Dear Mr. Dickens,
Please excuse my presumption in writing to you without a formal introduction, but since all of your friends and acquaintances who could provide that service (and, indeed, you yourself) are dead, I hardly think that one will be forthcoming.
Therefore, let me introduce myself. My name is Melissa and I live in Canada. Today is my 36th birthday, and although I consider myself quite a bibliophile and not unintelligent, I must make the shocking admission that in spite of having an English degree I have never read a single one of your many works. Watching the odd Masterpiece Theater adaptation and The Muppet Christmas Carol every year does not, I fear, cut it (I suspect your original version lacks anthropomorphic singing fruit or an amphibious Tiny Tim, for instance). This situation cannot continue.
I recently acquired a beautiful 36 volume set of your complete writings, published to commemorate the centennial of your death, and since 2012 is the 200th anniversary of your birth (or so says Wikipedia), it seems like an ideal time for me to start reading and for us to get to know each other better.
Beginning today (or possibly tomorrow since today I will be full of cake) I propose to spend the coming year reading each one of these 36 volumes, and writing you to let you know how I’m progressing. I’ll try to read the books in roughly chronological order, with your miscellaneous papers and reprinted works spaced wherever they seem to fit. Most of the time I will have no inkling of the story or themes or anything in the way of prior knowledge—except when it comes to A Christmas Carol, of course.
That said, I’m going to start with Oliver Twist, since it’s a single volume and I’m not sure yet if we’re going to like each other, although I sincerely hope we do.
Until next week, then, when I’ll write to let you know how I’m faring.
P.S. Let me reassure you that not everyone is as under-read as I am – your books are still very much admired and read and taught, and they repeatedly appear in lists of books one should read before one dies.