Charles Dickens, Serial Reader, and me

First things first, yo:


And as expected, it was great!

For years now, I’ve been saying “one of these days”, I want to read Great Expectations. And it never happened. But why wait for “one of these days”? In the words of Rent:

I finally buckled down a little over a week ago, and decided to use my handy-dandy Serial Reader app. Serial Reader, in case you don’t know, is an awesome app that delivers public domain reading material via daily installments, usually taking no longer than 10 – 15 minutes each to read. (I wrote first wrote about it here, if you want to know more.)

But as it turns out, I’m a pretty impatient reader, and if I’m hooked, I’m hooked, and it’s impossible to put the brakes on. So yes, I started Great Expectations via Serial Reader, and within two days I was reading ahead, getting through 3 – 4 installments each day instead of just one. Still, there are 74 installments in all, and I figured I’d take my leisurely time and enjoy Great Expectations in little bite-sized pieces over the next couple of months.


Apparently, I suck at Serial Reader. I got into the story, and once I was into the story, I abandoned everything else I was reading so I could just keep reading more and more. And while I have a paperback edition of Great Expectations and a Kindle edition, I ended up sticking with Serial Reader all the way through to the end.

(Could it be because of the little words of encouragement and the praise every time I finished an installment? Yes, you’ve got me. I’m a sucker for badges and affirmations.)

In terms of the book itself, there really isn’t any reason for me to write a review of Great Expectations, is there? The plot summary:

Dickens’s magnificent novel of guilt, desire, and redemption: The orphan Pip’s terrifying encounter with an escaped convict on the Kent marshes, and his mysterious summons to the house of Miss Havisham and her cold, beautiful ward Estella, form the prelude to his “great expectations.” How Pip comes into a fortune, what he does with it, and what he discovers through his secret benefactor are the ingredients of his struggle for moral redemption.

I  loved the characters and the setting, and I loved seeing Pip’s development from boyhood to manhood, and his ethical and emotional growth as he understands the wrongs he’s done and seeks ways to improve himself, ultimately realizing that it’s more important to be honest and fair and appreciative than to be a monied gentleman.

It’s been a long time since I’ve read any Dickens (my only previous Dickens being A Tale of Two Cities), and I’d forgotten how delightful his writing is. When we think of classics, we tend to think stuffy and dry and old-fashioned. I was not at all prepared for how funny Charles Dickens is! His writing is so clever, and the way he uses metaphors, physical descriptions of characters, and characters names as tools for making the people and events feel fully-fleshed is pretty amazing.

Oh, those names! The best (as in, more ridiculous) here is Mr. Pumblechook — can’t you just tell from that name that he’s a pretentious fool? Joe is as sweet and simple as his name, and of course a character named Estella is glamorous and unreachable. I couldn’t help loving Mr. Wemmick, who cares for his elderly father and refers to him as “the Aged”. Just fabulous.

In any case, while I didn’t stick with the serial approach, I’m sure I’ll continue to give it a shot for future reading. Now that I’ve read Great Expectations, I really want to expand my Dickens knowledge! A goal might be to read one of his novels per year… admitting now that I’m terrible at sticking to reading goals, but this feels doable and realistic and FUN, so who knows?


Meanwhile, I’d really love to check out the 2012 movie vesion of Great Expectations, with Helena Bonham Carter as Miss Havisham. How perfect does that sound? Has anyone seen it? Any thoughts to share?

As for my progress with the Serial Reader app, here’s what I’ve used it for so far, in the year since I first gave it a try:

And despite my inability to still to just one installment per day, as the gods of Serial Reader intended, I still find it a really easy and motivating way to get around to reading those big, intimidating books that feel like too big a commitment to start.

6 thoughts on “Charles Dickens, Serial Reader, and me

  1. How did I not know this app existed?! Thanks for the heads up. I’ll be checking that out tonight! Congrats on getting through Great Expectations! I haven’t read it since high school, but I remember it being a difficult read back then. Looks like you didn’t have a problem, though!

    • I think I definitely would have struggled with this book if I’d read it in high school! Serial Reader is great fun, and they have so many books to choose from. I hope you find something you like!

  2. I’m glad this worked for you! If I skipped that far ahead, I think I would have switched to the paperback, but that’s just me 🙂 Sounds like a wonderful experience of a classic and even if you have a hard time sticking to reading goals, I think this experience sounds good enough to help motivate you in the future to pick Dickens back up even if it’s not on any kind of timetable 🙂

    • I was tempted to switch to the paper edition — but then it wouldn’t have shown as complete in Serial Reader, and I do love getting my little congratulatory messages and banners. 🙂 I think this will definitely motivate me to read more Dickens, and more classics in general. Using the app makes it a really easy reading experience, and somehow makes it feel less like starting a major chore.

  3. Wow congratulations! I’m not sure I could do the serial reader app because I have to read a book over a shorter period of time, but it does sound like a cool concept. I always thought I’d read Great Expectations in high school and it wasn’t until later that I realized we had read a condensed version of the book! Still haven’t read the full one, but I did read A Tale of Two Cities a few years ago and thought it was great. Such a clever plot!

    • A Tale of Two Cities blew me away when I read it back in high school, and I’ve always meant to read it again as an adult. I don’t think I ever would have read Moby Dick without the app, and I’m so glad I did!

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