Which Charles Dickens book should I read first?

One of England’s best-loved authors, Charles Dickens was a prolific writer. If you’re unsure where to start with his many novels, travel books and short stories, here’s our guide to Charles Dickens’s books.  

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Charles Dickens is one of the most beloved English writers of all time and an important part of our literary heritage. He was one of the great chroniclers of Victorian life and his brilliant wit and rich narratives brought him incomparable fame in the literary world, both in his own time and in ours. His novels explore social concerns like labour conditions, poverty and childhood cruelty while keeping love, friendship and sorrow at their hearts.

Dickens wrote fourteen novels as well as short fiction and travel books. If you’ve never read any of his work, knowing where to start can be daunting, but there's never been a better time to dive into the classics.  Here are our recommendations for which Charles Dickens book to start with, for all ages and interests.

Best Charles Dickens books for younger readers

Oliver Twist

by Charles Dickens

Book cover for 9781509825370

When orphaned Oliver Twist runs away from the workhouse he was born in and arrives by foot in London, he’s faced with a world of crime, unusual friends and unexpected kindness. Centred around the lives of Victorian children, Oliver Twist is part pleasure, part education and the perfect book to get children into Dickens.

Best romantic Charles Dickens books

Great Expectations

by Charles Dickens

Book cover for 9781509825363

Also opening with a poor orphaned boy, Great Expectations tells the tale of how young Pip falls in love with a beautiful upper-class girl named Estella. Will class division get in the way of his heart? If you’re a romantic, this heartwarming, plot-twisting and captivating novel is the perfect Dickens novel to start with.

Best Charles Dickens books about politics

A Tale of Two Cities

by Charles Dickens

Book cover for 9781509825387

Set against the backdrop of the French revolution, A Tale of Two Cities is the best place to start for a tense political novel. Dr Manette is finally reunited with his daughter Lucie after eighteen years of wrongful imprisonment in the Bastille. But when Lucie falls in love with Charles Darney, who’s accused of treason against the English crown, their family equilibrium is once again thrust into danger in this tightly plotted story of revenge and sacrifice.

Best funny Charles Dickens books

The Pickwick Papers

by Charles Dickens

Book cover for 9781509825455

Mr. Pickwick, Tracy Tupman, Augustus Snodgrass and Nathaniel Winckle are an unlikely band of travellers drawn together in the Pickwick Club of London. They journey around England befriending everyone from country squires to local literary giants in this hilarious and sentimental novel. The Pickwick Papers is the perfect, witty novel to get you into Dickens.

Best scary Charles Dickens books

Ghost Stories

by Charles Dickens

Book cover for 9781509825400

Dickens began the tradition of telling ghost stories at Christmas, but his frightening and fascinating tales aren’t confined to the festive season. From gruesome legal drama ‘A Trial for Murder’, to eerie domestic farce ‘The Ghost in the Bride’s Chamber’, you are guaranteed a fright in Dicken’s Ghost Stories.

Best Charles Dickens books to transport you

Scenes of London Life

by Charles Dickens

Book cover for 9781509854288

Scenes of London Life offers a genuine window into Victorian London through satirical short stories that take you from the colourful chaos of gin-shops to the destitution of pawnshops. If you want to be transported to another place, Scenes of London Life is an accessible way in.

In this episode of Book Break Emma explores the English seaside, including Broadstairs where Charles Dickens stayed while writing Nicholas Nickelby and where the Charles Dickens Museum can now be found: