.

5. He was one of the first Young Adult/Children’s authors.

6. He actively pursued and advocated copyright law.

7. He wrote serials.

8. He wrote for the masses.

9. He was sensitive to criticism.

10. His novels were adapted for the stage shortly after publication.

1. Charles Dickens: Literary Rock Star

Neil Gaiman on The Simpsons episode "The Book Job"

Neil Gaiman on The Simpsons; ep. "The Book Job"

Dickens was the original rock star novelist– if The Simpsons had been around in Victorian times, he would have appeared in an episode. On Twitter, he would have the most followers.

The public bought his books in droves, authors like Poe, Thackeray, and Dostoevsky clamored to meet him, and, at one time, he was even urged to run for Parliament. From the wealthy (even the Queen) to the very poor, on all sides of the Atlantic, everyone read his writing and loved his characters. “[T]hey were passed from hand to hand, and butchers boys were seen reading them in the streets. Judges and politicians, the middle classes and the rich, bought them, read them and applauded[…]. The names of his characters became common currency ,” (68). It seems he was universally loved as a novelist.

2. Appearing Tonight: Charles Dickens

Like many modern-day authors, Dickens knew the power of public readings. His close literary friends pooh-poohed the idea, considering it akin to a circus performance, but Dickens thought “in these days of lecturings and readings, a great deal of money might possibly be made […] by one’s having Readings of one’s own books. It would be an odd thing. I think it would take immensely,” (184).

It did take immensely, and Dickens greatly enjoyed acting out his own characters, and people filled the house to listen to their favorite author read his own words. “People knew that this was the event that must be caught now or never, and they were ready to come for miles and through all weather to hear the great man,” (366).

In this way, I was reminded of the giddy pleasure I had in listening to Neil Gaiman read from his novel American Gods during its 10-year anniversary tour last year. His tour would quickly sell out in each city in which it was announced, and the audience that I was a part of in Los Angeles was comprised of all types, including Wil Wheaton, who was just as giddy as the rest of us. I drove about a hundred miles to see Gaiman, and it was entirely worth it, as I’m sure it was for Dickens’ audience.

If you read it, they will come, and Dickens knew this before it was commonplace.

Dickens on a Reading Tour3. Next Stop: America

Dickens also actively promoted his books on book tours. He came to America in 1842, bouncing around from Boston to New York, Washington, Baltimore, the South, St. Louis, Ohio, Buffalo, Niagara Falls, and Canada. During his tour, he took part in dinners, parties, and balls held in his honor, befriended Washington Irving, Emerson, and Longfellow among others, and pursued international copyright laws. America loved him and he was truly given the “rock star treatment” with fans clamoring for autographs outside of his hotels.

In his later years, Dickens wrote less and toured more with many public readings. Dickens returned to America in 1867, where he read like a mad man for the public, giving numerous public readings in a short amount of time. When he returned to England, he began his Farewell tour, giving a series of readings in England, Scotland, and Ireland, until he completely wore himself out and suffered a stroke. Yet, he continued with his tour, knowing the power of being with the people, and his readers loved him for these book tours.

4. Before George Clooney and Angelina Jolie, There Was Dickens

Actually, Dickens would have probably not approved of Clooney or Jolie’s philanthropic ventures, as I will discuss in my Tuesday Dickens post. Dickens was more like Michael Moore, interested in his own country’s social problems.

Dickens’ novels shed light upon many major issues in British society: child labor, prostitution, social inequities, legal malaise, poverty, ecology, etc.. He felt it his duty to show what life was really like in his world, and while he felt that most of society would rather not know, he put it in his novels anyway. “There is a kind of delicacy which is not at all shocked by the existence of such things, but is excessively shocked to know of them,” Dickens said on the subject, (Tomalin, 147). Not only did he write about these issues, he also sought to make an active change with his philanthropic ventures, organizing charities for orphans, the poor, and even instituting a “Home” for prostitutes with the hope of educating them and preparing them for a life of respectable housekeeping and marriage.

David Copperfield

Totally Swoonworthy!

5. OMG! My fave YA book boyfriend isn’t Edward Cullen, it’s David Copperfield!

Charles Dickens was one of the first Young Adult/Children’s authors, giving voice to what it means to grow up through the first person narration of David Copperfield. Any emo kid could relate to Copperfield’s story, as Tomalin describes the first 14 chapters as showing “the pain of a child being separated from his mother, unkindly used by his stepfather, humiliated and punished without knowing why, sent to a boarding school run on a harsh and unjust system, helpless in the hands of people who don’t like him,” (217).

What is surprising, is that no one had given voice to a young person before, except, of course, Charlotte Bronte. Tomalin goes on in discussing David Copperfield as a literary turning point: “This was his first book to be narrated in the first person. It was also only the second novel to give voice to a child who is taken seriously as a narrator. Two years before he started to write David Copperfield [1847], a great stir was caused by Jane Eyre, which opens with a child’s narrative of cruel usage by her guardians and at school. […] As far as is known, Dickens never read Jane Eyre […]. That two writers should have within a few years made the voice of an ill-used child central to a novel is remarkable coincidence,” (217-218).

Read Part Two of This Post Tomorrow!


Booking Through Thursday

I’ve been hard at work, writing difficult reviews and researching Dickens for a profile post, so I thought that I would take it easy on the blog today and submit my answers to the interview questions presented at Booking through Thursday. It was a fun meme, and I encourage you all to participate! Here are my answers:

1. What’s your favorite time of day to read?

My favorite time to read is afternoon to evening. This is when I allow myself to simply be and do as I please. No concerns for getting work done, running errands, or cooking. My favorite time of day.

2. Do you read during breakfast? (Assuming you eat breakfast.)

Yes, though I’m not reading books often at this time, as I am usually at work when I eat breakfast. I spend breakfast reading student essays or texts to be taught in class. Pleasure reading during breakfast only occurs on the weekend!

3. What’s your favorite breakfast food? (Noting that breakfast foods can be eaten any time of day.)

Pigs in a Blanket, served at a little diner my husband and I eat at occasionally. It’s scrambled eggs and sausage rolled up in a pancake. All of my favorite breakfast foods rolled into one–genius!

4. How many hours a day would you say you read?

On vacation (which I am still on), I read somewhere between 10-11 hours. During the normal working year, I read anywhere between 2-7 hours.

5. Do you read more or less now than you did, say, 10 years ago?

I am reading more than ever! Actually, I might have read nearly as much as a tween, but with parental restrictions on my daily habits (“You should go outside and be with your friends, Mandy!” or “Turn out that light and go to bed!”), I doubt that I read more than 3 hours a day. Although, I think I did get a lot of secret reading in at school, so I’ll say that I am probably reading as much as I did when I was 11-13.

6. Do you consider yourself a speed reader?

Yes and no. I do read relatively fast, but only as the book dictates. I tend to pick up speed as I move through the book, picking up momentum as I gain familiarity with the plot and style. So, it depends upon the book and at which point in the book I am.

7. If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

The ability to fly–that’s a recurrent power I have in my dreams, and I really enjoy the experience!

8. Do you carry a book with you everywhere you go?

No–only if I plan on being somewhere for a while. I have to have a certain kind of environment when I read, and if I don’t have it, my comprehension suffers, so it’s a waste of time.

9. What KIND of book?

But, if I do bring a book with me, it doesn’t matter what kind. Usually it’s simply whatever my current read is. Last night, I took Bleak House with me and read while I waited for my takeout order. It was pretty much a fail as I had to re-read everything once I got home. As mentioned in the previous answer, the noisy restaurant wasn’t an ideal reading spot and my comprehension suffered.

10. How old were you when you got your first library card?

I was five or six, and I remember the day. It was a children’s library event at the local library in Tucson, and there were balloons and lots of other children, and I received some stickers that featured a cute green reading frog. It must have been really exciting to leave such an imprint on my memory.

Antique Shakespeare and Frankenstein and Grapes of Wrath

My Antique Library: 19th Century Shakespeare, Frankenstein (1902), The Grapes of Wrath (1939)

11. What’s the oldest book you have in your collection? (Oldest physical copy? Longest in the collection? Oldest copyright?)

The oldest physical copy: The Dramatic Works of William Shakspeare (seven volumes), printed in 1815!

Longest in the Collection: What Do People Do All Day? by Richard Scarry (been in my family since the late ’60s).

Oldest Copyright: The Epic of Gilgamesh (pre-copyright, obviously, as it is the oldest written story on Earth, written on tablets, some time between 2750 and 2500 BC)

12. Do you read in bed?

Yes, although my preferred spot is on the couch. I fall asleep quickly in bed, and use reading in bed as a tool to fall asleep–it’s not reading for reading’s sake, but reading for sleeping’s sake.

13. Do you write in your books?

I write on Post-Its in my books. I don’t think I’ll ever write in my books again!

14. If you had one piece of advice to a new reader, what would it be?

Start with what you know you love. If you love a movie based on a book, read the book. If you loved a movie not based on a book, read a book similar in genre and/or themes. If you love history, read a nonfiction book delving in a favorite era. If you love reptiles, and so on… Start with what you love and go from there!

Booking through Thursday is a weekly meme about books and reading.


Please note: This list is compiled in no particular order. It is simply a list of my favorite books for this particular genre read in 2011.

Adult Contemporary Fiction

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson (British)

Really enjoyed this novel. It worked as a comedy of manners with a sweet love story. Pettigrew’s son infuriated me regularly, and while I was often angry while reading, it was very hard to put down.

Empire Falls

Empire Falls by Richard Russo (American~Pullitzer Winner)

This wonderful novel included excellent, well-rounded characters, a page-turning plot, and a haunting development at the climax. Highly recommended to anyone.

No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy (American~Mystery/Crime)

Beautifully written, creepy at times, with edge of your seat thrills. While the Coen brothers did an amazing job with their film adaptation, the novel will provide you with more context and understanding of the plot and characters.

March by Geraldine Brooks (American~Historical Fiction)

Paralleling Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, this novel considers what Jo March’s father’s experience was during the Civil War. The language and descriptions were moving, and I actually think that I prefer this novel over Alcott’s classic. Like Little Women, it is based upon the actual life of Amos Alcott and draws it sources from Alcott’s journals and letters, as well as from the writings of Walden and Thoreau, who were friends of the Alcotts and appear in this novel. Very good historical fiction!

The Help by Kathryn Stockett (American~Historical Fiction)

A very good novel with fully developed characters and an interesting plotline. I was full of nervous energy as I read each chapter.

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (American~Pullitzer Winner)

Remember, this is my list. And I loved this book! I loved the characters, I loved the themes, and I loved the alternative writing structures utilized throughout the novel. Loved it! 5 stars loved it! However, so many readers hated this book, ripping their hair out hated it, that I have a special recommendation for those who are interested: if you check it out, read the first three chapters. If you don’t like them, stop. That simple. Nothing to get angry about. My full review will appear next week. But, I loved it!

the peach keeper

The Girl Who Chased the Moon, The Sugar Queen, and The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen (American~Magical Realism)

Allen is the master of Southern magical realism. In each of these novels, Allen spins a magical thread into what is simply a lovely depiction of a North Carolina small town and its delightful residents. I love all of Addison’s beautiful novels. Recommended for any occasion when you just need a breath of fresh, sweet air!

Young Adult Fiction

Coraline

Coraline by Neil Gaiman (Fantasy/Horror)

One of the scariest books I’ve read all year, and it’s a children’s book! Highly recommended for its imaginative plot and creepy pictures. Gaiman is a master!

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (Historical Fiction)

This historical fiction novel was very haunting and sad as it followed the short tragic life of a young girl in WWII Germany. Was also a very unique novel as it was narrated by Death.

The Giver by Lois Lowry (Science Fiction~Dystopian)

A rather sad dystopian novel. I had been hearing about how wonderful this book was for years, and I was pleased to see that it lived up to its expectations. Highly recommended to all of you dystopian lovers out there!

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Divergent by Veronica Roth (Science Fiction~Dystopian)

Really enjoyed this dystopian YA novel. Check out my review here.

Tomorrow’s Post: Top Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Read in 2011