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Classic Literature

Charles Dickens Books in Order with Summaries

Get the full story on one of the world’s most beloved authors!

Last Updated on November 27, 2023 by BiblioLifestyle

Charles Dickens Books in Order

Charles John Huffam Dickens, born on February 7, 1812, in Portsmouth, England, is widely hailed as one of the greatest writers in the history of literature.  Renowned for his exceptional storytelling abilities, social commentary, and profound character development, Dickens’s literary works have left an indelible mark on the world of literature, making him an iconic novelist of the Victorian era.  His timeless novels showcase his remarkable talent for capturing the essence of the human condition and shedding light on the social injustices of his time.  With his vivid descriptions, memorable characters, and intricate plotlines, Dickens continues to captivate readers across generations.  His work has been translated into numerous languages and adapted into plays, films, and television series, and his literary legacy continues to thrive.  So in celebration of his remarkable contributions to the literary world, we have meticulously compiled a comprehensive list of all of Charles Dickens books in order which include novels and notable novellas in chronological order, providing a literary journey through the rich tapestry of his extraordinary storytelling.

A Briefing on Charles Dickens Books

What are the 15 novels that Charles Dickens wrote?

In chronological order, the 15 novels that Charles Dickens wrote are:

  1. The Pickwick Papers
  2. Oliver Twist
  3. Nicholas Nickleby
  4. The Old Curiosity Shop
  5. Barnaby Rudge
  6. Martin Chuzzlewit
  7. Dombey and Son
  8. David Copperfield
  9. Bleak House
  10. Hard Times
  11. Little Dorrit
  12. A Tale of Two Cities
  13. Great Expectations
  14. Our Mutual Friend
  15. The Mystery of Edwin Drood

What is the best order to read Dickens?

The best order to read Charles Dickens’ books largely depends on personal preference and the reader’s familiarity with Dickens’s style. For beginners, I personally recommend starting with “Oliver Twist” (Amazon or Bookshop.)  Published in 1838, this novel offers a powerful portrayal of childhood innocence in the face of societal corruption and abuse.  After that, readers can follow up with “A Christmas Carol” (Amazon or Bookshop,) a beloved holiday classic that captures the spirit of generosity and redemption. For those looking for a more challenging read, “Bleak House” (Amazon or Bookshop) or “Great Expectations” (Amazon or Bookshop) are excellent choices, showcasing Dickens’s mastery of complex plots and character development.

Some readers may choose to read Charles Dickens books in order, and while I haven’t done that personally, you can follow the chronological order listed.

What is Charles Dickens most famous book?

Arguably, the most famous book by Charles Dickens is “A Tale of Two Cities” (Amazon or Bookshop.)  Set in London and Paris before and during the French Revolution, the novel depicts the plight of the French peasantry demoralized by the French aristocracy in the years leading up to the revolution, the corresponding brutality demonstrated by the revolutionaries toward the former aristocrats, and many social parallels with life in London during the same period.  Its opening lines, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” is one of the most famous lines in English literature.  The book has sold over 200 million copies worldwide, making it one of the best-selling books of all time.

What was the last novel of Charles Dickens?

The last novel of Charles Dickens was “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” (Amazon or Bookshop.) This novel is particularly notable because it was left unfinished at the time of Dickens’s death in 1870. The story revolves around the disappearance of Edwin Drood, and it is believed that Dickens intended the novel to be a murder mystery. Despite its unfinished status, “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” still offers a unique and engaging reading experience, showcasing Dickens’s exceptional storytelling abilities and his in-depth exploration of complex characters and societal issues.

Charles Dickens Books in Order

Charles Dickens Books in Order

This list of Charles Dickens books in order has all books organized by date of first publication, as some of his works were first published as serials.  I’ve also included five noted novellas!

1836: The Pickwick Papers

1837: Oliver Twist

1838: Nicholas Nickleby

1840: The Old Curiosity Shop

1841: Barnaby Rudge

1843: Martin Chuzzlewit

1843: A Christmas Carol (Novella)

1844: The Chimes (Novella)

1845: The Cricket on the Hearth (Novella)

1846: Dombey and Son

1846: The Battle of Life (Novella)

1848: The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain (Novella)

1849: David Copperfield

1852: Bleak House

1854: Hard Times

1855: Little Dorrit

1859: A Tale of Two Cities

1860: Great Expectations

1864: Our Mutual Friend

1870: The Mystery of Edwin Drood

Charles Dickens Novels in Order

1836: The Pickwick Papers

1837: Oliver Twist

1838: Nicholas Nickleby

1840: The Old Curiosity Shop

1841: Barnaby Rudge

1843: Martin Chuzzlewit

1846: Dombey and Son

1849: David Copperfield

1852: Bleak House

1854: Hard Times

1855: Little Dorrit

1859: A Tale of Two Cities

1860: Great Expectations

1864: Our Mutual Friend

1870: The Mystery of Edwin Drood

Charles Dickens Novellas in Order

1843: A Christmas Carol

1844: The Chimes

1845: The Cricket on the Hearth

1846: The Battle of Life

1848: The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain

Charles Dickens Novels

Charles Dickens Books in Order with Summaries

The Pickwick Papers (1836)

“The Pickwick Papers”, also known as “The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club”, is the first novel written by Charles Dickens. It centers on the comedic adventures of Mr. Samuel Pickwick, a kind and wealthy old gentleman, and his three friends, Mr. Nathaniel Winkle, Mr. Augustus Snodgrass, and Mr. Tracy Tupman, who are members of the Pickwick Club. With a series of humorous incidents, Dickens humorously depicts the society of nineteenth-century England. From these whimsical adventures, the author constructs a satirical commentary on the legal system, matrimony, and other aspects of Victorian-era society.

Buy The Pickwick Papers from Amazon or Bookshop

Oliver Twist (1837)

“Oliver Twist” is Charles Dickens’ second novel, a dramatic tale of a young orphan named Oliver Twist. Born into a life of poverty and misfortune in a workhouse, Oliver’s journey takes him through the dark underbelly of the London criminal world. The novel showcases Dickens’ criticism of the societal conditions that leave children like Oliver at the mercy of criminals like the cunning Fagin, the menacing Bill Sikes, and the Artful Dodger. Through Oliver’s trials and tribulations, Dickens highlights the pressing issues of child labor, poverty, and the inadequate support for the poor in the Victorian era. Despite the hardships he endures, Oliver remains an emblem of innocence and purity, making the story a testament to the resilience of the human spirit.

Buy Oliver Twist from Amazon or Bookshop

Nicholas Nickleby (1838)

“Nicholas Nickleby” marks Charles Dickens’s third novel, a captivating narrative centering on the life of young Nicholas Nickleby. After the death of his father, Nicholas, his mother, and his sister Kate are left penniless and at the mercy of the unscrupulous Uncle Ralph. Nicholas is sent to work at the horrific Dotheboys Hall run by the sadistic Wackford Squeers, while Kate is exploited by the upper crust of society. The novel unfolds as an epic tale of Nicholas’ journey to overcome adversity and secure safety and happiness for his family, despite the odds. Dickens uses the story to plumb the depths of social injustice, poverty, and the exploitation of the innocent, mirroring many of the societal issues Dickens commonly addressed in his works.

The Old Curiosity Shop (1840)

“The Old Curiosity Shop” is one of Charles Dickens’ iconic novels which explores the life of Nell Trent, a pure and innocent child living with her grandfather in his shop of odds and ends in London. Driven to despair by his disastrous gambling addiction, the grandfather borrows money from the malevolent moneylender, Daniel Quilp, putting Nell and himself at Quilp’s mercy. The novel unfolds as they escape London and embark on a journey through the English countryside. With a cast of colorful characters they meet along the way, the story serves as a poignant commentary on the struggle between good and evil, the harsh realities of poverty, and the devastating effects of gambling. Despite Nell’s heartbreaking fate, her purity and kindness, amidst adversity, shine through, offering a profound exploration of innocence and morality.

Barnaby Rudge (1841)

“Barnaby Rudge”, Dickens’ fifth novel, is a historical drama set against the backdrop of the anti-Catholic Gordon Riots of 1780. The story follows the simple-minded Barnaby Rudge and his devoted pet raven Grip. Rudge, who is unwittingly drawn into the riots, becomes entangled in the fates of his father, who is haunted by a murder he committed years ago, and the locksmith Gabriel Varden, whose family is caught up in the chaos. This novel, with its vivid depiction of public unrest and mob rule, is a powerful exploration of ignorance, superstition, and the destructive power of anarchy. It’s one of Dickens’ less commonly read novels, but it offers a captivating look at a volatile moment in British history.

Martin Chuzzlewit (1843)

“Martin Chuzzlewit” is a novel by Charles Dickens, exploring the adventures of its eponymous hero, Martin Chuzzlewit. The novel is centered around the theme of selfishness, demonstrated through the elderly Martin Chuzzlewit, rich but cynical, who has a variety of relatives scheming to get their hands on his wealth. The young Martin, the protagonist, is disinherited due to his love for Mary, the old man’s nurse, triggering him to seek his fortune in America. The book, filled with memorable characters like the hypocritical Pecksniff and the obsequious slave-owning Chollop, is a satirical masterpiece. It offers a scathing critique of both the greed and hypocrisy Dickens saw in society and the often misguided early American ideals. The novel ultimately paints a picture of redemption, as characters are led through trials and tribulations to find their moral center, allowing Dickens to highlight the values of family and integrity.

A Christmas Carol (1843)

“A Christmas Carol” is one of Charles Dickens’ most beloved and enduring works. The novel tells the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, a miserly old man who values wealth over everything else. On Christmas Eve night, Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his former business partner, Jacob Marley, and the spirits of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come. The spirits show Scrooge scenes from his own life, the lives of those around him, and a glimpse of a possible dismal future if he does not change his ways. Haunted by what he has seen, Scrooge wakes up on Christmas morning a changed man. He becomes generous, kind, and beloved by all, showing Dickens’ underlying message about the transformative power of kindness and the true spirit of Christmas.

Buy A Christmas Carol from Amazon or Bookshop

If you’re looking for more classic or short Christmas stories to read, check out my “Classic Christmas Stories that Will Leave You Feeling Festive“article.

The Chimes (1844)

“The Chimes” is another celebrated work by Charles Dickens, often referred to as a ‘New Year’s Tale’. The story revolves around Trotty Veck, a poor ticket porter, whose faith in human nature is tested by a series of visions on New Year’s Eve. Trotty, who believes in the inherent goodness of people, is led to despair by wealthier individuals who insist that the poor are naturally wicked and should be controlled. Moved by the sorrow of his daughter Meg on her wedding day, Trotty climbs the bell tower of a church where he is visited by goblins, the spirits of the chimes, who show him a series of visions. These visions depict a future where his loved ones suffer because of their harsh societal conditions and the absence of kindness and understanding in the world. The visions end with the sight of his own grave, leading Trotty to realize the devastating consequences of losing faith in mankind. Awakening to find it’s still New Year’s Day, Trotty is given a chance to restore his faith in humanity and affect positive change. Through this narrative, Dickens gives a powerful commentary on social injustice, advocating for the poor and emphasizing the importance of hope, love, and the capacity for change.

The Cricket on the Hearth (1845)

“The Cricket on the Hearth” is a charming novella by Charles Dickens, often considered as one of his ‘Christmas books’, although it’s more accurately a tale for the home and hearth. The story revolves around John Peerybingle, a carrier, and his much younger wife, Dot. Their peaceful domestic life, symbolized by the continuous chirping of a cricket on their hearth, is disrupted by the arrival of a mysterious old stranger. Misunderstandings arise as John becomes suspicious of the relationship between Dot and the handsome young Edwin, while Dot worries about the stranger’s interest in their friend, the toymaker Caleb Plummer and his blind daughter Bertha. The cricket, embodying the spirit of home and hearth, chirps louder during these moments of crisis, offering comfort and hope. As the story unfolds, identities are revealed, misunderstandings are resolved, and the cricket’s song restores joy and harmony in the household. In this tale, Dickens explores themes of love, jealousy, and the importance of home, providing a heartwarming portrayal of Victorian domestic life.

Dombey and Son (1846)

“Dombey and Son” is a novel by Charles Dickens that explores the themes of pride, arrogance, and familial relationships. The story centers around Paul Dombey, a wealthy, self-important businessman who yearns for a son to continue his business empire. His wish is granted with the birth of his son, also named Paul, but his obsession with his business leads him to neglect his daughter, Florence. The young Paul’s health is frail, leading to his early demise, which further alienates Dombey from Florence. Dombey remarries a proud and beautiful woman named Edith, who despises him and eventually elopes with Dombey’s confidant, James Carker. The novel traces Dombey’s prideful fall from grace, culminating in business failure, public humiliation, and near-death loneliness. This downfall finally awakens Dombey to his daughter’s unwavering love. In the end, Dombey finds redemption and solace in Florence’s affection, underscoring Dickens’ recurring themes of familial bonds and the human capacity for change and forgiveness.

The Battle of Life (1846)

“The Battle of Life” is one of Charles Dickens’ lesser-known novellas, also categorized as one of his ‘Christmas books’. The narrative revolves around the lives of two sisters, Grace and Marion Jeddler, and their suitor, Alfred Heathfield. Dr. Jeddler, their father, holds a cynical view of life, seeing it as a mere farce. Alfred, deeply in love with Marion, leaves for several years to complete his studies and on his return, is heartbroken to find that Marion has seemingly eloped with a family friend, leaving Grace devastated. However, the twist in the tale reveals that Marion’s departure was an act of self-sacrifice to pave the way for a relationship between Grace and Alfred, whom she believed to be better suited for each other. The story climaxes with the revelation of Marion’s noble act and her return to the family. Through this novel, Dickens conveys the message that life is a battle requiring courage and sacrifice, and emphasizes the power of love and selflessness.

The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain (1848)

“The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain” is a captivating Christmas novella by Charles Dickens. It follows the story of Professor Redlaw, a chemist haunted by painful memories. A phantom resembling him offers Redlaw the chance to forget his past, but this forgetfulness turns out to be a curse. It not only erases his sorrows but also the lessons and personal growth they brought. This contagious forgetting spreads to others, making them cold-hearted and joyless. Redlaw realizes the detrimental impact of his “gift” and, with the help of a student named Milly Swidger, reverses the curse. Dickens explores the theme of memory and its role in human experience, highlighting the importance of both sorrow and joy in shaping our character and empathy.

David Copperfield (1849)

“David Copperfield” is a semi-autobiographical novel by Charles Dickens and is counted among his greatest works. The story portrays the life journey of the protagonist, David Copperfield, from his early childhood to maturity. Narrated in the first person, it explores themes of self-discovery, betrayal, and enduring love. David’s childhood is marked by the death of his father before his birth and later the abusive marriage of his beloved mother to the cruel Mr. Murdstone. After his mother’s death, David endures a life of hardship in a factory and later at a school run by the sadistic Mr. Creakle. As a young adult, David experiences love and heartbreak, ambition, and disappointment as he strives to become a successful writer. The novel is populated with a variety of vividly drawn characters, such as the ever-optimistic Mr. Micawber, the humble Peggotty family, the cunning Uriah Heep, and the strong and loyal Agnes Wickfield. The narrative follows David’s trials, tribulations, and personal growth, ultimately culminating in his recognition of Agnes as his true love, their marriage, and the success he finds as a respected author. Through “David Copperfield”, Dickens highlights the stark realities of Victorian society and the indomitable human spirit’s capacity to overcome adversity.

Buy David Copperfield from Amazon or Bookshop

P.S. David Copperfield is one of the books mentioned in my “Memorable Parties in Classic Literature” article.

Bleak House (1852)

“Bleak House” is a novel by Charles Dickens, renowned for its critique of the British judiciary system. The story is told in first and third-person narratives, primarily focusing on Esther Summerson, her guardians, John Jarndyce and Ada Clare, and Ada’s cousin, Richard Carstone. The intricate plot revolves around a long-standing legal case, Jarndyce and Jarndyce, which involves an inheritance dispute. The case symbolizes the inefficiencies of the Court of Chancery, leading to endless litigation while consuming the lives and fortunes of the involved parties. In parallel, Esther’s mysterious parentage is slowly revealed. Various subplots intertwine, such as the investigation of the spontaneous combustion death of Krook, the illicit affair of Lady Dedlock, who turns out to be Esther’s biological mother, and the tragic life consequences experienced by Richard due to his obsession with the lawsuit. The novel is a masterful portrayal of Victorian society, detailing the divide between wealth and poverty, and the corruption and bureaucracy of legal institutions. Dickens’ “Bleak House” is a compelling social commentary wrapped in a captivating narrative.

Buy Bleak House from Amazon or Bookshop

Hard Times (1854)

“Hard Times” is an insightful novel by Charles Dickens, where he critiques the Industrial Revolution’s effects on society. The narrative unfolds in the fictitious town of Coketown, characterized by its lifeless industrial landscape. The novel’s central figures are Thomas Gradgrind, a schoolmaster committed to educating his children, Louisa and Tom, entirely on facts, and Josiah Bounderby, a boastful mill owner who exaggerates his self-made success. As the story progresses, the repercussions of their rigid worldview become evident. Louisa, forced into a loveless marriage with Bounderby, faces emotional turmoil, while Tom turns morally corrupt. A parallel subplot follows Stephen Blackpool, a factory worker unjustly fired by Bounderby and maligned by his fellow workers. His tragic life epitomizes the working-class suffering under industrial capitalism. By the end, the Gradgrinds recognize the failure of their fact-based philosophy, Dickens effectively showcasing the need for a balanced education that includes imagination and emotions. The novel, thus, serves as a critique of utilitarianism and advocates for empathy, compassion, and social responsibility in the face of industrial advancement.

Little Dorrit (1855)

“Little Dorrit” is a complex and emotionally gripping novel by Charles Dickens. It follows the life of Amy Dorrit, born and raised in the Marshalsea Prison for debtors, where her father, William Dorrit, is imprisoned. Despite their impoverished circumstances, Amy (or Little Dorrit) maintains a loving and caring attitude, tirelessly working as a seamstress to support her family. The Dorrits’ life changes dramatically when a family inheritance frees them from the prison. However, their newly found wealth brings its own set of challenges as they struggle to fit into high society, where appearances often overshadow genuine values. Parallel to the Dorrit family’s narrative, the story also focuses on Arthur Clennam, a man who returns to London after his father’s death and becomes deeply intertwined with the Dorrits’ fate. Throughout the novel, Dickens criticizes the failings of British society, particularly the bureaucratic Circumlocution Office, symbolizing governmental inefficiency. The novel’s themes such as wealth, class, and the nature of society are deeply rooted in the human experience, making “Little Dorrit” an enduring work of literature.

A Tale of Two Cities (1859)

“A Tale of Two Cities” is a historical novel by Charles Dickens, set against the backdrop of the French Revolution. The narrative revolves around the lives of Dr. Manette, who spent eighteen years in the Bastille prison in Paris; his daughter Lucie; Charles Darnay, a French aristocrat who falls in love with Lucie; and Sydney Carton, a disreputable but brilliant English lawyer. The novel, laid out in the cities of London and Paris, depicts the dichotomy of life before and during the Revolution, with the ‘two cities’ symbolizing two opposing worlds. The story underscores the themes of resurrection and sacrifice, most notably embodied in Sydney Carton’s act of ultimate self-sacrifice. His action, trading his life for Darnay’s to save Lucie the pain of losing her husband, provides the novel with one of literature’s most famous lines: “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.” Through “A Tale of Two Cities,” Dickens explores the extremes of humanity, from the violent mob mentality of the Revolution to the selflessness of individuals.

Buy A Tale of Two Cities from Amazon or Bookshop

Great Expectations (1860)

“Great Expectations” is a profound and highly influential novel by Charles Dickens. The story is a first-person narrative, exploring the life of Philip Pirrip, known as Pip, from his childhood to his maturity. Pip, an orphan, lives with his abusive sister and her gentle husband, Joe Gargery, a blacksmith. The narrative unfolds as Pip’s humble life is transformed when he is notified of an anonymous benefactor who wishes to make him a gentleman. Led to believe his benefactor is the wealthy, eccentric Miss Havisham, Pip moves to London, leaving behind his childhood friend and love, Biddy, and his surrogate father figure, Joe. In London, Pip lives a life of false grandeur, only to later discover his actual benefactor is Abel Magwitch, a convict he helped as a boy. The revelation shatters Pip’s illusions about wealth, class, and identity. The story concludes with Pip losing his wealth, returning home, and reconciling with Joe and Biddy. The novel, through Pip’s journey, critiques social class, explores the complexity of human nature, and ultimately demonstrates that moral and emotional growth often comes through pain and life’s harsh lessons.

Buy Great Expectations from Amazon or Bookshop

Our Mutual Friend (1864)

“Our Mutual Friend” is Charles Dickens’ last completed novel, a satirical indictment of society’s obsession with wealth and status. The narrative unfolds around the inheritance of a dust-heap (a symbol for industrial waste and societal decay) by John Harmon, the supposed deceased son of a wealthy dust contractor. To claim his inheritance, John was to marry Bella Wilfer, a woman he had never met. However, in the wake of his supposed death, the inheritance passes to his servants, Mr. and Mrs. Boffin. The Boffins, previously humble and good-hearted, become corrupted by wealth, which intrigues multiple characters with selfish motives, including Silas Wegg, a greedy street vendor, and Rogue Riderhood, a deceitful riverman. Meanwhile, John Harmon, in secret survival, assumes the identity of John Rokesmith and enters the Boffin household as a secretary. This position allows him to observe Bella, who initially desires wealth but gradually learns to value love and virtue over materialism. The novel is marked by a complex plot, filled with mystery, love, betrayal, and redemption, effectively highlighting Dickens’ critique of Victorian society and its distorted values.

The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1870)

“The Mystery of Edwin Drood” is the final novel by Charles Dickens but remains unfinished due to his sudden death in 1870. The story revolves around Edwin Drood, a young man engaged to Rosa Bud since childhood. Their arranged marriage was planned by their fathers, and as they grow older, the burden of this obligation strains their relationship. However, they are not the only ones interested in the outcome of this engagement. Edwin’s uncle, Jasper John, harbors a secret passion for Rosa and descends into an opium-induced madness fueled by jealousy and unrequited love. Amidst these complicated relationships, Edwin mysteriously disappears, causing speculation about murder and foul play, with suspicion falling heavily on Jasper. Unfortunately, Dickens died before revealing the solution to the mystery, leaving readers and scholars to speculate about the intended resolution. Despite its unfinished state, “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” offers a compelling exploration of human vice, jealousy, and obsession.

Buy The Mystery of Edwin Drood from Amazon or Bookshop

Charles Dickens’ work has left an indelible mark on literature and society and his stories continue to be read and appreciated around the world.  From his first novel, The Pickwick Papers, to his final and unfinished work, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Dickens created a world full of memorable characters, thought-provoking themes, and intricate plots.  I hope this list of Charles Dickens books in order serves as a guide for those who want to explore his works and discover the magic of his storytelling.

Have you read any Charles Dickens?

Have you read any of Charles Dickens books?  Are you planning to read Charles Dickens books in order?  Are any Charles Dickens books on your TBR?  What is your favorite book by Dickens?  Let us talk all about Charles Dickens in the comments below.

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Charles Dickens Books in Order

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