Pride and Prejudice 200th Anniversary: Great Books Week 2013

Great Books Week 2013 celebrated Pride and PrejudiceIt’s time once again to celebrate Great Books Week with Excellence in Literature and NAIWE. For 2013, we are celebrating the 200th anniversary of the first publication of Jane Austen’s masterpiece, Pride and Prejudice. If you haven’t already read it, we hope you’ll take the opportunity to do so this month.

Download the poster as a PDF: great-books-week-2013

Here’s an introduction to P&P from the Jane Austen module in the British Literature volume of the Excellence in Literature curriculum:

“It’s not easy to explain why Pride and Prejudice is one of the most popular novels of all time. The plot, after all, does not involve sweeping drama, earth shaking events, or even spellbinding suspense. Why do people read Jane Austen’s masterpiece, not just once, but time after time? I believe it’s because of Jane herself—her delightful wit, her interesting (sometimes aggravating) characters, and her enduring themes. Like Shakespeare, she reveals truths about human nature that ring true despite cultural changes. Her books are subtle; like shortbread cookies, the first bite may seem bland, especially if you are used to something bold and splashy. By the time you finish, however, chances are that you will want more. Enjoy!”

More about Jane Austen and Pride and Prejudice

You can learn more about Jane Austen and her work at PBS Masterpiece Theatre, which offers a biography, film clips, including behind the scenes excerpts, a page for each of Austen’s books, and a nice selection of resources for further research.

G. K. Chesterton’s splendid essay, “On Jane Austen in the General Election“, appears in several of his essay collections, as well as online. His analysis of Mr. Wickham is spot on. (Chesterton is another great British writer.)

You may view the non-interactive version (better for a slow connection) of Austen’s History of England at this link; audio is still available and you can view enlarged images of the pages.

Pemberley.com offers a very helpful listing of characters, with a genealogical chart.

Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle
I highly recommend the 1995 BBC/A&E version of Pride and Prejudice, with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle. It incorporates much of Austen’s incomparable dialogue and remains generally faithful to the novel. You may view more information and a few clips at the BBC site.

You may visit Chawton Cottage, the Hampshire home where Austen wrote some of her most beloved works. The website has a nice virtual tour.

The Jane Austen Jokes page has several variations of a top ten song list, a hilarious list of Jane Austen punishments (things such as “An audience with the Queen accompanied by Mrs. Bennet” or “A tour of Rosings with Mr. Collins”), suggested answering machine messages, a money-making scheme from Mr. Wickham, and much more.

The Derbyshire Writers’ Guild has created a site for stories written in the style of Jane Austen. Amazingly, there are over 2,400 stories on the site at this time. Perhaps you’d like to contribute one as well? There are also message boards and links.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

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Great Books Week 2012 Celebrates Les Misérables by Victor Hugo

Victor Hugo's Les Miserables, unabridged, translated by Julie Rose with an introduction by Adam Gopnik
Ready to celebrate Great Books Week 2012, October 7-13? This year we are honoring Les Misérables by Victor Hugo. If you’ve never read it, we invite you to join us in reading this masterwork (one of my top ten favorite books). You can find the text online at Gutenberg.org, or purchase the excellent unabridged translation by Julie Rose, with introduction by Adam Gopnik. If you write about Victor Hugo or Great Books Week, please feel free to leave a brief note and link to your post in the comments below.Great Books Week 2012 honors Les Misérables by Victor Hugo - Portrait {{PD-1923}} – published before 1923 and public domain in the US.

In an 1862 letter to M. Daelli, his Italian publisher, Hugo wrote:

You are right, sir, when you tell me that Les Misérables is written for all nations. I do not know whether it will be read by all, but I wrote it for all. It is addressed to England as well as to Spain, to Italy as well as to France, to Germany as well as to Ireland, to Republics which have slaves as well as to Empires which have serfs. Social problems overstep frontiers. The sores of the human race, those great sores which cover the globe, do not halt at the red or blue lines traced upon the map. In every place where man is ignorant and despairing, in every place where woman is sold for bread, wherever the child suffers for lack of the book which should instruct him and of the hearth which should warm him, the book of Les Misérables knocks at the door and says: “Open to me, I come for you.”

We hope you will open Les Misérables as Hugo desired. It’s a beautiful story.

 Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones; and when you have laboriously accomplished your daily task, go to sleep in peace. God is awake.    Victor Hugo

This year’s poster is based on an early multi-volume set of Les Misérables overlaid with an 1868 portrait of Victor Hugo by François Chifflart (1825-1901). You’re welcome to download and share it on your blog, website, or social media with a link back to www.GreatBooksWeek.com.

Here are a few helpful links:

General resources for Great Books Week

Links for Victor Hugo and Les Misérables

Great Books Week is celebrated annually during the first full week in October. We hope you enjoy it, and will share the love of great books with others.

To love is to act.  Last words in Hugo’s diary, written two weeks before his death. Quoted in Victor Hugo complete writings, Jean-Jacques Pauvert, ed. 1970.

To download the poster image, right-click on it and select “Save image as” to save it to your hard drive. Please remember to include a link to www.GreatBooksWeek.com whenever you post it.

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Great Books Week 2011- Day 5 Challenge Question

What is your favorite Charles Dickens novel, if any? Why?

In this blog challenge question for Friday, October 7, 2011, we consider the possibility that you may not only prefer another Dickens novel, but even the possibility that you may not care for Dickens at all. If you fall into the latter camp, perhaps Robert Douglas-Fairhurst’s essay on “My favourite Dickens: Great Expectations” in The Guardian will shed a little light on what there is to like in this venerable classic.

If you can’t remember all his titles, below is a list of novels by Charles Dickens. Most were first published in serial format, with readers waiting anxiously for the next installment.

Dickens gave readings to benefit charity.

According to Wikipedia, Dickens’s technique of writing in monthly or weekly installments (depending on the work) can be understood by analyzing his relationship with his illustrators. The several artists who filled this role were privy to the contents and intentions of Dickens’s installments before the general public. Thus, by reading these correspondences between author and illustrator, the intentions behind Dickens’s work can be better understood. These also reveal how the interests of the reader and author do not coincide.

A great example of that appears in the monthly novel Oliver Twist. At one point in this work, Dickens had Oliver become embroiled in a robbery. That particular monthly installment concludes with young Oliver being shot. Readers expected that they would be forced to wait only a month to find out the outcome of that gunshot. In fact, Dickens did not reveal what became of young Oliver in the succeeding number. Rather, the reading public was forced to wait two months to discover if the boy lived.

Another important impact of Dickens’s episodic writing style resulted from his exposure to the opinions of his readers. Since Dickens did not write the chapters very far ahead of their publication, he was allowed to witness the public reaction and alter the story depending on those public reactions.

Dickens was an active author, traveling through the United Kingdom and America to promote his work through public readings (modern authors take note!). As he became more and more successful, he did readings to benefit many charities.

  • The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club
  • The Adventures of Oliver Twist
  • The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby
  • The Old Curiosity Shop
  • Barnaby Rudge: A Tale of the Riots of ‘Eighty
  • The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit
  • Dombey and Son
  • David Copperfield
  • Bleak House
  • Hard Times: For These Times
  • Little Dorrit
  • ATale of Two Cities
  • Great Expectations
  • Our Mutual Friend
  • The Mystery of Edwin Drood
  • The Christmas books:
  • A Christmas Carol (1843)
  • The Chimes (1844)
  • The Cricket on the Hearth (1845)
  • The Battle of Life (1846)
  • The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain (1848)

If you’d like to participate in the challenge, write a post on your own blog on the topic of the day, then jump back to this page to leave your post title and link in the comment section so that others can enjoy what you’ve written. Be sure to share your posts in Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. You may read more about the challenge on the Day 1 post.

Great Books Week 2011 free downloadable poster

“I suggest that the only books that influence us are those for which we are ready, and which have gone a little farther down our particular path than we have yet got ourselves.”

~E.M. Forster
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Great Books Week 2011- Day 4

So who was the genius who created Pip, Joe, Miss Havisham, Estella, Magwitch, Mr. Pumblechook, Mrs. Joe Gargery, and a host of other unforgettable characters? There are some excellent classic biographies on Charles Dickens, notably the delightful Appreciations and Criticisms of the Works of Charles Dickens by G. K. Chesterton. You may read it free from the Gutenberg Project, and listen free from Librivox. (And if you haven’t previously encountered the witty and wonderful voice of G.K. Chesterton, you can thank us later.)

If you’d prefer a more modern biography, The Economist has an excellent review of two new ones released in honor of Dickens upcoming 200th birthday. This excellent overview of Becoming Dickens: The Invention of a Novelist By Robert Douglas-Fairhurst and Charles Dickens: A Life By Claire Tomalin is posted on the website of The Economist.

Excerpted from Wikipedia: Charles John Huffam Dickens (7 February 1812 – 9 June 1870) was an English novelist, generally considered the greatest of the Victorian period. Dickens enjoyed unrivaled popularity and fame during his lifetime, and he remains popular, being responsible for some of English literature’s most iconic novels and characters.

Many of his writings were originally published serially, in monthly installments or parts, a format of publication which Dickens himself helped popularize at that time. Unlike other authors who completed entire novels before serialisation, Dickens often created the episodes as they were being serialised. The practice lent his stories a particular rhythm, punctuated by cliffhangers to keep the public looking forward to the next installment. The continuing popularity of his novels and short stories is such that they have never gone out of print.

Dickens’ work has been highly praised for its realism, comedy, mastery of prose, unique personalities and concern for social reform by writers such as Leo Tolstoy, George Gissing and G.K. Chesterton ; though others, such as Henry James and Virginia Woolf, have criticized it for sentimentality and implausibility.

Here’s the blog challenge question for Thursday, October 6, 2011.

How does Dickens’ writing reflect his life experiences?

If you’d like to participate in the challenge, write a post on your own blog on the topic of the day, then jump back to this page to leave your post title and link in the comment section so that others can enjoy what you’ve written. Be sure to share your posts in Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. You may read the complete background of the challenge on the Day 1 post. Great Books Week 2011 free downloadable poster

“Biographies are but the clothes and buttons of the man – the biography of the man himself cannot be written.”

~Mark Twain
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Great Books Week 2011- Day 3

Street Doctor from 'Street Life in London,' 1877, by John Thompson and Adolphe Smith (Creative Commons- LSE Library)London and England seem omnipresent in Dickens work– as you read, you’ll get a sense for how the great city and the countryside looked, smelled, and even tasted during the Victorian era.

There are many Dickens-related sites in London itself, and you can get a quick overview of them on a thoughtfully-created “Visiting Dickens” Google map. There is a hand-drawn map (as well as many other excellent resources) on David Perdue’s Charles Dickens site as well.

Dickens is memorialized in Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey (England has the Poet’s Corner, American has the Hollywood Walk of Fame– similar idea, though it varies in subject and execution).

London Cabmen from 'Street Life in London', 1877, by John Thompson and Adolphe Smith- Creative Commons

Here’s the blog challenge question for Wednesday, October 5, 2011.

What would Dickens stories be like without the setting of Victorian England? Imagine Great Expectations set in modern-day Cleveland or ancient Greece. How would it change?

If you’d like to participate in the challenge, write a post on your own blog on the topic of the day, then jump back to this page to leave your post title and link in the comment section so that others can enjoy what you’ve written. Be sure to share your posts in Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. You may read the complete background of the challenge on the Day 1 post.

Great Books Week 2011 free downloadable poster

“How hard it is to escape from places.  However carefully one goes they hold you – you leave little bits of yourself fluttering on the fences – like rags and shreds of your very life.”

~Katherine Mansfield
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Great Books Week 2011- Day 2

Mr. Pumblechook by J. Clayton Clarke ("Kyd"); Watercolour, c. 1900 scanned by George P. LandowIf you’ve chosen a favorite character from Great Expectations, chances are that there’s another character you loathe. That’s the topic for todays blog challenge. But meanwhile, have you noticed the quirky names Dickens give his characters? The funny thing is, each name is a perfect fit. Can you imagine Mr. Pumblechook as a Mr. Smith?

Here is a handy listing of Dickens 900+ characters. Dickens had a gift for naming his characters in a way that suggested something of their appearance or personality. Some of these names, such as Scrooge, are still commonly used as a metaphor for the character trait they embodied.

Here’s the blog challenge question for Tuesday, October 4, 2011.

Who is the Great Expectations character you like the least? Why?

If you’d like to participate in the challenge, write a post on your own blog on the topic of the day, then jump back to this page to leave your post title and link in the comment section so that others can enjoy what you’ve written. Be sure to share your posts in Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. You may read the complete background of the challenge on the Day 1 post.

“Fiction reveals truths that reality obscures.”

~Jessamyn West
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Great Books Week 2011- Day 1


Great Books Week 2011 is honoring Great Expectations in its 150th anniversary year. It’s a haunting classic, with a host of funny, memorable characters and a thought-provoking plot.

Have you read it? If not, you may download it as a free e-book from Project Gutenberg, or as a free audiobook from Librivox. You may also purchase my favorite paperback edition, Great Expectations (Modern Library Classics) from Amazon.com.

Or perhaps you’d like to watch the 1946 film version to get a quick overview of the story. You may watch it at the Excellence in Literature site.

Great Books Week 2011 Blog Challenge

Here’s the blog challenge question for Monday, October 3, 2011.

Do you have a favorite Great Expectations character? Who is it, and why do you like him or her?

If you’d like to participate in the challenge, write a post on your own blog on the topic of the day, then jump back to this page to leave your post title and link in the comment section so that others can enjoy what you’ve written. Be sure to share your posts in Facebook, Twitter, and other social media!

Great Books Week 2011 free downloadable posterBackground: In honor of Great Books Week, the annual holiday celebrated the first full week in October, Excellence in Literature and the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors (NAIWE) are hosting a Blog Challenge with a specific daily topic Monday through Friday.

Each blogger that posts a response to each day’s challenge (a total of five posts) will be entered into a drawing for a $25 gift card to Amazon.com. The winner will be announced in the next issue of The Edge, NAIWE’s e-mail newsletter (If you don’t receive it yet, you may subscribe at the NAIWE homepage) and on the Excellence in Literature Facebook page. Remember to write the post on your own blog, adding a link to the post that contained the original question. Return to this page and add a comment on this post, with the title of your response and a link to your post.

The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.

~Mark Twain
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Download Great Books Week 2011 Poster

Great Books Week 2011 free downloadable poster

It’s almost time for Great Books Week 2011! Here’s the poster for the event–feel free to download and post it on your blog, website, or social media with a link back to www.GreatBooksWeek.com. The poster is based on an 1859 portrait of Charles Dickens by William Powell Frith.

Great Books Week is held annually during the first full week in October. Be sure to join us and participate in the blog challenge. There will be one question per day, Monday-Friday, and you’re invited to write about them and link back to the GBW blog. Enjoy!

To download the small image to use online, right-click on the image at left, and select “Save image as” to save it to your hard drive.
To download a printable image, click on the high-resolution image to print (8.5 x 11″) link.

Books: The scholar only knows how dear these silent, yet eloquent,

companions of pure thoughts and innocent hours

become in the season of adversity.

When all that is worldly turns to dross around us,

these only retain their steady value.

~Washington Irving

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Blog Challenge Winner for 2010

Olivia, NAIWE's official feline representative

“Thank you” to everyone who posted on each of the five posts for the Great Books Week 2010 Blog Challenge. We enjoyed visiting your blogs and reading posts. Here are few of the participants who posted faithfully on each topic:

Eli Ross of the The Ineluctable Bookshelf

Debra Brinkman of Footprints in the Butter

Andrea of Andrea’s Notebook

Brenda Seward of Simple Pleasures Book Blog

In addition, there were many people who posted on one or two of the topics, or who posted and forgot to link back to the Great Books Week blog, which meant that we didn’t always find them during the event. You can read all the posts from the links in the comment section of each daily prompt. You may even find new books you’d like to read!

The winner of the $20 Amazon gift certificate was randomly chosen by NAIWE’s official feline representative, Olivia. Her large fuzzy paws necessitated a couple of tries to extract only one name from the bowl, but she finally fished out the name of Debra Brinkman of the Footprints in the Butter blog, who will receive the gift certificate via e-mail.

We hope everyone enjoyed participating in Great Books Week 2010, and we hope you’ll join us next year for Great Books Week 2011!

The National Association of Independent Writers and Editors (NAIWE), Excellence in Literature , StoryBlue and PhotographerBlue are sponsors of Great Books Week 2010.

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Great Books Week- Day 5 Blog Challenge

Here’s the blog challenge question for Friday, October 8, 2010:

If you were stranded alone on a deserted island, what five books would you want?

Great Books Week 2010- sponsored by Excellence in Literature and the National Association of Independent Writers and EditorsIf you’d like to participate in the challenge,write a post on your own blog on the topic of the day, then visit the Great Books blog to leave your post title and link in the comment section so that others can enjoy what you’ve written. Be sure to share your posts in Facebook, Twitter, and other social media!

“How vast an estate it is that we came into as the intellectual heirs of all the watchers and searchers and thinkers and singers of the generations that are dead!  What a heritage of stored wealth!  What perishing poverty of mind we should be left in without it!”

~J.N. Larned

Background: In honor of Great Books Week, a holiday that is celebrated annually the first full week in October, Excellence in Literature and the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors (NAIWE) is hosting a Blog Challenge with a specific daily topic Monday through Friday.

Each blogger that posts a response to each day’s challenge (a total of five posts) will be entered into a drawing for a $20 gift card to Amazon.com. The winner will be announced in the next issue of The Edge, NAIWE’s e-mail newsletter. (If you don’t receive it yet, you may subscribe at the NAIWE homepage). Remember to write the post on your own blog, adding a link to this post. Return to this page and add a comment on this post, with the title of your response and a link to your post.

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