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7 Dickensian Novels

Charles Dickens was the Grand Poobah of English literature, but what exactly are “Dickensian novels”? According to Francine Prose at The New York Review of Books, they are books with “a large cast of vividly drawn characters, some of them grotesques with comically descriptive names and odd tics of speech and behavior; a plucky orphan who overcomes a childhood blighted by humiliating poverty or simple lower-class misery; numerous and ingeniously interconnected subplots; panoramic shifts of location; [and] a narrative that makes the reader finish each chapter eager to begin the next”. As best I can tell, Dickensian novels should also have a fairly explicit social commentary; Dickens was no great fan of what the Industrial Revolution was doing to the common people, and he made that much very clear in just about everything he wrote. So, here’s a list of seven contemporary Dickensian novels that can bring all of this – and more – to your book shelf.

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Jonathan Strange And Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke

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You can probably tell that Jonathan Strange And Mr Norrell is a Dickensian novel before you even flip open the cover. The length is the very first thing you notice about it – most editions run over 1,000 pages! And Dickens was nothing if not wordy… If you’re not too intimidated to tackle it, you’ll find the story is a bit more magical and fantastical than anything Dickens wrote, but the setting and the era definitely match up. Set in early 19th century London, it follows two magicians, one grumpy sod who likes to do things by-the-book, and one young renegade who likes to play it by ear. Read my full review of Jonathan Strange And Mr Norrell here.

Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver

Demon Copperhead - Barbara Kingsolver - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Okay, maybe it’s cheating to include Demon Copperhead in a list of Dickensian novels, because it is a very deliberate and explicit adaptation of one of Dickens’ books, David Copperfield – but I love it so much, I’ll never pass up a chance to recommend it. Barbara Kingsolver moves Dickens’ classic faux-autobiography to contemporary Appalachia, but it still follows an orphaned child who grows up in dire circumstances. She weaves in all of the agony and ecstasy of the original tale, while converting the social commentary to the current opioid crisis in the United States. Read my full review of Demon Copperhead here.

A Brief History Of Seven Killings by Marlon James

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Vividly drawn characters? Check! Numerous and ingeniously interconnected subplots? Check! Panoramic shifts in location? Check! We’ve got all the ingredients for Dickensian novels here in A Brief History Of Seven Killings. This exhilarating novel centers the (real!) assassination attempt on the life of iconic Jamaican musician, Bob Marley. The violence came at the culmination of a period of massive social and political upheaval in Jamaica, just two days before the general election of 1976. Marlon James traces these events, and their ripple effects, across decades and continents.

True History Of The Kelly Gang by Peter Carey

True History Of The Kelly Gang - Peter Carey - Book Laid on Wooden Table - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Dickens was no stranger to creating characters based closely on real people, so True History Of The Kelly Gang is a Dickensian novel on that front. Peter Carey delved into the world of Australian historical figure Ned Kelly, a bush-ranger renowned for his violent crimes (and violent end). While Ned Kelly’s fans like to paint him as a Robin Hood-type, stealing from the rich to advance the poor, Carey draws a somewhat more accurate portrait, one of a complicated man who lived outside of the law in a burgeoning colony. Fun fact: Ned Kelly’s and Charles Dickens’ lifetimes overlapped, so the time period of the book is of itself Dickensian. Read my full review of True History Of The Kelly Gang here.

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

The Nickel Boys - Colson Whitehead - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Even though it doesn’t have the brute heft of some of the other Dickensian novels on this list, Colson Whitehead has the plucky orphan and the social commentary down pat in The Nickel Boys. Even though the setting and time period are very different, the atrocities in Whitehead’s and Dickens’ worlds are alarmingly similar. Elwood Curtis finds himself shipped off to a disciplinary school, where he’s subject to abuses beyond most people’s imagining. Dickens definitely would have appreciated Whitehead’s interrogation of power abuses, and the determination of spirit in the main character. Read my full review of The Nickel Boys here.

The Eighth Life by Nino Haratischvili

The Eighth Life - Nino Haratschvili - Book Laid on Wooden Table - Keeping Up With The Penguins

The Eighth Life might be more closely related to the sweeping multi-generational magical realism epics of writers like Gabriel García Márquez, but there are definitely Dickensian elements mixed in as well. Of course, I can only speak to the English translation (brought to us by the brilliant bilingual duo, Charlotte Collins and Ruth Martin), but I’d imagine the same is true of the original German. Haratischvili nails the Dickensian elements of vividly drawn characters, emotional narrative arcs, sharp social commentary, and compelling storytelling. Plus, it’s a brick of a book, running some 950 pages. Read my full review of The Eighth Life here.

Washington Black by Esi Edugyan

Washington Black - Esi Edugyan - Keeping Up With The Penguins

A charismatic child living a life of oppression and violence, a subtle critique of technological and social upheaval, moments of celebration and devastation in equal measure, and a life journey stretching across continents? Is it a Dickens novel, or Washington Black? It’s both! Esi Edugyan’s take on the Dickensian tradition places the story initially on a Barbados sugar plantation, where an eleven-year-old slave is chosen to be the manservant of an eccentric inventor (and, incidentally, abolitionist). The two of them are drawn together across impossible divides, in this startling and moving story.

Great Expectations – Charles Dickens

As we finally enter the downhill run for 2020, it seemed fitting to pick up Great Expectations. After all, we all had such great expectations for this year, didn’t we? Nothing went to plan, for us or for one of Dickens’ most-beloved protagonists, Pip. I really loved David Copperfield, so I figured I was all set for another five-star read from the master of English literature. Unfortunately, 2020 struck again…

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Great Expectations was Dickens’ thirteenth novel, but only the second (after the aforementioned David Copperfield) to be fully narrated in the first-person. He must’ve known he was on to something, because this one, too, traces the psychological and moral development of a young man, his transition from country to city life, and an eventual homecoming. But beyond that, they actually have very little in common; apparently, Dickens re-read David Copperfield before starting Great Expectations, to make sure he didn’t accidentally repeat himself.

Dickens structured Great Expectations as three “stages” (volumes), but it was initially published as a serial (as most stories were back then) in Dickens’ own weekly magazine, All The Year Round. Installments appeared from December 1860 to August 1861, and Great Expectations was published in full in a three-volume set later that year. Fun fact: Dickens only put pen to paper and started publishing because the previous serial – A Day’s Ride by Charles Lever – was tanking and circulation numbers were way down. Just goes to show, if you want something done right…

The story begins on Christmas Eve 1812, with our boy Pip an orphan at 7 years old. While visiting the grave of his parents, he encounters an escaped prisoner who bullies him into stealing food and tools from home. For Pip, “home” is a (very) modest dwelling shared with his hot-tempered much-older sister and her amiable husband, the town blacksmith Joe Gargery. They took Pip in after his parents died, and no one ever lets him forget how lucky he is that they did so. (Why does every adult in a Dickens novel get off on psychologically torturing children? Seriously!)

So, Pip pinches some food and a file for the prisoner (so he can gather his strength and cut off his shackles). The poor kid is freaking out that he’s going to get busted, all through Christmas dinner. There’s a knock on the door, and it’s a unit of soldiers asking Joe the Blacksmith to mend some shackles so that they might re-capture two escaped prisoners. Once the prisoners are re-captured and shackled, one of them falsely confesses to having stolen the food and the file himself, clearing Pip of any suspicion.

Sorry for the absurd level of detail here, but it’s all important later, I promise – a clarification that applies to this review and to Great Expectations itself in equal measure. That said, even though Dickens has a reputation for long-windedness and bloated sentences, he can be extremely evocative and succinct when he wants to be. Plus, the wry humour I loved in David Copperfield definitely carries over…

“My sister having so much to do was going to Church vicariously, that is to say, Joe and I were going.”

Great Expectations (Page 23) – Lol!

A few years after the convict incident, Pip is summoned by local pain-in-the-arse Mr Pumblechook to go and visit Miss Havisham. She’s a wealthy and notoriously reclusive spinster, so she needs a young gun around the place to liven her up a bit. Upon arriving at her decrepit mansion, Pip promptly falls in love with Miss Havisham’s adopted daughter, Estella. Now, this bitch is cold as ice, the Queen of Treat-‘Em-Mean-Keep-‘Em-Keen. The rest of Great Expectations could almost be summed up as “Pip remains butt-hurt that Estella was mean to him for the rest of his life, while desperately trying to win her approval,”.

The visits to Miss Havisham continue until Pip is old enough to begin his apprenticeship under Joe (which Miss Havisham pays for). Joe’s assistant, Orlick, is jealous as hell about the up-start brother-in-law getting the plum gig. Instead of wallowing in his misery, like a normal person, he bonks Mrs Joe over the head with something heavy. She doesn’t die, but she does suffer severe brain damage, and Orlick figures justice has been served.

Four years into Pip’s apprenticeship, he receives a visit from a lawyer, Mr Jaggers, with the most intriguing offer. Apparently, an anonymous patron has set aside a large sum of money to finance Pip’s dream of Becoming A Gentleman. Obviously, Pip assumes it’s Miss Havisham, his previous financier, but Mr Jaggers refuses to confirm or deny. Off Pip goes to London, to learn how to Act Proper…

Thus begins the second stage of Great Expectations. Pip sets himself up with a tutor, and finds a best friend in the tutor’s son, Herbert (who bizarrely calls Pip ‘Handel’ throughout the novel – it was annoying and confusing as heck for a while). The swankier Pip gets, the more embarrassed he becomes about his upbringing, and he starts to look down his nose at Joe and the family who raised him.

Word comes from home that Orlick (of head-bonking fame) has come into the employ of Miss Havisham – uh oh! – but Pip, being a dick-swinging gent now, has a quiet word in Mr Jaggers’ ear and sees to it that Orlick gets the sack. Now, here’s the weird part: you’d think that this would be a huge CLANG moment with reverberations, given that this is a book about moral development and all, but Dickens kinda glosses over it. Instead, he skips straight ahead to the next Big Twist: that Pip’s sister finally succumbs to her injuries and topples off the mortal coil. Joe is, understandably, quite bummed.

Pip’s still getting five hundred quid a year from his anonymous benefactor, which is more than he knows what to do with, so he decides to do a little anonymous benefact-ing of his own. He sets his mate Herbert up in a plum job that will last him the rest of his life. He figures this good deed will get the karma train running back his way, but alas, Estella still won’t have a bar of him. She decides she’s going to marry some other dickhead instead; Pip tries to talk her out of it, and she (quite rightly) tells him to get fucked and mind his own business.

So, we’re about halfway through Great Expecations at this point (it feels longer than 2020, doesn’t it?), and FINALLY Pip’s benefactor is unmasked! Obviously, it’s not Miss Havisham. It’s actually the convict he encountered that first night in the cemetery (see? told you it was important later!). Mr Abel Magwitch was transported to Australia after he was re-captured, but he never forgot the kindness of the little boy who got him a feed and helped him in his bid for freedom. Magwitch worked hard, yanked on some bootstraps, and eventually got enough money together to make Pip a gentleman. Unfortunately, he violated the terms of his sentence to return to England to see that it was done, so now he’s put everyone in a real fucking pickle. Nice going, Magwitch.

Third stage: Pip needs to figure out how to get Magwitch out of the country, pronto, and he enlists Herbert’s help to get it done. Now, I must say, the plot of Great Expectations really starts to fall apart at this point. It’s a lot of Pip running back and forth between Mr Jaggers and Miss Havisham, getting money and figuring out who Estella’s birth parents are (??? who cared until now? honestly?).

Dickens officially loses me when Miss Havisham spontaneously combusts – no, I’m not kidding! Pip gets badly burned trying to put out the flames. It’s painful and all, but he cops on with it, and he and Herbert are just about ready to smuggle Magwitch out of the country… when Pip is foolishly lured to the remote(!) marshes(!!) at night(!!!) and Head-Bonker-In-Chief Orlick tries to murder him.

I’m just going to rush through the rest of it, because really, if you’re not Done(TM) with Great Expectations by now, you need to work on your priorities. Herbert saves the day, and Pip is rescued from certain death. They almost manage to get Magwitch out of England, but they get busted at the last minute and it all goes to hell. Magwitch dies in prison. Pip gets real crook and Joe has to nurse him back to health. Joe also ends up paying all of Pip’s debts (no idea where he got the dough, but I was so bored and confused by this point I didn’t really give it much thought). Joe marries the nurse who cared for his first wife (good for him). Pip moves with Herbert and his wife to Egypt (cool, cool). He comes back after eleven years, and has his final encounter with Estella.

She falls into his arms, and they finally live happily ever after, right? WRONG. After all that, there is absolutely no pay-off. Great Expectations ends with the famously ambiguous line that Pip saw “no shadow of another parting from her” after that. The end.

So, yes, Great Expectations was a bit of a let-down. My fault, really, for reading it during this stinking-bad-very-no-good year.

Clearly, Great Expectations didn’t draw me in the way that David Copperfield did. I’m still struggling to figure out why, exactly. I remember David Copperfield being brilliantly paced, and it kept me hooked, all the way through to a satisfying resolution. Great Expectations started off okay, with poor orphan Pip and his crisis of conscience, but after that it just kind of tanked.

I think maybe this book’s downfall is that, though Dickens tried to write an interesting plot and character (as he did so successfully with David Copperfield), he was too preoccupied this time around with inserting his Ideas into the story. He ended up with 600+ pages about the (contradictory) concepts of morality and status, being a good person and being a gentleman, etc. Those ideas all made their way into David Copperfield of course – as they do many other Edwardian and Victorian books – but that was a book about characters with problems, not problems personified in characters. Great Expectations is an interesting philosophical and class commentary – about the origins of wealth, personal values versus social ladder climbing, and so on – but that alone doesn’t make for a good read.

The one real upside to reading Great Expectations (aside from the fact that now I can say I have and I never have to do it again) is that I can officially say the rumour that Dickens “couldn’t write women” is absolute bullshit. By far, the most interesting characters in Great Expectations were Mrs Joe (who was basically the original Petunia Dursley), Miss Havisham (the bitter old broad who hates all men, very relatable) and Estella (who has no time for being “nice” to boring boys unworthy of her). Apparently, Estella was based on Dickens’ real-life mistress, Ellen Ternan – I hope she gave him hell.

So, that’s it. I found Great Expectations a real slog, and struggled to get through to the end – which makes it the perfect metaphor for this slog of a year. I loved David Copperfield enough that I’m not dissuaded from ever trying Dickens again, but Great Expectations and I are done. I certainly wouldn’t recommend it to a first-timer! Here’s hoping my next Dickens – and the next year! – is a return to form.

My favourite Amazon reviews of Great Expectations:

  • “I know this is true Dickens style, but the detail wasted on nothing for pages and pages was just too much. Pip is a twit.” – Victoria Reader
  • “I had low expectations… they were met.” – Jon M. Wilson
  • “I guess the author had lower expectations than the audience did” – t
  • “i would recomend this book to friends who have insomnia or those who i absolutely despise.” – Amazon Customer
  • “I was forced to read this book in my English class this year, and I almost died. For a more thrilling read, try a dictionary or a phone book.” – Brandon Rohrig
  • “Reading GREAT EXPECTATIONS as a 14 year old high school student in 1967 helped me acquire a clearer understanding of the concept of infinity. Eternity could never be as long as this book, which I endured to its soporific, boring end. I recommend it to hold up the end of a busted sofa!” – Author in the Attic
  • “Amazon. Sort your reviews section out on this. Reviews in this section seem to be for everything from a book to a mug to a tea towel to an audiobook to Anne of Green Bloody Gables. Atrocious.” – Def Jef

David Copperfield – Charles Dickens

Who would have thought this day would come so soon? Here it is, folks: my first wholehearted unreservedly Recommended read on Keeping Up With The Penguins. It’s David Copperfield, from the master himself Charles Dickens.

David Copperfield - Charles Dickens - Keeping Up With The Penguins
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Honestly, though, it was kind of a stacked deck: not just because Dickens is the Grand Poobah of English literature, but also because – for me – he’s inextricably linked to the memory of my late grandfather. Granddad idolised Dickens and practically memorised every word he wrote. Clearly, I was genetically predisposed to enjoy his work. My gorgeous two-volume set was plucked from my grandparents’ collection. I’m sure Granddad would have been damn happy that I finally got around to reading it, and eager to discuss it with me.

David Copperfield appeared first in a twenty-month serial from 1849 to 1850, before being published as a novel. The Introduction didn’t inspire much optimism: it was written by J.B. Priestly who didn’t seem to be all that big a fan, to be honest. And he kindly pointed out that Dickens employed severe Victorian censorship on all sexual matters (booo!).

Priestly can suck it, though. David Copperfield is a long book, don’t get me wrong, but I fucking devoured the thing like a drunk woman eating a kebab. Every word is purposeful, every element of the story is consistent and compelling, and every emotion beautifully captured and rendered. Priestly hung a lot of shit on Dickens for what he called “supermarket” writing: novels were the primary source of family entertainment at the time (the Netflix of Victorian England, really), so Dickens had to write about politics for the fathers and adventures for the sons and romance for the mothers and daughters. Priestly didn’t like that, but I thought it’s precisely this “chuck-in-a-bit-of-everything” style that makes David Copperfield such an incredible book.

The story of David Copperfield begins with his birth to a rather mopey young widow, and his early years being raised by her and her housekeeper. His mother remarries early on, but his New Daddy is an abusive son of a bitch and Dave is promptly sent off to a prison disguised as a boarding school. The kid meets some good chaps there, but it all-around sucks, and even his exodus is a bit of a bummer as it comes on account of his mother’s untimely stress-related death. New Daddy fires the nice housekeeper and sends Dave off to work in a wine factory (I didn’t think that bit sounded so bad, but the kid really hated it).

Things get increasingly shit for young Dave, with starvation and his landlord going to prison and everything, so he takes it into his head to run away and find his rich old aunt.

Then things start looking up: he finds Aunt Betsey, she takes him in and sets him up for life. She is undoubtedly the baddest bitch in this story, and I adored her. She has no hesitation in telling people to fuck right off when they tried to stick their noses in, and she protects and cherishes this charming old guy Mr Dick (the bloke’s a few sandwiches short of a picnic, but Betsey makes damn sure no one is shipping him off to a home). Betsey sets Dave up in a school without daily beating or torture (fancy!), and sponsors his gap-year to travel and “find himself”.

Dave finally settles down into a respectable profession, and promptly falls in love with his boss’ daughter. She’s extremely basic, but Dave doesn’t seem to notice, and he finally gets to marry her after her father croaks – only, she’s not that great at wifeing, and she dies pretty soon after, too. Dave’s mates get into all sorts of trouble with money and politics and love, and there’s some unpleasant business with women falling from grace and turning to lives of prostitution and such – all of the characters weave in and out of Dave’s life, and yet are described so richly and have such entertaining development that you never lose track of who they are or what they’re about.

In the end, a bunch of his mates ship off to Australia to start over, another bunch of them die (that’s how you can tell the story’s wrapping up – a device I’m noticing is rather common in 19th century literature), and Dave marries the girl who’s secretly pined after him all his life. He becomes a successful writer and spawns a bunch of kids, the good guys live happily ever after, and the bad guys go to prison. Isn’t that fucking great?!

My favourite thing about Dickens, though, is that I never once felt like I was missing the point – which is the feeling I get with basically every classic book or poem I read. Dickens was never condescending, and yet his writing never went over my head (despite the 150-year time lapse). I didn’t even roll my eyes that much at the privileged white guy writing about privileged white guys: there was a whole lot less sexism than I expected, and most of the female characters were strong and sassy and ran circles around a lot of the ones written today (hats off to Aunt Betsey!). Of course, there’s a whole stack of issues with lack of representation in this kind of literature, and I’m not blind to that… but it didn’t stop me really loving this book.

Dickens said that David Copperfield was his “favourite child” and I can see why. This has been the best outcome of my Keeping Up With The Penguins reading list so far, and even if I were to stop right here (which I won’t), I’d be coming out ahead. I strongly recommend David Copperfield to anyone who likes… books. (And, even if you don’t, I hear the audio-book version is excellent, so give that a crack.)

Note: I loved David Copperfield SO MUCH that I included it in my shortlist of Classic Books Worth Reading here.

My favourite Amazon reviews of David Copperfield:

  • “Smartly written trash, no doubt – but trash nonetheless. About 1 million words of it!” – Alex Kane
  • “Charles Dickinson is a timeless writer” – thimble19
  • “Charles Dickens won’t read this so it doesn’t matter what I say…” – Katie Barnes

The Sellout – Paul Beatty

I’m a sucker for a wild premise, so as soon as I heard about The Sellout, reading it became inevitable. The 2016 Booker Prize-winner has a gob-smacking conceit: a pissed-off protagonist comes before the U.S. Supreme Court on a litany of charges that effectively amount to reinstating slavery and segregation in his small California hometown. Seriously? Seriously!

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The Sellout is “an absurdist comedy for our times”. You’d think, given the premise, that Beatty was inspired to write it after seeing the increasing volatility in race relations across America – but nope! He told an interviewer that, simply, “he was broke”. With the book sales and awards he’s won, I hope that’s no longer the case.

The story is largely set in the “agrarian ghetto” of Dickens, a fictional Californian town that is mostly black and mostly poor, on the outskirts of Los Angeles. The narrator (who is technically unnamed, but referred to as “Me” or by his nickname, “Bonbon”) is outraged when Dickens is summarily wiped off the map, unincorporated by the powers that be. He sets about trying to return his hometown to its former “glory”, and stumbles upon an unusual way of doing so: segregating busses and schools, allowing a former child actor to be his slave, and revisiting the racist films of old.

I’ve been charged with a crime so heinous that busting me for possession of marijuana on federal property would be like charging Hitler with loitering.

The Sellout (page 20)

From the outset, The Sellout has strong Portnoy’s Complaint vibes – and that’s even before the narrator starts talking about his father. They had a tenuous relationship, rooted in the fact that Daddy was an unorthodox psycho-sociologist who performed unethical and unapproved experiments on the narrator as a child. He bastardised psychological schools of thought and twisted them into strange games to test his kid’s Blackness. Reading it gave me some flashbacks to my psychology undergrad, I must admit.

I laughed out loud reading The Sellout too, frequently – but in a way that made me feel oddly ashamed. It’s a deeply satirical book. At times, I found myself wondering whether it was really “okay” for me to be laughing, given that I’m clearly not the intended audience, and many of the nuances of race relations in America would escape me. It’s the taboo that makes it funny, a lot of the time.

(Oh, and heads up: there’s a pretty graphic description of a calf castration about halfway through, and that’s really the least of The Sellout’s disturbing and distressing content.)

Beatty uses stereotypes and parody to provoke the reader, to both laughter and anger. He works in some strange moments of insight and poignancy, despite the surreal nature of the story and its characters.

When I did what I did, I wasn’t thinking about inalienable rights, the proud history of our people. I did what worked, and since when did a little slavery and segregation ever hurt anybody, and if so, so fucking be it.

The Sellout (Page 39)

Academics and reviewers who are smarter than me have positioned The Sellout as a critique of the idea of America as a post-racial society. Basically, Beatty uses comedy and over-exaggeration to draw attention to the embedded systemic racism that persists even after a Black man won a Presidential election.

Reni Eddo-Lodge puts it well in her review, I think, when she calls The Sellout “a whirlwind of satire”. She says: “Everything about The Sellout‘s plot is contradictory. The devices are real enough to be believable, yet surreal enough to raise your eyebrows.”

I’m kind of flabbergasted, having read it now, that The Sellout won the Booker Prize. It seems like it would have been a controversial choice, to say the least. Even setting aside the racial components, it was the first American book to win the prize (traditionally reserved for English-language books not from the U.S.) since they were made eligible with a rule change back in 2002. Hats off to the judges who flew in the face of what was surely considerable opposition to get this scarily funny surreal satire the attention it deserves.

My favourite Amazon reviews of The Sellout:

  • “I read for pleasure and this book was not pleasurable.” – Mary McBeth
  • “Kind of like the current president. outrages but no redeeming value.” – Bahmadan
  • “If you’re a hipster, a literary critic who wants to sound hip, an academic, a Jeopardy fan, or a masochist, you’ll love this pointless mishmash filled with cultural references designed to show how brilliant the author is.” – Michael Engel
  • “Erudite vomit.” – John Updike
  • “Not really my cup of tea. If you’re OK with prolific profanity, extensive use of the N-word, and a story line that compares unfavorably to a hairball then maybe you’ll like it better.” – Craig VanArendonk

30+ Books With Numerical Titles

One of my local book stores runs a book club based on theme. Rather than assigning a specific book, they suggest a theme and members gather to discuss which book they chose on that theme, and what they thought of it. It’s the perfect set-up for mood readers, or people who are pretty particular in what they like to read. One of their recent themes caught my eye: books with numerical titles. Glancing over my own shelves, I noticed just how many of my books would’ve fit (if I’d gotten my shit together and actually participated). So, just in case you ever find yourself needing books with numerical titles for your own book club (or any other reason), here’s a list!

30+ Books With Numerical Titles - Book List - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Naturally, for a list of books with numerical titles, I’ve put them in numerical order. If any of these titles intrigue you, click through to read my full review – and consider purchasing it using an affiliate link to support this page 🙂

The One And Only Dolly Jamieson by Lisa Ireland

One Day by David Nicholls

One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston

One Of Those Mothers by Megan Nicol Reed

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

Allegra In Three Parts by Suzanne Daniel

Three Women by Lisa Taddeo

The Five by Hallie Rubenhold

The Five Wounds by Kirstin Valdez Quade

Daisy Jones And The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

A Brief History Of Seven Killings by Marlon James

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton (or The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, depending on where you’re reading)

The Seven Year Slip by Ashley Poston

7 1/2 by Christos Tsiolkas

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

When I Was Ten by Fiona Cummins

The Woman In Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

10 Minutes 38 Seconds In This Strange World by Elif Shafak

Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel

12 Steps To A Long And Fulfilling Death by Sarah Smith

Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor

Th1rt3en by Steve Cavanagh

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan

56 Days by Catherine Ryan Howard

The One Hundred-Year Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

One Hundred Years Of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

100 Nasty Women Of History by Hannah Jewell

138 Dates by Rebekah Campbell

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

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