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5 Must-Read Thomas Hardy Books: The Ultimate List

We recommend starting with one of these five great books.

Last Updated on April 19, 2024 by BiblioLifestyle

5 Must-Read Thomas Hardy Books Where to Start Reading

If you’re a fan of classic English literature, then Thomas Hardy is one author you should definitely read.   His literary works are widely considered masterpieces and have stood the test of time, remaining relevant even today. Hardy’s writing style is characterized by its vivid imagery, lyrical prose, and strong sense of realism. Inside Thomas Hardy books you’ll often find themes of love, loss, fate, and the human condition, which made them relatable to readers from all walks of life.

I loved books since I was very little, but Thomas Hardy was the author who made me fall in love with literature. I have a clear and distinct memory of being a teen, home one summer break, and reading Thomas Hardy. I was blown away at how his novels were so beautifully written and rich in detail. I felt like I was transported into the world he created and it was an experience I will never forget.

Yes, his writing often had a melancholic undertone, which reflected the harsh realities of life in Victorian England. And yes, his characters were complex and flawed, but I think that’s what made them relatable to readers. They were not perfect, but they were human, and that’s what made his stories so powerful. Hardy had a way of capturing the essence of human emotion and portraying it in such a raw and honest way. But if you’re new to Hardy and not sure where to start, don’t worry; I’m here to help.  In this article, we’ll discuss Hardy’s life and work and then give you a list of his best books that you should read right now.

About Thomas Hardy

Who is Thomas Hardy?

Thomas Hardy was born in 1840 in Higher Bockhampton, Dorset, England.  He is one of the most well-known Victorian authors, and his novels often deal with rural life and love.  Hardy’s work was initially published anonymously, as he was worried about how the public would receive it.  However, after the success of his novel, “Far from the Madding Crowd,” he decided to publish under his own name.

Hardy’s novels often end tragically, which led some critics to label him a pessimist.  However, Hardy said that he saw himself as a realist rather than a pessimist, as he believed that life was full of good and bad experiences.  Regardless of how you label him, there’s no denying that Hardy is a master of the English language, and his novels are definitely worth reading.

What is Thomas Hardy best known for?

Thomas Hardy is best known for his novels and poetry. His works often explore themes of love, faith, and the human condition. Hardy’s novels often end tragically, which led some critics to label him a pessimist. However, Hardy said that he saw himself as a realist rather than a pessimist, as he believed that life was full of good and bad experiences.  He also wrote stories about Victorian England’s rural life, which helped define the time period.  Hardy’s poems are filled with symbolism and metaphors, making them a pleasure to read.

About Thomas Hardy Books

What is Thomas Hardy’s style of writing?

Thomas Hardy’s writing style is characterized by his use of vivid imagery and symbolism.  He often wrote in a lyrical style that was unique to him, making it easy to identify his works.  His novels often explore themes of love, faith, and the human condition.  They are also rich in detail and evocative language, creating an atmosphere of tragedy or joy.  Hardy also wrote stories about Victorian England’s rural life, which helped define the time period.

Hands down, Thomas Hardy’s most popular book is Far from the Madding Crowd.  This novel was first published anonymously in 1874 and told the story of a young woman who must make difficult choices between three suitors.  The book became extremely popular and has since been adapted into films, television series, and even an opera.

What is considered Thomas Hardy’s best book?

Thomas Hardy’s best book is “Tess of the d’Urbervilles.” This novel tells the story of Tess, a young woman from a low-income family who is taken advantage of by an aristocrat.  The book explores themes like love, class, and morality in Victorian England.  It is also one of Hardy’s most popular works and has been adapted into movies and television shows.

Which of Hardy’s novels is regarded as his tragic masterpiece?

Thomas Hardy’s tragic masterpiece is considered to be “Jude the Obscure.” This novel tells the story of Jude Fawley, an ambitious young man from a poor background who attempts to better himself by studying at university.  However, his plans are thwarted by society, and he is forced into a life of poverty and hardship.  The novel is full of tragedy and is one of Hardy’s most acclaimed works.

The 5 Must-Read Books by Thomas Hardy

Now that you know a bit about Thomas Hardy and his work, let’s talk more about these five must-read books:

  • Far from the Madding Crowd
  • The Return of the Native
  • Tess of the d’Urbervilles
  • Jude the Obscure
  • The Mayor of Casterbridge
Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

“Far from the Madding Crowd” is Hardy’s fourth novel, his first major literary success, and my personal favorite.  It was first published anonymously and serially in 1874 and published in book form under Hardy’s name the same year.  The story follows the life of Bathsheba Everdene, a beautiful and independent woman who inherits a farm in rural England.  We also meet her three suitors and see her contrasting relationship with each of them.  The novel follows her as she tries to make the farm a success and also deals with themes of love, betrayal, and morality.  “Far from the Madding Crowd” is considered one of Hardy’s best novels, and it’s definitely a great place to start if you’re new to his work.

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The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy

The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy

“The Return of the Native” was first published in 1878 and set in Egdon Heath, a fictional area in England.  The story follows the life of Clym Yeobright, who returns to his native village after living in Paris for several years.  Clym finds that his village has changed greatly since he left, and he struggles to find his place in the community.  In addition, the novel follows other characters who all live on or near the heath and deals with themes of love, isolation,  fate, and morality.  “The Return of the Native” is considered one of Hardy’s dark and pessimistic novels, but it’s definitely worth reading.

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Tess of the d'Urbervilles

Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

“Tess of the d’Urbervilles” was first published in 1891 and is one of Hardy’s best-known works.  It tells the story of Tess Durbeyfield, a poor girl from a rural village who is sent to live with her wealthy relatives, the d’Urbervilles.  However, Tess’s life is turned upside down when she meets Alec d’Urberville, a man who will profoundly impact her life.  The novel follows Tess as she tries to make a new life for herself and deals with themes of love, betrayal, morality, social class, sexuality, and religion.  “Tess of the d’Urbervilles” is considered Hardy’s masterwork, and it’s definitely worth reading.

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Jude the Obscure

Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy

“Jude the Obscure” was first published in 1895, and it’s Hardy’s last work of fiction and one of his most controversial works.  It tells the story of Jude Fawley, a working-class man from a rural village who dreams of becoming a scholar at Oxford University.  However, Jude’s plans are derailed when he meets Arabella Donn.  Jude tries to make something of himself and falls in love with Sue Bridehead. Sue is unable to bear living with her husband Phillotson and moves in with Jude.  Society’s disapproval and poverty take weight on them, and tragedy strikes.  The novel deals with themes of love, morality, religion, social class, and education.  “Jude the Obscure” was poorly received and heavily criticized when it was first published, and while dark and pessimistic, it’s now considered one of Hardy’s best novels.

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The Mayor of Casterbridge

The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy

“The Mayor of Casterbridge” was first published in 1886, and it’s set in the fictional town of Casterbridge.  The story follows the life of Michael Henchard, a man who sells his wife and daughter at a fair. Henchard regrets his decision and tries to find them, but he is unsuccessful.   He later becomes the mayor of Casterbridge and tries to make a new life for himself.  However, his past catches up with him, and he must face the consequences of his actions.  The novel deals with themes of love, morality, fate, and redemption.  “The Mayor of Casterbridge” is considered one of Hardy’s best novels, and it’s definitely worth reading.

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What do you think about these Thomas Hardy books?

Have you read any of these Thomas Hardy books?  Are any of these books or his other works on your TBR?   What Thomas Hardy books are your favorite?  What books would you add to this list?  Let us talk all about Thomas Hardy and his work in the comments below.

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5 Must-Read Thomas Hardy Books

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