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

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

Great Books Week- Day 4 Blog Challenge

Here’s the blog challenge question for Thursday, October 6, 2010:

What book or books do you read over and over?

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.

“There are books so alive that you’re always afraid that while you weren’t reading, the book has gone and changed, has shifted like a river; while you went on living, it went on living too, and like a river moved on and moved away.  No one has stepped twice into the same river.  But did anyone ever step twice into the same book?”

~Marina Tsvetaeva

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.

Great Books Week- Day 3 Blog Challenge

Here’s the blog challenge question for Wednesday, October 6, 2010:

What childhood book captured your imagination?

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!

“The stories of childhood leave an indelible impression, and their author always has a niche in the temple of memory from which the image is never cast out to be thrown on the rubbish heap of things that are outgrown and outlived.”

~Howard Pyle

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.

Great Books Week- Day 2 Blog Challenge

Here’s the blog challenge question for Tuesday, October 5, 2010:

What makes a book great?

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 many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book…”

~Henry David Thoreau, Walden

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.