Celebrities reveal why they love the classic author Oprah is reading this holiday season.
A Tale of Two Cities
When stories become iconic, you sometimes forget what made them so special in the first place. They can
become the punch line to a joke. But A Tale of Two Cities not only has the best first line ever
written—"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times"—it's got everything! The novel
has wine, guillotines, revolution! It has the storming of the Bastille! It has Madame Defarge, one of the best
villains in any literary novel. At the end, it's got a little romantic switcheroo: One man stands in the place of
another and dies for the woman he loves.
— Amy Poehler
This book meant a lot to me when I first read it at 14, and it was the beginning of my love for Dickens. The
characters are so well drawn: The convict is hideous; with Dickens's description, you can almost smell him.
To me, Estella is a girl who's kept under glass. We're all products of our upbringing, and hers was certainly
oppressive, but I could never forgive how selfish she was. I recently reread the book with my daughter, and
this time around I realized that the one thing you can't be with someone you love is selfish.
— Kyra Sedgwick
This is a novel you don't so much read as move into for the duration. For me, it's Dickens's most serious and
most entertaining work. The enchantment begins on the first page, with the description of London's
"implacable November weather" and the famous fog. I know a writer who used to read this passage for
inspiration every day before sitting down to work. All of English Victorian society is here. If nothing else
about that world existed, we'd still know it thoroughly from these pages. Mystery, love story, satire,
sociological critique—this grand, capacious novel contains them all. But at its core—and like all
of Dickens—Bleak House is a kind of fairy tale, a story about good and evil, and the
redemptive power of love.
— Sigrid Nunez
A friend recommended this book to me when I first moved out to California in the mid-eighties. It's a
collection of letters written by prominent people between 1578 and 1939. There's something touching about
these notes; the writers seem so intent on expressing themselves in an authentic way. I think, in this e-mail
age, we're learning all over again the importance of being able to communicate in a clear, expressive way.
Some of the examples are very funny, like the letter sent care of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, asking, "Could you
get this to Sherlock Holmes for me?" And then there are some that are historically important, like the note
Dickens wrote just hours before he died. When I read that one, I just got chills.
— Megan Mullally
I came to Dickens relatively late in life, but in a way, I think that's the best time. When you're a child, all you
see is the plum-pudding characterization and twisting-and-turning storylines, and though that is part of the
juicy pleasure of Dickens, you need to be an adult to get the heartbreaking measure of his genius. And
nothing shows that more, for me, than David Copperfield. It's the fullest, most breathtakingly truthful story
of life—not for nothing was it Freud's favorite novel.
— Nigella Lawson
Plus, one author thinks Dickens might make a difference to her....
"[I???ve been meaning to read] David Copperfield. I've read less Dickens than I'd like to admit, and I'm even more ashamed of my reason: The books are so long. They look impenetrable, like things you'd use to pave a road rather than actually read. And yet I know, from reading Little Dorrit, that they're unbelievably fun."
— Jennifer Egan