The Essentials: Charles Dickens

What are the must-read books written by and about the famed British author?

Author Charles Dickens is best known for his memorable cast of characters, including Ebenezer Scrooge, David Copperfield and Oliver Twist, shown here. (The Granger Collection, NYC)

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John Bowen, now a professor of 19th-century literature at England’s University of York, casts his eye toward Dickens’ early works, written from 1836 to 1844. He argues that novels such as The Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist and Martin Chuzzlewit redefined fiction in the way that they broach politics and comedy.

From Douglas-Fairhurst: During Dickens’ lifetime they were by far his most popular works, and it was only in the 20th century that readers developed a preference for the later, darker novels. John Bowen’s study shows why we should return to them, and what they look like when viewed through modern critical eyes. It is a superbly readable and detailed piece of literary detective work.


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