There are a couple of things I try to do when I take up a book....
First, I try to read books that have struck a chord with society; books from famous authors, classic books, books made in to popular movies, etc. I'm fascinated by people. It's interesting to me when an individual's writings become a language spoken by the masses.
Second, as I make my way across various books, I also try to avoid reading from the same author twice. A very hard task when I've loved a book and the author has many more offerings. But it has more to do with "so many authors, so little time." I try to diversify my consumption.
So, I had to break that rule #2 when I read Charles Dicken's "David Copperfield." It was a little over a year ago that I read "A Christmas Carol," which I loved. But "Copperfield" has been on my "to read" list for YEARS. It's one that my dad had mentioned that he liked once upon a time, and it piqued my curiosity to give it a try.
Nothing would normally draw me toward "Copperfield." It's not an adventure or ghost story. There are no sci-fi or supernatural elements, which are always my favorites. And last but not least, it's REALLY LONG. That's hard enough, but when a book comes from a couple centuries back, it can become laborious to get through a several hundred page book that is packed with antiquated styles of writing and speech, social contexts that may get lost in today's translation, and other challenges. Thankfully, Dickens is such a master that none of these issues stopped me once I picked up the book.
"David Copperfield" was a beautiful book. It's about of David's life beginning at his birth and following him, first-person style, well into his adult years. I would categorize the book as primarily a romantic drama, but with plenty of elements of comedy.
Dickens is obviously skilled in all facets of writing, but where he is an absolute savant is in his creation and development of characters. It's fun to watch him spend the first half of the book creating each rich character. Then as the book progresses, he throws different characters into a bottle and shakes them up to see what happens when they share the same space and crisis. It's one thing to see each character through David's eyes as they interact with him, but when they start interacting with each other, and different universes in David's life collide, it's splendid.
Like I said above, "Copperfield" is quite lengthy. But here is a nutshell of what the story is about:
[I edited this to remove spoilers for those who've not read it yet.]
He is born to a widow, who remarries an abusive man. His mom dies, and he runs away to his aunt who takes up raising him. He goes to school, meets various characters who are a mix of friends, enemies, and love interests. He travels Europe and settles down in his adult life.
Between all of that, there is some excellent storytelling and writing going on.
I really enjoyed "David Copperfield." I don't think I'll ever pick it up again (onto the next author, right?), but I will always love the story. It was beautiful, funny, heartbreaking, and emboldening. It's a classic if there ever was one.