Wednesday, the 8th of September, and time once again for Shelf Control! Shelf Control is a weekly feature hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies, and celebrates the books waiting to be read on your TBR piles/mountains. To participate, all you do is pick a book from your TBR pile, and write a post about it–what its about, why you want to read it, when you got it, and such. If you participate, don’t forget to link back to Lisa’s page, and do also leave your links in the comments below as I’d love to check out your picks as well!

This week, I’m dipping into my non-fiction pile for an entry (I’ve honestly been proud of myself for reading a lot more non-fiction this year than usual–I enjoy it a lot but always get diverted by fiction–but the downside is all of my non-fiction reads have been from NetGalley so my own mountain still stands). My pick is Charles Dickens: His Life and Works by Stephen Leacock. Stephen Leacock was a Canadian teacher, political scientist, author and humourist. He was born in England to well-to-do parents who eventually emigrated to Canada with their eleven children and settled on a 100-acre farm. He was homeschooled and educated later at the University of Toronto and University of Chicago. His literary career included both fiction and non-fiction works, and between 1915 and 1925, he was the most popular humourist in the English speaking world. Among his various writings are only two biographies however, one of Mark Twain and the other, this one.

Charles Dickens: His Life and Works was first published in 1933 and is a relatively short (280 pp) but comprehensive view of the successful author’s life and works. It covers his childhood and youth, the success of Pickwick leading to other writings, Dickens’ travels to America as well as other aspects including the social reform initiated under the influence of his works, his role as editor, his public readings and tours, as well as events in his personal life including his separation from his wife. The book is said to be the first of Dickens’ bios to explore the humour and morality of his works. Witty and sprightly, it gives us an insight into the man and his contributions.

Ever since I read Nicholas Nickelby (though that wasn’t the first of Dickens’ books I read–I think my first was A Tale of Two Cities), I found myself becoming a real ‘fan’ of his work–his characters and story telling really began to draw me in, and I have since enjoyed many of his works. I have read a short bio of his (by G.K. Chesterton) before which I enjoyed but which really didn’t go into too much detail about his writings etc. though I did get to learn about his family life and early days. So when I came across this one, I thought it would be interesting to get another view and I added it to my pile. I am looking forward to picking this up, though I am more likely before I get to this to have read a NetGalley ARC of Charles Dickens: Places and Objects of Interest by Paul Kendall, But with an author I love, I think I will be interested in reading more than one work, so I will be picking up Leacock’s version sometime, even if it is later than sooner.

Do you enjoy Dickens’ works? Which are your favourites? Have you read any bios of him so far? Which one/s and how did you like them? Looking forward to your thoughts and recommendations!

Cover image and book info from Goodreads and author info from Wikipedia

4 thoughts on “Shelf Control #150: Charles Dickens: His Life and Work by Stephen Leacock

  1. I enjoyed your exercise in shelf control (I may take this up, if I ever start posting again). Sad to say, Dickens is one of my big, big blind spots vis-à-vis the “greats” of 19th century English literature (Hardy is another); I just am not drawn to his novels (I’ve read Great Expectations, Bleak House & Tale of Two Cities). Given that so many people whom I respect love his work, I assume the fault is mine rather than Mr. Dickens’! For several years now I’ve intended to do a “Dickens year” in which I read his major novels, along with some info about them and/or a Dickens biography. Have you come across John Mullan’ s The Artful Dickens? It’s a collection of essays discussing Dickens’ work and his technique as a writer. I’ve been asssured that it’ll do the trick! The Leacock bio you discuss also sounds definitely worth checking out — thanks!


    1. Thanks for the mention of Mullan’s book. Will certainly check it out.

      Great Expectations is I would say my least favourite Dickens since I couldn’t really like any of the characters. A tale of two cities is a good one but I guess the characters in that except Sydney Carton and the doctor don’t have much to them. I kind of started liking Dickens from some of his longer reads like David Copperfield, Martin Chuzzlewit, Nicholas Nickleby, Our Mutual Friend Bleak House etc because both the range of characters many of them so singular and the multiple storylines really drew me in. The illustrations by Hablot knight Browne are an added draw. There are still many of his works I still need to explore, though

      Hardy I have plenty of blanks in as well though I have without consciously realising it read may be 4.

      I hope you do pick up Shelf Control if you ever get to it; I have ended up (among my ebooks) finding books I didn’t even remember I had🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I really want to tackle Dickens’ account of his travels through Italy before getting into another of his novels but unlike you I’ve not been much in the mood for nonfiction this last year (I get enough of facts and ‘alternative facts’ from the news and social media). So who knows?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As do I. Martin Chuzzlewit gives one an idea of his not very flattering views on america and I’ve been wanting since I read it to pick his travel writings up but haven’t yet.

      But I can understand you’re not wanting to pick up nonfiction. I almost want to stop looking at the news at times with all that’s happening around the world plus my issues with the way its presented (news channels in our part of the world particularly).

      Liked by 1 person

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