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A Dab of Dickens & A Touch of Twain: Literary Lives from Shakespeare's Old England to Frost's New England
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A Dab of Dickens & A Touch of Twain: Literary Lives from Shakespeare's Old England to Frost's New England

4.33  ·  Rating Details ·  99 Ratings  ·  34 Reviews
They are icons of the litera
Paperback, 368 pages
Published October 1st 2002 by Gallery Books
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Jared Quist
Jul 21, 2011 Jared Quist rated it really liked it
I've always wanted to read literary biographies, but they always look to daunting to be enjoyable. Elliot Engel has solved this problem with A Dab of Dickens & A Touch of Twain. The book features seventeen essays on the lives of some of the world's greatest writers, including William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, and Charlotte and Emily Bronte.

Pros: I learned a lot of interesting things from this book. I like how Engel focused on the lives of the authors rather tha
Feb 22, 2009 Randy rated it it was amazing
Rosemary Carter recommended this book, a collection of bios by Elliot Engel, an articulate and knowlegeable English professor. Covering 19 of the greatest English writing authors from Chaucer to Frost, Dr. Engel spins delightful anecdotes, based on his college lectures, insightful and most importantly, the very human lives of these revered writers.
While far from a Dickensian scholar, I took an entire semester of Dickens yet learned more from this book than I did as a student (like the little kn
Aug 13, 2014 Cecilia rated it really liked it
The coolest way to build my book list and inspire my dream of being a writer. A well done introduction to classic writers as real people.
May 10, 2016 Nicki rated it it was amazing
I wonder if Engel's lectures are as entertaining as his anecdotes in this book. I can almost imagine it from his writing style. The chapter on Dickens alone is worth the cost of the book.
Feb 16, 2009 Shannon rated it really liked it
Really enjoyed this book! Learned so much about these authors and other tid bits...things I never learned in high school. Highly recommend this book. Might even suggest it as a book club book.
Mar 03, 2013 Emily rated it really liked it
Entertaining read about 19 authors and their backgrounds that thrust them into the literary world. I want to read more of the classics now.
Robin Helweg-Larsen
Dec 15, 2016 Robin Helweg-Larsen rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
Chattily, glibly written, it is full of fascinating tidbits about the dozen chosen writers, moderated by Engel's sloppy handling of facts. His introduction to Chaucer includes this on the second page:
"Rome conquered England in 55 B.C. and remained there until A.D. 476. They were there for five hundred years".
A true historian would write:
"Although Julius Caesar invaded Britain in both 55 and 54 B.C., he was repulsed each time. Claudius began the conquest of Britain in 43 A.D., and the Roman occ
Linda Lipko
May 06, 2010 Linda Lipko rated it it was amazing
This is an insightful and interesting look at 17 famous literary authors and their fascinatingly flawed lives.

From Geoffrey Chaucer through Robert Frost, Engel provides amazing insights into their lives, works and the motivations.

Should you want to toss around facts at a cocktail party, or if you are playing trivial pursuit and need the answers, it might help to know:

Charles Dickens earned 68 million for his writings. He is the top grossing author studied in school. A financial failure, his fath
Dec 23, 2015 Roberta rated it really liked it
This collection of essays renders famous authors human and makes them interesting. The essays on Chaucer and Shakespeare are particularly informative. The essays on Dickens and Poe are actually more effective than some other full-length biographies.

In the preface Engel explains that this book is built from the bricks of lectures, thus there are no footnotes. He suggests that he sometimes plays fast and loose with the facts for effect. So, which way he leans with the circumstantial evidence, dep
Julie Davis
Jan 16, 2015 Julie Davis rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed the Audible sampler of this book which added readings of famous works to the author's discussion of authors.

I was actually pleased to see that the book doesn't take up space with samples of the famous works. I can get those anywhere for the most part. This book is chock-full of Elliot Engel's brief, fascinating biographies and discussions of why these authors still appeal to us today. And that's what I really wanted.

A simply superb collection of brief biographical essays that not
Mar 02, 2015 Adrienne rated it it was amazing
I can honestly say that I looked forward to reading this book every single night, often times staying up way later than I really should have in order to do so. This book not only educates the reader about the lives of major literary figures, but also how those lives influenced their works. Inspiring, intriguing and gripping, I highly recommend this book to anyone who wishes to know a little more about Chaucer, Shakespeare, Austen, the Brownings, Poe, Dickens, the Bronte sisters, and many more of ...more
Jan 11, 2009 Rosemary rated it it was amazing
Professor Elliot Engel is a delight on the page, in audio lectures, and in person in the lecture hall. I've experienced his literary wit and wisdom in all three forms and enjoy returning again and again to his brilliant essays in A Dab of Dickens & A Touch of Twain. Once you've sampled his entertaining approach to literature and history (and become addicted as I have), you'll want to visit:
Feb 05, 2009 Devon rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Lit Nerds
I absolutely adored this book. It's one thing to read famous literature; it's quite another to read about the people who wrote it. And in this case the people who wrote it just may be more interesting than their books...but we won't debate that. In any case, it was incredibly informative, amusing, and quotable. There were several times when I made my Mom stop working just so I could read a passage aloud. Excellent.
Oct 24, 2010 Victoria rated it really liked it
I'm not usually a non-fiction reader but my Grandmother passed this book to me and I thought I'd give it a try. I was pleasantly surprised. Not only does Engel provide insight into some of literatures greatest contributors, but he does it in a humorous and understandable way. I truly wish I'd had this book for my junior high students.
May 10, 2010 Dawn rated it it was amazing
I loved this book! Not only do you get a brief history of the greatest writers in history but you gain a better appreciation for their works. Elliot Engel is humorous and fun to read. This book is for anyone who loves the classics Austin, Dickens, Shakespeare, etc.
Jul 24, 2014 Callie rated it it was amazing
A phenomenal set of brief lectures on 19 authors' lives and how those lives influence their works. You will have many "aha!" moments throughout these pages. Easy book to dip in and out. Highly recommend!
I've read the first few pages of this book, and it looks like great fun. It's essentially a series of lectures (adapted somewhat for book form) by an English professor on the lives of literary luminaries.
Jan 24, 2011 Heather rated it it was amazing
Delightful (as are all things by Dr. Engel)! Fascinating literary lives that are informative but light--memorable for their delicious tidbits, which appear on nearly every page. A book both to read and to reference.
Dec 17, 2009 Andy rated it really liked it
This book taught me a lot about some of our greatest authors. The information provided gives great insight into the works and the lives of the writers. Great anecdotes and facts that I will definitely use at some point in my own classroom.
Jun 17, 2013 Amanda rated it it was amazing
Elliot Engel's book is written in the same kind of entertaining style that he uses for his speeches. Having listened to this author speak on several different occasions over the last few years, I can proudly say that his book lives up to his exceptional style.
Andrea Woodacre
May 10, 2010 Andrea Woodacre rated it it was amazing
Engel's wit and humor combined with unexpected anecdotes about famous authors make this book an enjoyable read. I use it to help my students learn a little bit more about these authors since it has an entertainment factor about it as well as being informative.
Jul 09, 2008 Holly rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in author bio's.
Recommended to Holly by: Found it in bookstore.
I loved this book! It is such a fun and interesting book on the lives of some of the greatest authors. Wish I could find more books by this author!
Oct 13, 2015 Christy rated it liked it
An entertaining and light intro to many great literary lives. I found the chapters on writers I didn't know much about the most interesting but it's a good overview.
Jun 03, 2008 Melanie rated it really liked it
I have an autographed copy of this book. If you can go to one of his lectures in person, do it! Very entertaining, especially his lecture on Poe.
Apr 05, 2013 Jennifer rated it really liked it
This was a great book that provided insight into many authors lives. It was fun to see how their experiences translated into their works.
Nov 26, 2016 Emily rated it really liked it
Really fun and interesting! The author's tone is engaging and amusing without being distracting, and the biographies were well-done and informative.
Mar 25, 2013 Sheri rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook, kids
Information about the authors' lives was great - interesting, funny and somehow relevant to our lives today. The samples of each author's writings was less inspired and easily skipped.
Mar 20, 2008 Emily rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2008
Reading each chapter was like attending a short lecture. And since I love lectures and literature, this was totally fun for me.
Feb 26, 2013 Laura rated it it was amazing
Very interesting stories about these famous authors. They are all so well known, but I learned so much more about them and the times they lived in.
Staci rated it liked it
Mar 29, 2016
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Professor Elliot Engel is considered the most insightful, personable, and entertaining academic keynote speaker to come out of academia in the last fifty years. His witty, engaging speaking style imparts hard, factual information, leaving his audiences virtually spellbound, yet charmed by periods of laughter and flashes of insight. Using anecdotes, analysis, and large doses of humor, he gives new
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