A Literary A-Z: D

Don’t forget that everyone can play along. Just add your own favourite book titles beginning with ‘D’, or those of any author whose surname begins with that letter.

It couldn’t be ‘D’ without Charles Dickens of course. When I was a child, my grandmother had a complete bound set of his work, stored in its own bookshelf. She had never read it though, so as I took each volume down to read, I had the joy of being able to feel the binding, and to smell the pages of those unopened volumes. His books are fantastic examples of descriptive writing and wonderful characterisation, and have left us with an historical legacy to treasure always. I won’t bother to add any titles, as once I started, I could go on all day. But if you have never read any of his books, I suggest you start with ‘Great Expectations’.

British author Frederick Forsyth is a rather opinionated individual, who can be difficult to like as a person. However, in 1971, he published his first novel, and I could not put it down. I stayed up so late reading it, I was late for work the next day. ‘The Day of The Jackal’ is about an assassination attempt on the former French president, Charles de Gaulle. Rarely had I read a book so meticulously researched, or so gripping in its style. I soon felt that I knew so much more about events in modern French history, the war in Algeria, and the terror campaign of the OAS that followed. This is how to write a thriller, undoubtedly. It was later made into an excellent film, starring Edward Fox.

In the same year, I read a new novel, ‘The Dice Man’ by Luke Rhinehart. This fascinating book poses the question of how your life might turn out, if you left it all completely to chance. The main character is a psychiatrist named after the author, (a pen name) who one day decides to continue his life based on rolls of a die. He gives each number a potential outcome, and acts on the result. The effects of this decision are life-changing, and take him down a route from which there seems to be no escape. As well as the experiences of the Dice Man, we see cults spread around the idea, and as others begin to live their lives in the same way, society itself begins to change. A very unusual concept, and one that works very well.

Daniel Defoe was an English writer, best known for his books ‘Moll Flanders’, and ‘Robinson Crusoe’, though he wrote much more. As a child, I was drawn into the world of the castaway sailor, Robinson Crusoe, and his native companion, Man Friday. I used to imagine myself trying to survive on that island, wearing clothes made from palm fronds, and wondering if I would ever be rescued. That a book published in 1719 caught my imagination so firmly never really occurred to me at the time. It is interesting to note that this book has been printed in more than 700 versions, and is second only to The Bible in the numbers printed in the western world. It has also been made into films and TV series, and inspired many copycat series and films, such as ‘Lost In Space’, and ‘Castaway’.

I have to include the Russian author Dostoyevsky in ‘D’. His heavyweight fiction delivers moral impact, alongside historical accuracy, and his themes have endured from the middle of the 19th century, to the modern day. Never an easy read, with many characters, and often depressing themes, they do however reward the serious reader with a glimpse into a bygone age. Most of us will know his book ‘Crime and Punishment’, a tale of murder and retribution that has been filmed more than 30 times. But I can also recommend ‘The Gambler’, and ‘The Brothers Karamazov’, as examples of his other novels.

My top pick today is the first novel in a series by Frank Herbert. I did not usually read science fiction at the time. Although I had read some H.G. Wells at school, as well as a few John Christopher and John Wyndham novels, it was not a genre that appealed that much to me. (And still doesn’t) However, during the late 1970s, I read an article about Frank Herbert in the Sunday Times, and decided to try his novel ‘Dune’. I could never have imagined how caught up I would become in the unusual worlds portrayed in this book, and the five sequels that followed. Imaginary planets, time-travel by folding space, a drug that was the major currency of the universe, and giant sandworms too. Add a mystical religious order, warring families and empires, and some intriguing and unique characters, and I was well and truly hooked. I couldn’t stop reading them. I stayed up half the night, I was late for work again, and I couldn’t wait for the outcomes of the convoluted plots. This was story-telling at a massive level. I never aspired to get anywhere close to this, but it did give me ideas, and a lesson as to just how much work is involved for the author. It was later made into a film of course, by David Lynch. He did very well with it, but couldn’t get close to the complexity of the ideas.

59 thoughts on “A Literary A-Z: D

  1. Having mentioned Horror books for October on an L post, I thought I’d better mention Dead Sea by Tim Curran. That one really made me feel like I was trying to survive in an alternate world inside the Bermuda Triangle. Very scary stuff.

    On a more classical note, author Charlton Daines writes books using Dickens characters, at least The Artful Dodger. They’re more accessible than the actual dickens!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “Oliver Twist” was one of the first great novels I read in school (though I’d already digested “The Lost World” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, another D author).

    I absolutely have to mention Alexandre Dumas (“La Reine Margot,” the “Musketeers” trilogy, etc.), Denis
    Diderot (his “Jacques le fataliste” is perhaps my favorite French novel), and Philippe Djian (“37° 2 le matin,” whose 1986 film adaptation is known here as “Betty Blue”).

    I also would like to mention an American author: James Dickey, whose novel, “Deliverance,” was made into an excellent film starring Burt Reynolds and Ned Beatty. I’ve read this lyrical/brutal novel twice in French translation.

    I refuse to slight any of these authors. So I’m not going to make a choice!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. VERY late to this party but I don’t think anyone has mentioned The Double by Jose Saramago yet, unless you plan to pull it out of the bag for ‘S’. It’s my favourite book, and Saramago won a Nobel Prize for Literature so must have been doing something right 🙂 .

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love Robinson Crusoe, much of Dickens… I agree about Delusions of Grandma (I prefer ‘Surrender de Pink’ by Carrie Fisher… There, it can go on the F or S). Perhaps Emily Dickinson for poetry…
    Thanks, Pete!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I doubt I will have too much to contribute to this series, Pete, but I couldn’t let this pass me by.

    Your favourite film for B was Bladerunner (it’s also one of my favourite all time films). There’s a double D available here (or Double Diamond for those who can remember that far back). The book is Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, by Philip K Dick.

    It’s worth reading, even if you’ve seen the film, as there are some themes in the book which are missing from the film

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I knew that the film was based on Dick’s novel, but I have never read it. I have heard many say that the film lost much of the best parts of the book, so I really should catch up with it. Well done with the double ‘D’!
      Cheers, Pete.


  6. And again everything is already mentioned. I do not even remember a German author with D! 😦

    By the way, I’m currently reading “The Idiot” by Dostojewski.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Dickens for sure, though I had to be past middle age to really appreciate him. In college I made the mistake of taking a course called “The Nineteenth Century English Novel.” We had to read “Bleak House” in a week. Also many other long novels a week(what was I thinking? I wasn’t.) It is a great book about never ending courts and wills. Much easier to appreciate after going through probate with a relative’s estate.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Great choices Pete! I’d have them all as part of my list except for Dice Men, which I haven’t read. I’ll have to look that up. I’d also include:
    The Dead Zone/Dolores Claiborne/ Different Seasons – King
    The Diary Of A Young Girl – Frank
    The Da Vinci Code – Brown
    Dark Carnival – Bradbury
    Dark Rivers Of the Heart – Koontz
    Daughter Of Fortune – Allende
    David Copperfield -Dickens
    Dead Witch Walking – Kim Harrison
    Death On the Nile – Christie
    The Deep – Benchley
    Diary – Palahniuk
    Divine Comedy – Dante
    Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep – Dick
    Don Quixote – de Cervantes
    Down and Out in Paris and London – Orwell
    Dracula – Stoker
    Druids – Llywelyn
    Dubliners -Joyce
    Dune – Herbert
    The Dunwich Horror – Lovecraft

    Authors: Charles Dickens, Roald Dahl, James Dashner, Charles de Lint, Daniel Defoe, Phillip K. Dick, Annie Dillard, Cory Doctorow, E. L. Doctorow, Mary Males Dodge, Fyodor Dostoevsky Arthur Conan Doyle, Alexandre Dumas (both father and son), Daphne du Maurier,

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Anthony Downs, An Economic Theory of Democracy, New York: Harper and Row, 1959, is a book that had when I first read it 50m years ago and continues to have to this day (and I do read if every few years) a profound impact on my thinking.
    Warmest regards, Theo

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Dickens and Dune [squeals of joy]. I also love Great Expectations with my favourite bit being about Pip and the stolen pork pie. My favourite Daniel Defoe is A journal of the Plague Year and if you haven’t read it, you really should.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks very much, Robbie. I did read ‘Plague Year’ as a teenager, and confess to not paying that much attention back then. Time for a re-read!
      Nice to find another ‘Dune’ fan!
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Another great letter of books to share with others – I have a lot of non-fiction, and will share a few:

    “Devil In The Kitchen” is legendary and volatile Chef Marco Pierre White’s autobiography – hilariously profane. Oh, and a quick jump to autobiographical fiction for the hilarious “Delusions Of Grandma” by the late great Carrie Fisher, another thinly veiled look at life with her Mom, Debbie Reynolds.

    Finally, the great Travel Writer Paul Theroux went through the heart of Africa in his memoir “Dark Star Safari” – here is a look at the book, and others of his as well – sobering, intelligent and always fascinating:


    Liked by 1 person

  12. “Great Expectations” was a good pick for Dickens, my #1 choice for a “D” author (Oliver Twist will always be a favorite of mine, too.) 2 other authors: Roald Dahl. Arthur Conan Doyle. The only “D” book that comes to mind: ‘Dracula”. Not only a well-written yarn, but it seems like the author must have had some serious unresolved mental issues, which just ooze out of his writing, and make it so effectively creepy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ‘Dracula’ is a good choice for a Gothic classic, Robert. I could go on about Dickens all day, as I love the history that leaps off of the pages. I have suddenly realised that I have never read a book by Roald Dahl, so maybe I should remedy that.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I have never tried Dostoyevsky. I really should before I die! I couldn’t get on with The Dice Man or Robinson Crusoe at all. I love Dickens. Too often his work and those of others are ruined by studying at school under a bad teacher. I couldn’t get to grips with him until I was in my 20s. I fell in love, of course. I give you The Diary of a Nobody by George and Weedon Grossmith and Death in Venice by Thomas Mann.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I don’t think I have ever read any Dickens. Does that make me a bad person? Seen a couple of films. Try as I might I could not read Defoe’s ‘Robinson Crusoe’ but thoroughly enjoyed ‘Swiss Family Robinson’. I tend to read crime/thriller or travel books, not so much the classics. But I will try and throw a few authors your way…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Doesn’t make you a bad person at all, Jude. But as a huge fan of Dickens, I would naturally say that I think you are missing out on a literary feast. I am not surprised about Robinson Crusoe, I think it is a very ‘boy’s’ book.
      Best wishes, Pete. x

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Just wanna share a few. The Divide by Nicholas Evans. I love all of his books but I could not find a copy of his last one. I love the movie adaptation of The Promise by Danielle Steele, read it so many times too. I struggled with Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky when I was in college but it was good one. Favorite Poems of Emilie Dickinson is also a favorite.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. For the military I’ve got, “Drop Zone” by Michael Salazar – then there’s my other side – “Dreamcatcher” by Stephen King and “Desiree” by Annemarie Selinko. I love that you’re doing books, Pete – it’s more up my alley.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Hi Pete. Can I suggest Dirt Music by Tim Winton, an Aussie novelist who’s taken over from Peter Carey in my affections (despite his inability to write happy endings).

    Also Darkness At Noon by Arthur Koestler was a chilling look at totalitarianism, and The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham was diverting sci-fi.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have read the Wyndham book, but didn’t know of the Australian novelist, so thanks for that.
      What’s so good about series like these is the discovery of something I would never have found otherwise.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

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