When it comes to amazing literature, you cannot overlook one of the most influential authors in the history of literature – Charles Dickens.
His work has long been examined and explored by schools, playwrights, and literary critics alike.
Indeed, books like Great Expectations and Oliver Twist are still to this day considered some of the best novels ever written.
But Charles Dickens wrote so many more – so there’s a necessity that we rank them!
We’ve got 10 of the best Charles Dickens books ever written below. So, if you’re a fan of his Victorian and eerie writing, then read on for the answers!
About Charles Dickens
Charles Dickens was more than just a writer. He was also a social critic and he created some of the most well-rounded characters in all of fiction.
Born in Portsmouth, England during the Victorian era, his work explored the very real problems in the country.
Anything from child exploitation and homelessness to the social problems associated with the English class system.
Indeed, Dickens was very vocal on these subjects outside of fictional work, and campaigned for children’s rights, particularly with education.
To this day, Charles Dickens is regarded as one of the world’s greatest writers to ever have lived.
Because he wrote so many books and because he was so influential, we are able to write this list of the best Charles Dickens books!
The Best Charles Dickens Books
Let’s get started and show you our picks for the ten best Charles Dickens books ever written.
The Adventures Of Oliver Twist
To top my list, I have perhaps one of the most well-known and popular books that Charles Dickens ever wrote.
This novel truly shows Charles Dickens’s views on society at the time, in terms of the treatment of children and the English class system.
The story follows a young orphan, Oliver Twist, who after asking for more gruel at the orphanage, is taken by Mr. Bumble – the overseer of the orphanage – and is quickly sold cheaply in the streets.
Later, he meets a young boy named the Artful Dodger who is a member of a gang of pickpockets led by a man called Fagin.
The gang takes in Oliver and treats him as one of their own.
Trials and tribulations occur and Oliver begins to understand the meaning of family and being kind to others, with the help of supporting characters like Nancy and the Artful Dodger.
- Striking view of English treatment of children and the class system
- Can be tedious if you have read this many times!
Themes: Child exploitation, English class system, Friends and enemies
Great Expectations is the second addition to my list.
It’s likely that you have read this book before, or maybe even seen one of the many adaptations to the small screen or in the theater.
The story centers around Pip, an orphan, who after many challenges finds himself wealthy and abandons his true friends.
He is later humbled due to his arrogance and with the help of Miss Havershim, who took him in and treated him as an equal.
Once again, this story touches upon how children were essentially allowed to fend for themselves, and in many ways were expected to do so.
- Provides a look into how wealth can change a person
- The plot is somewhat removed from our own understanding of the modern era
Themes: Wealth, poverty, Child exploitation, and Family
A Christmas Carol
No list of the best Charles Dickens books would be complete without talking about A Christmas Carol.
It’s one of the most famous books in the world and it is still being used every year in festive celebrations on stage.
A Christmas Carol follows Ebenezer Scrooge, a rich man with a tight pocket.
Scrooge is somebody who despises happiness, likely due to his own unhappiness – and as a result, he treats people with disdain.
However, he is humbled after he is visited by three ghosts.
The ghosts of Christmas past, Christmas present, and Christmas future – all of which give Scrooge a new understanding of how he is perceived by others and how he affects the lives of others around him.
The book’s characters give us a well-rounded view of society in the country, from extreme poverty to exceeding wealth.
But it also shows us that the true meaning of happiness is not being rich financially, but being rich with friends and family.
It also shows us the value of sharing. Being wealthy means nothing if you have nobody to share it with, and friends and family are the most important thing in life, even more so than money.
- A harrowing tale that shows us the value of others
- Not as grounded in reality as other Dickens books
Themes: Wealth and poverty, Importance of friends and family, Value of sharing
A Tale Of Two Cities
Next up on my list is probably one of the most famous of all Charles Dickens Books.
A Tale Of Two Cities is set during the French Revolution, and it follows Dr. Manette who was imprisoned in Bastille for eighteen years.
Upon his release, he flees to London and meets with Lucie – his daughter whom he had never met.
The story is a chilling take on the horrors of the French Revolution, but also personal challenges.
Opening with possibly the most famous line “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times” – we instantly get a feel of how the book will go, in terms of mood and pacing.
It is one of the most popular books chosen for High Schools and Colleges to analyze culture and society.
- A thrilling read which explores a turbulent time in our history
- The book is split into different sections which often gets a little confusing
Themes: History, Family, Threat and danger
David Copperfield is one of Charles Dickens’ books that still holds up in the modern world of literature, in terms of its themes and general content.
The protagonist for whom the novel gets its name leads a life of many ups and downs, but more downs in the early stages of the novel.
From happy-ish beginnings before his father’s death, David lives away – and upon his return, he is struck by horrific circumstances.
His mother’s new husband is a tyrant, who bullies everybody around him – but more than anyone, David’s mother.
After fighting back one day, David is sent to a boarding school, which is run by someone very similar to his mother’s husband.
Many trials and tribulations occur and David eventually manages to escape the life where he is constantly being beaten and berated, to becoming a very successful writer – through the help of other characters of course.
It is a story that has many similarities to the problems in society today, like “step” relationships, child neglect, and more.
- It examines many modern problems and also shows the value of helping others
- The story has a very slow start, but it picks up as it progresses
Themes: Family/step-family, Abuse, Value of helping people
Bleak house is often overlooked when it comes to the great works by Charles Dickens, but it is a very important piece of literature when analyzing the problems in society throughout the industrial revolution.
The story goes through a lot of different subplots and it was originally published to be a series of miniature stories.
This allows many different stories to be thoroughly explored through the eyes of many of Charles Dickens’ best characters.
Exploration of social injustices, the English class system, and how people were – and still are – treated based on their status in life and society is a very important part of these stories.
- Plenty of stories that examine their place in society
- The narrative isn’t linear
Themes: Social class, Injustice, Work and wealth
Hard Times is a book that really encapsulates the thoughts and feelings that Charles Dickens had for the role of children in society.
This was an era where children were existent, but did not really live their lives.
During the industrial surge where jobs became more prominent, children were exploited for cheap labor, which lined the pockets of rich landowners and made working-class families even poorer.
The novel follows the lives of two children who grow up in this era without any parental guidance or love.
They decide to fall into a life of crime and disorder, as this was their only opportunity – but also because of their absent parents.
By the time their father is aware of such problems, the children perish – and he finally realizes what he should have done when he had the time.
It’s a harrowing and saddening tale that is all too real for some families.
- A story that is even true for some families to this day
- A depressing read
Themes: Work exploitation, Class divide, Poverty and crime
I now move on to one of Charles Dickens’ more humorous books, which despite the terrible events in the book – Dickens writes in such a way that it becomes very enjoyable to read.
Nicholas Nickleby is a man who finds himself in serious financial trouble after his father passes away, and he must find a way to solve his money woes so he can best provide for himself, his mother, and his sister.
After trying to gain some assistance from his wealthy uncle (his father’s brother), he finds out that his uncle Ralph is not prepared to help them, so Nicholas must find other ways to get what he and his family needs.
The circumstances are both funny and at times ridiculous, which makes this novel one of the more enjoyable and upbeat in Dickens’ works, despite the premise being somewhat bleak upon first hearing of it!
- Humorous but still easy to relate to
- Can be a long read
Themes: Class system, Importance of family, Money troubles
Little Dorrit is a longer novel by Charles Dickens and is another book that many might overlook.
However, it is a captivating tale that focuses on Amy Dorrit who was raised in prison, due to her father’s debt situation.
It highlights the financial difficulties that innocent people can face on a daily basis, along with the inheritance of such problems to more innocent people. In addition, it looks at how unfair the legal system can be.
- An easy read and very relatable
- One of Dickens’ longer books
Themes: Money, Debt, Family
Our Mutual Friend
Finally, on the list, I’ve got perhaps one of the least-known novels by Charles Dickens – but it is still one of his best.
It’s a highly satirical novel that explores how dangerous it can be to constantly be in the pursuit of money and greed.
The story follows Noddy who unexpectedly inherits an outrageous fortune and is completely out of his depth with it.
- A story that can be funny at times and has a very strong moral message
- Not a light read!
Themes: Money and the pursuit of money, Class changes, Greed
The Bottom Line
Charles Dickens has plenty of fantastic pieces of literature, but these ten are by far the best Charles Dickens books – at least in my opinion!
Frequently Asked Questions
Did Dickens Invent Words?
Some words in the dictionary are credited with being invented by Dickens himself, including Abuzz which is shown in A Tale Of Two Cities and Butterfingers which is in The Pickwick Papers.
What Style Was Dickens’ Work?
Dickens wrote in a variety of styles, but primarily he is credited with satire.
Who Was Dickens’ Influence?
Dickens had many influences, but primarily it was society and culture at the time that influenced his work.