52 in 52 Week 36: Hard Times by Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens - Hard TimesPublisher: BBC Audiobooks America | ISBN: 1572703377 | Publish Year: 2004 | MP3 @ 96Kbps | 440 mb

One of the most widely read of Dickens' major novels, Hard Times is Dickens' powerful and withering portrait of Coketown, a Lancashire mill town, in the 1840s. The novel is particularly harsh in indicting England's educational system, represented by Thomas Gradgrind, who runs aschool in which he focuses on driving wonder, fancy, and imagination from children's minds to be replaced only by facts. Gradgrind finally sees the error of his ways and abandons Utilitarianism and resolves to learn the philosophy of the circus.
96 kbps CD Rip narrated by Martin Jarvis

I listened to Martin Jarvis narrate David Copperfield, and I did not care for how he made David sound. David was not arrogant and stuffy, and Martin has an arrogant and stuffy regular voice for the male characters. He was fine for this book though because most of the male characters were not very appealing. He did make the female characters sympathetic sounding.

This is the shortest of Dickens' novels. It is the 200th Anniversary of the birth of Dickens, and I have read two of his wonderful works this year. 

Here is a list of all his major works from the most copies in people's libraries on Librarything.com:

Charles Dickens (1)

Great Expectations 18,067 copies, 197 reviews
A Tale of Two Cities 16,487 copies, 187 reviews
Oliver Twist 10,307 copies, 84 reviews
David Copperfield 10,260 copies, 109 reviews
A Christmas Carol 9,113 copies, 194 reviews
Bleak House 7,026 copies, 128 reviews
Hard Times 5,708 copies, 57 reviews
The Pickwick Papers 4,146 copies, 59 reviews
Nicholas Nickleby 3,283 copies, 41 reviews
Our Mutual Friend 2,945 copies, 30 reviews
Little Dorrit 2,706 copies, 48 reviews
The Old Curiosity Shop 2,416 copies, 27 reviews
Martin Chuzzlewit 2,089 copies, 14 reviews
Dombey and Son 1,594 copies, 14 reviews

Hard Times is farther down on the list of popularity. It was probably my least favorite of all the Dickens I have read, but, hey, it was Dickens. So, of course, I loved it! 

My 100 Great Books book says it is a "social protest" novel. I don't have the book in front of me (I am on vacation), but I think it is called that because it is an exaggerated look at how industrialization took humanity out of society and the rich got richer and the poor got poorer. It is a protest about the English educational system that drives creativity out of children. I heartily agree! I still think the American educational system, despite its flaws, is the best in the world. :)

There is also a Librivox recording of this fine book, and I might like this amateur reader better than Jarvis. It is all free and fully downloadable to your iPod or MP3 player.

Librivox: http://archive.org/details/hard_times_dickens_0709_librivox
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