Great Read: A Tale of Two Cities   Leave a comment

The Easton Press collectible books are pretty.  They’ve got gold-embossed leather covers, custom endpapers and a ribbon bound in as a bookmark.  It just feels different than when reading a Kindle; the Kindle can’t duplicate the feeling of turning pages.

I’ve always been a reader.  My folks always had money for me to buy books in elementary school — and money was precious.  Reading, though, was important.

And I became a reader.

A few years ago, I decided to step up my game.  I was reading a lot of novels — mainly political thrillers, police procedurals and hard sci-fi.

I discovered the Easton Press, and subscribed to a couple of their series:  The 100 Greatest Books Ever Written, and The Masterpieces of Science Fiction (which Easton has since canceled).  Every month, I get a classic book in the mail, and one result is a great office environment for me.

Since I’ve already received a petition to leave this accumulation to someone in my will, I know my passion for good reads in attractive packages is shared.

I’ve supplemented the library with non-redundant selections from another canceled series, The 100 Greatest Books of All Time, published by Franklin Library.  You put it all together, and you’ve got a very fine and far-reaching collection of literature.  The authors range from Orson Scott Card to Franz Kafka, from Virgil to Shakespeare, from Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.,  to Petronius.

What’s it take to become a classic?  Perhaps having the best opening line, and the best closing line … in the same book!  Such duality is the case in A Tale of Two Cities.

Dickens lived 1812-1870, and meticulously researched the historical references in A Tale of Two Cities.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

From that beginning, Dickens takes you on a journey through Victorian England and revolutionary France.  You get unique perspectives on human compassion, love, dedication to your profession and revenge.  It’s also a heady brew of human misery.

“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”

You need to read this book.

Then watch some of the new sitcoms and tell me your time with “The New Normal” is time well spent.

Some of the books are difficult reads, frankly.  I typically read in dribs and drabs … several minutes over weekday lunches, and perhaps an hour in the evening.  I’m often multi-tasking, with a sandwich in my hand or waiting for a computer program to install.  I’ve found I have difficulty appreciating poetry with that backdrop.  I also don’t like reading plays — ironic, given my passion in college was theater.  Perhaps that’s simply I love doing theater, not reading the literature.

Some books are true surprises:  loved the Count of Monte Cristo.  Really haven’t liked any of Jules Verne; it’s just too dated for me.  Thoreau’s Walden hasn’t improved with age (I liked it when I read it years ago; was totally non-plussed this time through).  Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None was fabulous, as was Zola’s Nana.  And many more!

Your mileage will vary, of course.  And isn’t that discovery really the fun part?

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