Is Charles Dickens Worth Reading?

Dickens. We all know the name, right? Old guy. Victorian. Something about some candles and a poor boy. Who wants more. Seems kinda snoozy, and moralizing. A bit dusty. You might be wondering, should I even bother trying to read these old books? They’re pretty long … you could knock yourself out with these weighty tomes.

Yes, Dickens is certainly worth reading! He advocated for the poor, was a super star of unimaginable proportions in his own life, and wrote works that are hugely fun to read because they were intended to appeal to the people, to draw poeple back in to buy the stories one chapter at a time in periodicals. 

Once you read about Oliver Twist or any of his other wonderfully real characters, you never forget. 

What Did Charles Dickens Write? 

First of all, let’s take a look at what Charles John Huffam Dickens actually wrote! 

He penned works in many different forms: at least 12 novels, along with many short stories, essays, nonfiction works, plays, and articles. 

While his essays and political agitations were highly regarded at the time (Queen Victoria frequently read his work!), it was Dickens’ novels which captured the hearts and minds of the readers of the world. 

For the most part, his novels were written as serials, published one chapter at a time in periodicals (like magazines or a regular journal today). 

The chapters would be released as he wrote them, so that he frequently changed the characters and plots according to the feedback he received on the previous chapter! 

Was Dickens Popular in His Own Time?

Yes. Enormously popular. Unthinkably popular.

He’s often referred to as the first celebrity … let that sink in. 

His works were so popular that critics had trouble categorizing them. Literature had never held such sway over the population. For perhaps the first time books were truly … popular entertainment!

He was popular with people from all sections of society, from the working poor to Queen Victoria herself. 

He was also popular with writers and audiences oversees, with many of the pre-eminent writers of the Europe and the world crowning him the greatest novelist of all.

He was frequently lumped together with Shakespeare, in terms of influence and innovativeness

So yes, very popular. 

Who Was Charles Dickens? 

So who is this special person that set the literary world on fire? 

He was born in 1812 and died in 1870. He is regarded as a ‘Victorian’ writer, as Queen Victoria ruled England for much of his life. 

Dickens’ novels are sensitive to the difficulties of the poor, often featuring poor central characters. 

This may be related to his own difficult circumstances in his early life. 

Dickens left school at the age of 12 to work in a boot-blacking factory because his father had been sent to debtors’ prison. Debtors’ prison is something we don’t really do anymore where you lock someone up who can’t afford to pay their debts.

If you don’t know what a boot-blacking factory is … just think of it as somewhere you don’t want to work when you are twelve! 

He thought about becoming an actor and arranged an audition but couldn’t make it because he had a cold! Sliding doors moment.

He worked as a journalist for many years, and edited various journals. 

In a nutshell, he experienced difficult conditions as a child, became a journalist and author, and was so insanely popular that he spent the rest of his life writing novels, and touring the world giving highly lucrative readings of his works and lectures.

Are Dickens Novels Fun to Read? 

Dickens novels are very fun to read. Although the Victorian era now seems the distant past, the language Dickens writes in might as well have been written today. You don’t have to worry too much about not understanding the language. 

From the outset, Dickens was first and foremost a popular novelist. This is because his characters are very human and loveable. His plots are full of cliffhangers and thrilling moments. He was writing for the people, and for this reason his plots are full of wonderful things that modern audiences can enjoy as much as Victorian ones. 

Is Charles Dickens Worth Reading? 

So, after all that, is Dickens worth reading today? Yes, Dickens is definitely worth reading for a wide variety of reasons. His novels are so popular that they have never been out of print. He was a true global superstar, and even today many people like Paul McCartney refer to Dickens’ novels as their favorites.

His novels have been adapted in every form imaginable: plays, radio plays, films, television – everything! A Tale of Two Cities is one of the most sold works of all time, and stories like A Christmas Carol appear at the end of every year.

There was a strong social message in Dickens’ work. He advocated tirelessly for the rights of the poor and working classes. So there is a nobel intent behind all the tales!

His characters are so memorable that they stay with us throughout our entire lives once we have read his works, and the relatability of the tales helps us to understand ourselves and the world we live in.

Finally, they’re fun! They’re meant to be popularly enjoyed. How many novels can we say are genuinely popularly enjoyed by the majority of people who read them? Appealing to everyone, every section of society, is something that only writers of Dickens, or someone like Shakespeare or Austen, can achieve. 


In conclusion, yes, Dickens is absolutely worth reading. His social messaging, his beloved characters, and his thrilling plots all combine to make Dickens essential reading today, just as he was in the Victorian era. Remember as well how much of an influence he has had on Western and global culture – understanding Dickens puts you ahead of those who have not yet found the time to enjoy his incredible body of work!