Oprah's Book Club producer Jill reading Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities
Photo: Jennifer Troyer
Happy 2011 everyone! It's the height of winter here in Chicago, and I recently heard on the news that every state in the union had snow this week—so, except for our Florida readers, I hope many of you have been using this time as your perfect excuse to curl up with a hot mug of tea, or cocoa, and our beautiful deluxe edition of Charles Dickens.

I decided to follow our reading schedule and I chose the "double date" calendar. As of now, I'm deep into Great Expectations, but this week I'd like to talk about A Tale of Two Cities.

As I mentioned in my previous blog, I never read this illustrious "Tale," and I'm so glad I finally did. At last I get all the references and many a joke that I've missed all these years... the wine, the blood and all that knitting! But most of all, revolution!!!

I've also been following the latest international news where there have been reports of uprising against the elites in Tunisia and the historic elections in the Sudan. And although the French Revolution was centuries ago, this book reminded me how even today, millions of people are still fighting to be free.

I read a wonderful profile last weekend in The Washington Post (1/8/11) by Rebecca Hamilton about Alfred Lado, a Sudanese university administrator who created the first library in southern Sudan. He made the decision to keep the library doors open after their British librarian "ran away" and in the absence of actual college students. The library is available to the community and he says even members of the army come in to read: "[When] asked why he got up each morning to open a library in a war zone, Lado seemed surprised by the question. 'Well, people needed information. They wanted to find out about the history of their country.'"

According to the article, Lado says he will be voting "for freedom"—and I think this librarian, the keeper of the historic records and the "tales," is a heroic example of the importance of reading in everyone's lives. I believe he truly understands the transformative power stories can have, and how if one cannot live freely, one can always find freedom in the pages of a book.

I thank Dickens for reminding me yet again not to tune out the news, not to become immune to the plight of others—but to truly listen, read and pay attention to the stories of courage going on in our world.

So, what do you think of A Tale of Two Cities? What were the great lessons you learned from this epic story of love and revolution? What do you think Dickens would be writing about if he were alive today?

I can't wait to read what you think in the Comments area below!
Oprah's Book Club producer Jill

Read Jill's first post on Charles Dickens