On this list, readers can explore ten of the best books that Charles Dickens wrote throughout his life. Some were more critically successful than others, but all are read to this day. Most feature themes like poverty, class divide, the treatment of the poor, and satirize social norms.
Great Expectations is Dickens’ thirteenth novel and one of his best-known. It is also his second to last completed novel. The book features the protagonist Pip, an orphan who grows up throughout the pages. It can be described as a bildungsroman or a coming-of-age novel. It was published as a serial starting in December of 1860 and ending in August of 1861.
The book is set in London and features characters like Magwitch, Estella, Joe the blacksmith, and Miss. Havisham.
A Christmas Carol
A Christmas Carol is another well-loved novel by Charles Dickens. It features the hard-to-love protagonist Ebenezer Scrooge who starts the book as a miserable and miserly man of business. As the book progresses, he is haunted by three ghosts—the Ghost of Christmas Past, Present, and Future. They show him who he was as a child, truths about his contemporary world, and what his future holds if he continues down the path he’s on. In the end, he determines to change his life and hold Christmas close to his heart for the rest of his days.
David Copperfield is another example of a bildungsroman or coming of age novel. It features David Copperfield, who also narrates the novel. It details his life from the time he was born to his maturity. The book was published in 1849/1850 as a serial. In it, Dickens wove in some features from his own life. It was also his favorite book. It begins with a dark and troubling depiction of Victorian England and moves on to follow Copperfield as he grows up, moves through society, and studies. Its primary themes are those of growth and transformation.
Oliver Twist is Dickens’ second novel. It was published as a serial from 1837 to 1839 then as a three-part book in 1839. It follows Oliver Twist, who was born in a workhouse and later sold into an apprenticeship. He escapes from this life to travel throughout London. He meets Artful Dodger, a gang member, and pickpocket. The novel portrays the lives of criminals in Victorian London in a way that no other author ever had. It is also a social novel, one that draws the reader’s attention to issues of child labor and violence.
Bleak House is another long novel, published as a 20-part serial from 1852 to 1853. The novel is complex, featuring numerous characters, one of the central being Esther Summerson. The book is centered around a court case, Jarndyce and Jarndyce, in contention for years due to opposing wills.
The Pickwick Papers
The Pickwick Papers is a series of adventures written by Dickens in the mid-1830s. It was incredibly popular throughout Britain. It resulted in bootleg copies and even made its way into the theatre. The protagonist is Samuel Pickwick, a wealthy older man who founds the Pickwick Club. He and several other characters travel throughout London.
Hard Times is Dickens’ tenth novel. It is a social novel in that it features commentary and satire on contemporary English society. It is the shortest novel Dickens’ wrote and the only one that has no scenes set in London.
Throughout the novel’s history, its received mixed reviews from critics. This may be in part due to the fact that Dickens’ admitted to writing it as a way of boosting the sales of Household Words, his weekly periodical. Throughout, readers can explore Dickens’ depiction of the treatment of workers in Victorian England and the difference between social and economic classes.
Nicholas Nickleby was Dickens’ third novel. It features Nicholas as the protagonist. The novel starts when the young man is forced to care for his mother and sister after his father dies. With little money, the family is forced to travel to London for assistance from their only living relative, Ralph Nickleby. He becomes the book’s antagonist, who often seems out to hurt and embarrass Nicholas.
Little Dorrit was published between 1855 and 1857. It tells the story of Amy Dorrit, who was born and raised in a debtor’s prison. Dickens uses the novel to satirize the social norms of the time and the institution of the debtor’s prison. In this setting, debtors, deemed criminals, were incarcerated until they could pay their debts. But, in prison, they were unable to work. The novel also focuses on themes like poverty and wealth.
The Mystery of Edwin Drood
The Mystery of Edwin Drood is Dickens’ final novel. It is named after Edwin Drood, the nephew of the main character, John Jasper. The latter is an opium adductor and choirmaster who falls in love with one of his pupils, Rosa Bud (who is also Edwin’s fiancé). Edwin eventually disappears under mysterious circumstances. The book is set in the fictional town of Cloisterham (generally considered to be Rochester).
What is the best Dickens book to read?
Of all of Dickens’ well-loved novels, Great Expectations is generally cited as the most popular and commonly read. Also, well-loved is David Copperfield and A Christmas Carol.
Which Dickens novel should I start with?
David Copperfield and A Christmas Carol are generally considered to be the easiest of Dickens’ books to read. They might serve as a good place to start.
What was Charles Dickens’ nickname?
Dickens’ nickname was “Boz.” He used it as a pseudonym in his early works. It originated from a nickname he gave his younger brother.
What was Charles Dickens’ first book?
Dickens’ first book was The Pickwick Papers. It was published in 1836 and was an incredible success. It was the first novel to ever become widely popular throughout Victorian London. So much so, it spawned bootleg versions.