When I was seven years old, my stepfather handed me a novel to read. It was a yellowing copy of Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens -- a story which he had enjoyed as a child. He wasn't trying to be nasty to me, but I'm afraid I didn't like it at all. The print was small, it was far too long, and the language was complicated. My stepfather, by trying to hurry me towards good literature, succeeded only in putting me off Dickens for years.