A Word to the Wise: Celebrating two centuries of Dickens

By: Tom Rupp, Special to the Telegraph
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I love to read books. Now, before you accuse me of stating the obvious (what else can you read?) let me explain. The advent of e-readers, for some, marks the beginning of the end for printed-on-paper books. These are what I am talking about — actual pieces of paper bound together into a single, tangible unit. As part of the old school, there is something to be said for the tactile experience of holding an actual book in your hands. Perhaps within the next few decades the upcoming generations will view books the way we currently see 8-track players and VHS recordings. They will be quaint reminders of bygone days. Even for an avid reader, there just isn’t enough time or mental energy to read everything you want. Over the years I have ended up enjoying certain authors — Sinclair Lewis, John Updike, Marilynne Robinson, Eugene Peterson, Charles Spurgeon. I have seen lists of “the 100 greatest books of all time” such as The Franklin Library’s leather bound treasures series. I have not read many of them. It’s not that you are any less of a person if you have not read these books. However, it can surely contribute to a well-rounded experience to read more off of this list. “Walden”? Check. “Scarlet Letter” and “Crime and Punishment”? Yes, and then not much else for me so far. My mind is on one of these famous authors this week as we mark the 200th anniversary of his birth — Charles Dickens. I have never read any of his books and that prompts feelings of disappointment, as if something is missing. Henry James said, “No one has written better about childhood than Dickens.” There are only so many available hours in a week and a person cannot cover all of these books. Saying “yes” to one thing/activity/ author necessitates saying “no” to hundreds of others. You have to exert subjective selectivity. It is similar to what I said last week about music — I have read the Bible and the Koran, many of Shakespeare’s plays, and excerpts from many philosophers. But I have not read any Dickens. Not even “A Christmas Carol.” Out in the garage sits a stack of big-project books I intend to read — “Religious Affections” by Jonathan Edwards, “The Rabbit Trilogy” by Updike, Spurgeon’s biography by Drummond, “The Theory and Practice of Group Psychology” by Yalom. Perhaps I should add “Great Expectations” to the stack. You can contact Tom Rupp at