As a professional writer, one of the ways I like to spend my leisure time is to immerse myself in a good book.
The only problem is, in more recent years, I’ve almost entirely stopped reading stories.
I tend to just read non-fiction.
To get myself back into reading novels I have set myself a bit of a task.
I’ve decided to try and work my way through the ‘big books’ of literature.
I say the big books because many of these come in such hefty volumes that they’d work well as a doorstop or as a replacement prop to heighten my computer screen (I use an old copy of The Concise Oxford Dictionary at the moment).
I think this project may take a few years!
Here’s what I’ve recently read
Les Misérables – Victor Hugo
I found this to be not just readable but enchanting.
This was probably because I found it very easy to sympathise with the main characters – which of course, keeps you going.
I wasn’t even put off by the fact that my edition came in two separate paperback volumes, with tiny print!
I’d highly recommend this for a long summer holiday read; especially if you’re heading off to France.
Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Humm. This one’s dark and deep.
I really needed to give it some attention because right from the start, I found myself stumbling a little over the language flow. Although I enjoyed it, from time to time I had to go back and read some bits again.
This made me think of Franz Kafka’s The Trial; so, although slimmer in pages, that probably now needs to be added to my ‘to read’ list.
(most of) The Complete Works of Sherlock Holmes – Arthur Conan Doyle
Ah, now we’re taking.
Doyle was an accomplished fireside storyteller and everything I’ve read by him, I found to be written beautifully.
The Sherlock Holmes tales were and remain colossally popular. It’s not hard to see why, that when Doyle killed off ‘the world’s first consulting detective’ in 1893 (he brought Holmes back to life for supplementary stories) people in London wore black armbands.
By the way, if you’ve not read any of the 56 stories and four novels, start with The Hound of the Baskervilles.
It’s a cracker.
The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
With so much valiant adventure and quixotic daring-do included, I found it easy to keep the pages turning with this one.
Read it with your feet up in front of a blazing log fire and a flagon of rustic red wine to hand.
I’ve had The Man in the Iron Mask by Dumas highly recommended to me recently, so that’s a charity shop ‘watch out for’ at the moment.
The Old Curiosity Shop – Charles Dickens
Whilst I revel in Dickens’ descriptions of Victorian time and place, I can get rather lost with his wealth of characters.
Sometimes you can tell I think, that the Dickens story you are reading was serialised in a newspaper or magazine (most of them were).
I kept going with Little Nell’s sad adventures but I did have to make myself a bookmark listing all the key people, so that I could keep a track of who’s who.
On the whole however, I’d agree with Queen Victoria, who said that she found The Old Curiosity Shop, “Very interesting and cleverly written.”
By the way, if you have never read any Dickens, start with A Christmas Carol. It’s bewitching and heart-warming.
And it’s even better if you read it in December!
These are the big books I’ve had a go at and failed
Well, failed in the sense that I never actually got to the end of and feel rather guilty for not doing so.
The Seven Pillars of Wisdom – T E Lawrence.
Ulysses – James Joyce.
Remembrance of all things Past – Marcel Proust.
Dox Quixote – Miguel de Cervantes.
The James Joyce in particular, I’m determined to have another go at.
I’ve got these on my ‘to read’ shelf at the moment
War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy.
Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien.
The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling – Henry Fielding.
The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman – Laurence Sterne.
I’m especially looking forward to the Laurence Sterne.
So, any ‘rollicking read’ recommendations?
I’d love to know about the big books that you’ve read and enjoyed and would recommend.
They’ve just got to be suitably ‘weighty’ that’s all!