100 Best Victorian Books of All Time

We've researched and ranked the best victorian books in the world, based on recommendations from world experts, sales data, and millions of reader ratings. Learn more

Featuring recommendations from Eric Weinstein, Richard Branson, Barack Obama, and 86 other experts.
1

Jane Eyre

Orphaned as a child, Jane has felt an outcast her whole young life. Her courage is tested once again when she arrives at Thornfield Hall, where she has been hired by the brooding, proud Edward Rochester to care for his ward Adèle. Jane finds herself drawn to his troubled yet kind spirit. She falls in love. Hard.

But there is a terrifying secret inside the gloomy, forbidding Thornfield Hall. Is Rochester hiding from Jane? Will Jane be left heartbroken and exiled once again?

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John SutherlandThere is an interesting debate … that the real heroine of Jane Eyre is not the plain little governess but the mad woman in the attic, Bertha Mason (Source)

Tracy ChevalierThe idea of marriage is that two people are going to become one, but here you know—because of the mad woman in the attic—that it’s one thing about to be split in two. (Source)

Audrey PennMy next one is Jane Eyre. She was orphaned and sent to a very rich aunt, who had her own very selfish children. Jane Eyre was not the perfect child and she was sent to live in a girls’ school. She made one friend, but unfortunately the little girl died, so she had to toughen up. She grew up there and learned everything she needed to know about teaching. She was a very good artist, she played a... (Source)

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2

Dracula

“Welcome to my house. Come freely. Go safely; and leave something of the happiness you bring.” less

Becky Cloonan@Noise_Raptor Oh, thank you so much! This book was such a delight, and such a challenge! Dracula is one of my favorites- funny enough I'd jump at the chance to do this again XD (Source)

Douglas StarrWhen you read the physical description of Count Dracula, he does not resemble the handsome vampires we see on television; rather, he looks like a thug. He has one continuous eyebrow across his forehead, thick hands, pointy teeth and pointy ears. (Source)

Andrei CodrescuVampirism is a growth industry. Dracula is bigger than Jesus now. (Source)

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3

Wuthering Heights

You can find the redesigned cover of this edition HERE.

This best-selling Norton Critical Edition is based on the 1847 first edition of the novel. For the Fourth Edition, the editor has collated the 1847 text with several modern editions and has corrected a number of variants, including accidentals. The text is accompanied by entirely new explanatory annotations.

New to the fourth Edition are twelve of Emily Bronte's letters regarding the publication of the 1847 edition of...
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John SutherlandThe Brontës had this idea of a Samson figure. Rochester, like Samson, has to be mutilated before he can be domesticated. What is interesting about Heathcliff, in Wuthering Heights, is that he isn’t. He remains this superman. He is greater than a human being. He is named after two elemental things, the heath and the cliff. We never know what his first name is. (Source)

Robert McCrumCathy—and all of Emily Brontë’s characters—are more or less feral. That’s why we love them. It’s a different world, it’s a mad world. In some ways, Emily Brontë is more of a poet. But she has inspired many subsequent writers of fiction. You couldn’t imagine Lawrence without her, for example. You couldn’t imagine some of Hardy. (Source)

Riz KhanAgain it’s about love turning into obsessions and being all-consuming and how even future generations are manipulated by this love. (Source)

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4

The Picture of Dorian Gray

On its first publication The Picture of Dorian Gray was regarded as dangerously modern in its depiction of fin-de-siècle decadence. In this updated version of the Faust story, the tempter is Lord Henry Wotton, who lives selfishly for amoral pleasure; Dorian's good angel is the portrait painter Basil Hallward, whom Dorian murders. The book highlights the tension between the polished surface of high society and the life of secret vice. Although sin is punished in the end the book has a flavour of the elegantly perverse.

With an Afterword by Peter Harness.

Designed...
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Eric BerkowitzThe Picture of Dorian Gray is now a part of the canon that no one would admit to not having read. Most of us have read it and delighted in its witticisms. It’s hard to imagine, but when Dorian Gray was first published, the book was not well received at all. It was totally panned. It was held against him as being an example of an effete character. It was being serialised by Lippincott’s Magazine,... (Source)

Marc MontagneMy favorite fiction book is the The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. I'm a huge Oscar Wilde fan, he has one of the brightest minds and the Picture is a masterpiece and his unique novel. I consider that you should only read books that you would consider reading again at some point while still enjoying the same pleasure. The Picture is definitely one of those. (Source)

Andra ZahariaA copy from 1903 of this book is my most prized possession. (Source)

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5

Great Expectations

“Bütün ingilis dünyası Dikkensi sevir; 19-cu əsrdə dünyanın heç bir yerində yazıçı ilə onun xalqı arasında bu dərəcədə dərin qəlbi bağlılıq olmayıb. Bu məşhurluq bir fişəng kimi qəfil partlamış, ancaq heç vaxt sönməmişdir. Dikkens günəş kimi daim dünyaya öz şəfəqlərini saçacaq”. Ştefan Svayq
Dikkens uşaq yaşlarında səfil həyat tərzi sürüb. Bu iztirablı tale onun bütün yaradıcılığında əks olunub. Onun qəhrəmanlarının əksəriyyəti kasıb, köməksiz, yetim uşaqlardır. Ancaq o bu sadə uşaqların içindəki burjuaziya tərəfindən aşağılanan təmiz hisslərini ədəbiyyata çevirməyi bacararaq üstündəki...
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Richard BransonToday is World Book Day, a wonderful opportunity to address this #ChallengeRichard sent in by Mike Gonzalez of New Jersey: Make a list of your top 65 books to read in a lifetime. (Source)

Marvin LiaoMy list would be (besides the ones I mentioned in answer to the previous question) both business & Fiction/Sci-Fi and ones I personally found helpful to myself. The business books explain just exactly how business, work & investing are in reality & how to think properly & differentiate yourself. On the non-business side, a mix of History & classic fiction to understand people, philosophy to make... (Source)

Robert Douglas-FairhurstWhat the rest of Great Expectations shows is that having Christmas lasting all the way through your life might not be a good thing. Having a Santa Claus figure who keeps throwing gifts and money at you when they’re not necessarily wanted or deserved might be a handicap. (Source)

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6

A Tale of Two Cities

This work has been selected by scholars as being culturally important and is part of the knowledge base of civilization as we know it.

This work is in the public domain in the United States of America, and possibly other nations. Within the United States, you may freely copy and distribute this work, as no entity (individual or corporate) has a copyright on the body of the work.

Scholars believe, and we concur, that this work is important enough to be preserved, reproduced, and made generally available to the public. To ensure a quality reading experience, this work has...
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Amelia BooneRemains one my favorites to this day. (Source)

Antonio VillaraigosaAs mayor of a large metropolis, the living conditions of our residents are always present in my mind. Every decision I make, I try to evaluate if it will help improve the quality of life of every Angeleno. But Dickens really dissects both the aristocrats and the revolutionaries, to show that change is never easy. As progressives, we value government’s role and power to improve our cities and... (Source)

May WitwitI started a paper about the historical reality in this book. And as I studied it more deeply I got depressed because the things that were happening were similar to Iraq. How the mob could be turned against people by devious minds. They just killed people without even knowing them. The people who were killed were probably very good people, you never know. You just can’t kill haphazardly, heads... (Source)

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7

The Woman in White

'In one moment, every drop of blood in my body was brought to a stop... There, as if it had that moment sprung out of the earth, stood the figure of a solitary Woman, dressed from head to foot in white'

The Woman in White famously opens with Walter Hartright's eerie encounter on a moonlit London road. Engaged as a drawing master to the beautiful Laura Fairlie, Walter becomes embroiled in the sinister intrigues of Sir Percival Glyde and his 'charming' friend Count Fosco, who has a taste for white mice, vanilla bonbons, and poison. Pursuing questions of identity and insanity...
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Recommended by Lucy Atkins, Jason Hall, and 2 others.

Lucy AtkinsI’ve only read it twice, but it’s lingered in my consciousness: the images and the feel of it. (Source)

Jason HallThe glory of it is you get this story as if it’s a court hearing, everybody is presenting their evidence from their own perspectives (Source)

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8

Oliver Twist

Oliver is an orphan living on the dangerous London streets with no one but himself to rely on. Fleeing from poverty and hardship, he falls in with a criminal street gang who will not let him go, however hard he tries to escape.

One of the most swiftly moving and unified of Charles Dickens’s great novels, Oliver Twist is also famous for its re-creation–through the splendidly realized figures of Fagin, Nancy, the Artful Dodger, and the evil Bill Sikes–of the vast London underworld of pickpockets, thieves, prostitutes, and abandoned children. Victorian critics took Dickens to...
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Audrey PennI’m going to go with Oliver Twist. I was raised on all of these books, but I loved Oliver Twist. I have always believed that people, no matter how bad they are, when they see a really good kid in trouble, they’re going to help. (Source)

Chigozie ObiomaOne day he had this radical idea that, if you want something, you can actually make a demand on life. (Source)

Ann WiddecombeOliver is a boy who has escaped the workhouse and is adopted by a family of pickpockets. He’s the exception – because he’s being manipulated by the grownups… (Source)

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9

A Christmas Carol

'If I had my way, every idiot who goes around with Merry Christmas on his lips, would be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. Merry Christmas? Bah humbug!'

Introduction and Afterword by Joe Wheeler
To bitter, miserly Ebenezer Scrooge, Christmas is just another day. But all that changes when the ghost of his long-dead business partner appears, warning Scrooge to change his ways before it's too late.

Part of the Focus on the Family Great Stories collection, this edition features an in-depth introduction and discussion...
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10

North and South

Exclusively from Audible

Written at the request of Charles Dickens, North and South is a book about rebellion; it poses fundamental questions about the nature of social authority and obedience. Gaskell expertly blends individual feeling with social concern, and her heroine, Margaret Hale, is one of the most original creations of Victorian literature.

When Margaret Hale's father leaves the Church in a crisis of conscience she is forced to leave her comfortable home in the tranquil countryside of Hampshire and move with her family to the fictional industrial town of Milton...
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11

David Copperfield

David Copperfield is the story of a young man's adventures on his journey from an unhappy and impoverished childhood to the discovery of his vocation as a successful novelist. Among the gloriously vivid cast of characters he encounters are his tyrannical stepfather, Mr Murdstone; his brilliant, but ultimately unworthy school-friend James Steerforth; his formidable aunt, Betsey Trotwood; the eternally humble, yet treacherous Uriah Heep; frivolous, enchanting Dora Spenlow; and the magnificently impecunious Wilkins Micawber, one of literature's great comic creations. In David Copperfield - the... more
Recommended by Jenny Hartley, and 1 others.

Jenny HartleyThat famous Victorian imperative: Make ’em laugh; make ’em cry; make ’em wait. It does all that in that spades. (Source)

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12
In 1862 Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, a shy Oxford mathematician with a stammer, created a story about a little girl tumbling down a rabbit hole. Thus began the immortal adventures of Alice, perhaps the most popular heroine in English literature.

Countless scholars have tried to define the charm of the Alice books--with those wonderfully eccentric characters the Queen of Hearts, Tweedledum, and Tweedledee, the Cheshire Cat, Mock Turtle, the Mad Hatter et al.--by proclaiming that they really comprise a satire on language, a political allegory, a parody of Victorian...
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Eric Weinstein[Eric Weinstein recommended this book on Twitter.] (Source)

Larry DoyleYou’d have to be a zombie to miss the humour in it – it’s hilarious. Although the book is ancient, the humour feels modern (Source)

Jean WebbAn imaginative, clever and fun fantasy story that satirises nineteenth century England at the same time as celebrating academic thinking. (Source)

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13

Bleak House

Bleak House opens in the twilight of foggy London, where fog grips the city most densely in the Court of Chancery. The obscure case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce, in which an inheritance is gradually devoured by legal costs, the romance of Esther Summerson and the secrets of her origin, the sleuthing of Detective Inspector Bucket and the fate of Jo the crossing-sweeper, these are some of the lives Dickens invokes to portray London society, rich and poor, as no other novelist has done. Bleak House, in its atmosphere, symbolism and magnificent bleak comedy, is often regarded as the best of Dickens.... more
Recommended by Peter Ackroyd, Trevor Phillips, and 2 others.

Peter AckroydBleak House is the work which most powerfully suggests the darkness of London. It conveys a haunted city, half pantomime-half graveyard. (Source)

Trevor PhillipsBleak House tells us not to rely on the courts for justice. In the end, a just society can’t be delivered by people in a courtroom. (Source)

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14

Middlemarch

Taking place in the years leading up to the First Reform Bill of 1832, Middlemarch explores nearly every subject of concern to modern life: art, religion, science, politics, self, society, human relationships. Among her characters are some of the most remarkable portraits in English literature: Dorothea Brooke, the heroine, idealistic but naive; Rosamond Vincy, beautiful and egoistic: Edward Casaubon, the dry-as-dust scholar: Tertius Lydgate, the brilliant but morally-flawed physician: the passionate artist Will Ladislaw: and Fred Vincey and Mary Garth, childhood sweethearts whose... more

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15

Tess of the D'Urbervilles

An alternate cover edition for this ISBN can be found here.

'How could I be expected to know? I was a child when I left this house four months ago. Why didn't you tell me there was danger in men-folk? Why didn't you warn me? '

When Tess Durbeyfield is driven by family poverty to claim kinship with the wealthy D'Urbervilles and seek a portion of their family fortune, meeting her 'cousin' Alec proves to be her downfall. A very different man, Angel Clare, seems to offer her love...
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Recommended by Meg Rosoff, and 1 others.

Meg RosoffIt’s very much about trying to find a place of happiness for yourself in a world full of obstacles, in a terrible maze of social change and convention at the end of the industrial revolution. (Source)

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16

Pride and Prejudice

Alternate cover edition of ISBN 9780679783268

Since its immediate success in 1813, Pride and Prejudice has remained one of the most popular novels in the English language. Jane Austen called this brilliant work "her own darling child" and its vivacious heroine, Elizabeth Bennet, "as delightful a creature as ever appeared in print." The romantic clash between the opinionated Elizabeth and her proud beau, Mr. Darcy, is a splendid performance of civilized sparring. And Jane Austen's radiant wit sparkles as her characters dance a delicate quadrille of flirtation and...
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Recommended by Meg Rosoff, and 1 others.

Meg RosoffIt’s a coming-of-age story, because she throws aside her prejudices but also sees the house and realises that she could be quite comfortable and maybe realises how important that is. (Source)

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17

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is the original title of a novella written by the famous Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson that was first published in 1886. The work is commonly known today as The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, or simply Jekyll & Hyde. It is about a London lawyer named John Gabriel Utterson who investigates strange occurrences between his old friend, Dr Henry Jekyll, and the evil Edward Hyde. less

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18

The Moonstone

"The Moonstone is a page-turner", writes Carolyn Heilbrun. "It catches one up and unfolds its amazing story through the recountings of its several narrators, all of them enticing and singular." Wilkie Collins’s spellbinding tale of romance, theft, and murder inspired a hugely popular genre–the detective mystery. Hinging on the theft of an enormous diamond originally stolen from an Indian shrine, this riveting novel features the innovative Sergeant Cuff, the hilarious house steward Gabriel Betteridge, a lovesick housemaid, and a mysterious band of Indian jugglers.

This Modern...
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Recommended by Jason Hall, and 1 others.

Jason HallLike The Woman in White, it’s one of the more famous novels by Collins. It’s another with several characters, lots of perspectives, a great mystery at the middle of it (Source)

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19

Frankenstein

Mary Shelley began writing Frankenstein when she was only eighteen. At once a Gothic thriller, a passionate romance, and a cautionary tale about the dangers of science, Frankenstein tells the story of committed science student Victor Frankenstein. Obsessed with discovering the cause of generation and life and bestowing animation upon lifeless matter, Frankenstein assembles a human being from stolen body parts but; upon bringing it to life, he recoils in horror at the creature's hideousness. Tormented by isolation and loneliness, the once-innocent creature turns to evil... more

Michael ArringtonShelley wrote this book as a teenager, and most of us read it in high school. Often credited as the first science fiction novel. You can read just about any political viewpoint you want into the book, and there are strong undertones that technology isn’t all good. But what I get out of it is the creativeness that can come with solitude, and how new technology can be misunderstood, even perhaps by... (Source)

Adam RobertsBrian Aldiss has famously argued that science fiction starts with Mary Shelley’s novel, and many people have agreed with him. (Source)

Adam RobertsBrian Aldiss has famously argued that science fiction starts with Mary Shelley’s novel, and many people have agreed with him. (Source)

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20
Alexia Tarabotti is laboring under a great many social tribulations.

First, she has no soul. Second, she's a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette.

Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampire--and then the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate.

With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe...
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  • Interactive exercises: apply the book's ideas to your own life with our educators' guidance.
21
Oscar Wilde's madcap farce about mistaken identities, secret engagements, and lovers entanglements still delights readers more than a century after its 1895 publication and premiere performance. The rapid-fire wit and eccentric characters of The Importance of Being Earnest have made it a mainstay of the high school curriculum for decades.

Cecily Cardew and Gwendolen Fairfax are both in love with the same mythical suitor. Jack Worthing has wooed Gwendolen as Ernest while Algernon has also posed as Ernest to win the heart of Jack's ward, Cecily. When all four arrive at Jack's country...
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22

A Study in Scarlet

"A Study in Scarlet" is the first published story of one of the most famous literary detectives of all time, Sherlock Holmes. Here Dr. Watson, who has just returned from a war in Afghanistan, meets Sherlock Holmes for the first time when they become flat-mates at the famous 221 B Baker Street. In "A Study in Scarlet" Sherlock Holmes investigates a murder at Lauriston Gardens as Dr. Watson tags along with Holmes while narratively detailing his amazing deductive abilities. less
Recommended by Michael Dirda, and 1 others.

Michael DirdaIf you’ve never read any Sherlock Holmes books you really need to start with that one because it introduces this rather mysterious and romantic character. At the beginning, Doctor Watson tries to puzzle out the profession of his strange roommate at 221b Baker Street. He makes lists of what Holmes seems to know a lot about and what he doesn’t seem to know about at all – including the Copernican... (Source)

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23

Little Women

A beautiful unabridged 150th Anniversary Edition with 200 original illustrations and a Foreword by Alice L. George entitled "Why Little Women Endures 150 Years Later."

Little Women was originally published in two volumes in 1868 and 1869. This edition contains both volumes. It follows the lives of the four March sisters--Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy-- from childhood to womanhood and is loosely based on the author and her three sisters. Although Little Women was a novel for girls, it differed notably from the current writings for children, especially...
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Amy ChuaMarmee is a character that really resonates for me. She’s obviously not Chinese, but she believes that integrity and hard work are the most important things in life. She holds her daughters to very high standards. She doesn’t sugarcoat much. She also reveals to her rebellious daughter Jo, the star of the book and a character loosely modeled on Louisa May Alcott herself, that she had a bad temper... (Source)

Anne Thériault@mmarmoset I love that book so much, and then I got to see Patty Smith perform the year I read it, and she made a Little Women reference during the show, and my heart overflowed (Source)

Jay KleinbergNancy Drew is another series which follows in those footsteps. The book is all led by her. I think if one looks in the magazine literature it would be hard to find a similar character at that time. These were stories initially published in a magazine and then bound together as a book. (Source)

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24

The Hound of the Baskervilles

We owe The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902) to Arthur Conan Doyle's good friend Fletcher "Bobbles" Robinson, who took him to visit some scary English moors and prehistoric ruins, and told him marvelous local legends about escaped prisoners and a 17th-century aristocrat who fell afoul of the family dog. Doyle transmogrified the legend: generations ago, a hound of hell tore out the throat of devilish Hugo Baskerville on the moonlit moor. Poor, accursed Baskerville Hall now has another mysterious death: that of Sir Charles Baskerville. Could the culprit somehow be mixed up with secretive... more
Recommended by Michael Dirda, Peter James, and 2 others.

Michael DirdaHolmes turns to Mortimer and says, A man’s or a woman’s? and Mortimer delivers the greatest reply in 20th century literature, Mr Holmes, they were the footprints of a gigantic hound! I shivered with pleasure and realised that life didn’t get much better than that. (Source)

Peter JamesIt actually scared me the first time I read it as a kid. And I have always liked it. It is my favourite of all his books and it has a very clever ending. (Source)

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25

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

Note: Editions of The Tenant that start with: "You must go back with me..." are incomplete. Actual opening line of the novel is: "To J. Halford, Esq. Dear Halford, when we were together last..."

This is the story of a woman's struggle for independence. Helen "Graham" has returned to Wildfell Hall in flight from a disastrous marriage. Exiled to the desolate moorland mansion, she adopts an assumed name and earns her living as a painter.
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26
In a time when Shadowhunters are barely winning the fight against the forces of darkness, one battle will change the course of history forever. Welcome to the Infernal Devices trilogy, a stunning and dangerous prequel to the New York Times bestselling Mortal Instruments series.

The year is 1878. Tessa Gray descends into London’s dark supernatural underworld in search of her missing brother. She soon discovers that her only allies are the demon-slaying Shadowhunters—including Will and Jem, the mysterious boys she is attracted to. Soon they find themselves up against the...
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27

Vanity Fair

A novel that chronicles the lives of two women who could not be more different: Becky Sharp, an orphan whose only resources are her vast ambitions, her native wit, and her loose morals; and her schoolmate Amelia Sedley, a typically naive Victorian heroine, the pampered daughter of a wealthy family. less
Recommended by John Sutherland, Stella Tillyard, and 2 others.

John SutherlandThis was Thackeray’s first major novel … It is panoramic – a wonderful conspectus of the 19th century. (Source)

Stella TillyardVanity Fair is another historical novel and a tremendous saga. I would call it the Whig version of the Regency. It is the tale of an adventuress abroad in a land where quick fortunes and metropolitan vices are very much in evidence. It is fantastically good humoured. I suppose it is the way that a liberal Victorian would look back on that time. (Source)

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Lauded by critics, How to Be a Victorian is an enchanting manual for the insatiably curious, the “the cheapest time-travel machine you’ll find” (NPR). Readers have fallen in love with Ruth Goodman, an historian who believes in getting her hands dirty. Drawing on her own firsthand adventures living in re-created Victorian conditions, Goodman serves as our bustling guide to nineteenth-century life. Proceeding from daybreak to bedtime, this charming, illustrative work “imagines the Victorians as intrepid survivors” (New Republic) of the most perennially fascinating era of... more

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29

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle, DL (22 May 1859 – 7 July 1930)
was a Scottish author most noted for his stories about the
detective Sherlock Holmes, which are generally considered a major
innovation in the field of crime fiction, and the adventures of
Professor Challenger. He was a prolific writer whose other works
include science fiction stories, historical novels, plays and
romances, poetry, and non-fiction. Conan was originally a given
name, but Doyle used it as part of his surname in his later years.
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30

Far From the Madding Crowd

Far from the Madding Crowd was Thomas Hardy's first major literary success, and it edited with an introduction and notes by Rosemarie Morgan and Shannon Russell in Penguin Classics.

Independent and spirited Bathsheba Everdene has come to Weatherbury to take up her position as a farmer on the largest estate in the area. Her bold presence draws three very different suitors: the gentleman-farmer Boldwood, soldier-seducer Sergeant Troy and the devoted shepherd Gabriel Oak. Each, in contrasting ways, unsettles her decisions and complicates her life, and tragedy ensues,...
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Recommended by Denise Morris Kipnis, and 1 others.

Denise Morris KipnisMy undergraduate studies focused was on English literature and Communication. I developed an affinity for 18th Century literature, can’t really say why…This book struck me because of the strong female lead. In an era where there were few options for women, the lead character puts her independence above all else, uncompromisingly. I reread it when I need reminding that feminism means being able to... (Source)

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Don't have time to read the top Victorian books of all time? Read Shortform summaries.

Shortform summaries help you learn 10x faster by:

  • Being comprehensive: you learn the most important points in the book
  • Cutting out the fluff: you focus your time on what's important to know
  • Interactive exercises: apply the book's ideas to your own life with our educators' guidance.
31

Jude the Obscure

'Wherefore is light given to him that is in misery, and life unto the bitter in soul?'

Jude Fawley, poor and working-class, longs to study at the University of Christminster, but he is rebuffed, and trapped in a loveless marriage. He falls in love with his unconventional cousin Sue Bridehead, and their refusal to marry when free to do so confirms their rejection of and by the world around them. The shocking fate that overtakes them is an indictment of a rigid and uncaring society.

Hardy's last and most controversial novel, Jude the Obscure caused outrage when it...
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Recommended by Anthony Julius, and 1 others.

Anthony JuliusMy first three books are each about censorship, as well as being the objects of censorship themselves: Jude the Obscure, Lady Chatterley’s Lover and The Satanic Verses. (Source)

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32

Wives and Daughters

Set in English society before the 1832 Reform Bill, Wives and Daughters centres on the story of youthful Molly Gibson, brought up from childhood by her father. When he remarries, a new step-sister enters Molly's quiet life – loveable, but worldly and troubling, Cynthia. The narrative traces the development of the two girls into womanhood within the gossiping and watchful society of Hollingford.

Wives and Daughters is far more than a nostalgic evocation of village life; it offers an ironic critique of mid-Victorian society. 'No nineteenth-century novel contains a more...
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33

Fingersmith

Sue Trinder is an orphan, left as an infant in the care of Mrs. Sucksby, a "baby farmer," who raised her with unusual tenderness, as if Sue were her own. Mrs. Sucksby’s household, with its fussy babies calmed with doses of gin, also hosts a transient family of petty thieves—fingersmiths—for whom this house in the heart of a mean London slum is home.

One day, the most beloved thief of all arrives—Gentleman, an elegant con man, who carries with him an enticing proposition for Sue: If she wins a position as the maid to Maud Lilly, a naïve gentlewoman, and aids Gentleman in her...
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34
In this debut gothic novel mysterious visions, dark family secrets and a long-lost diary thrust Gemma and her classmates back into the horrors that followed her from India. (Ages 12+)

It's 1895, and after the suicide of her mother, 16-year-old Gemma Doyle is shipped off from the life she knows in India to Spence, a proper boarding school in England. Lonely, guilt-ridden, and prone to visions of the future that have an uncomfortable habit of coming true, Gemma's reception there is a chilly one. To make things worse, she's been followed by a mysterious young Indian man, a man sent to...
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35
Danger and betrayal, secrets and enchantment in the breathtaking conclusion to the Infernal Devices trilogy.

Tessa Gray should be happy - aren't all brides happy?
Yet as she prepares for her wedding, a net of shadows begins to tighten around the Shadowhunters of the London Institute.
A new demon appears, one linked by blood and secrecy to Mortmain, the man who plans to use his army of pitiless automatons, the Infernal Devices, to destroy the Shadowhunters. Mortmain needs only one last item to complete his plan. He needs Tessa. And Jem and Will, the boys...
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36
In the magical underworld of Victorian London, Tessa Gray has at last found safety with the Shadowhunters. But that safety proves fleeting when rogue forces in the Clave plot to see her protector, Charlotte, replaced as head of the Institute. If Charlotte loses her position, Tessa will be out on the street—and easy prey for the mysterious Magister, who wants to use Tessa’s powers for his own dark ends.

With the help of the handsome, self-destructive Will and the fiercely devoted Jem, Tessa discovers that the Magister’s war on the Shadowhunters is deeply personal. He blames them for...
more

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37

The Time Machine

“I’ve had a most amazing time....”

So begins the Time Traveller’s astonishing firsthand account of his journey 800,000 years beyond his own era—and the story that launched H.G. Wells’s successful career and earned him his reputation as the father of science fiction. With a speculative leap that still fires the imagination, Wells sends his brave explorer to face a future burdened with our greatest hopes...and our darkest fears. A pull of the Time Machine’s lever propels him to the age of a slowly dying Earth.  There he discovers two bizarre races—the ethereal Eloi and the...
more

Adam RobertsIt is a short novel, almost a novella, but it is smoothly and evocatively written, and it manages to open a chink in the reader’s mind that gives a her dizzying, thrilling glimpse down the vertiginous perspectives of long time. My favourite moment comes near the end, after the time traveller has left the Eloi and Morlocks behind him (as it were) and travelled more than 30 million years into the... (Source)

Adam RobertsIt is a short novel, almost a novella, but it is smoothly and evocatively written, and it manages to open a chink in the reader’s mind that gives a her dizzying, thrilling glimpse down the vertiginous perspectives of long time. My favourite moment comes near the end, after the time traveller has left the Eloi and Morlocks behind him (as it were) and travelled more than 30 million years into the... (Source)

Roger LuckhurstIt invents the idea of far-future visions that science fiction writers such as Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke have constantly tried to achieve. (Source)

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38

Lady Audley's Secret

Bigamy, child abandonment, deception, theft, murder, and insanity all take part of Mary Elizabeth Braddon's novel. Her over-the-top drama was one of the most popular novels of the mid-1800s and provides an interesting portrayal of both class- and gender issues as they intersect within the domestic sphere. less

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39

The Mill on the Floss

When the miller Mr Tulliver becomes entangled in lawsuits, he sets off a chain of events that will profoundly affect the lives of his family and bring into conflict his passionate daughter Maggie with her inflexible but adored brother Tom. As she grows older, Maggie's discovery of romantic love draws her once more into a struggle to reconcile familial and moral claims with her own desires. Strong-willed, compassionate, and intensely loyal, Maggie seeks personal happiness and inner peace but risks rejection and ostracism in her close-knit community.

Opening with one of the most...
more
Recommended by Philip Davis, and 1 others.

Philip DavisWhat does George Eliot do in The Mill on the Floss? She creates a situation that’s not autobiographical in the sense that it actually happened, but it’s autobiographical in the sense that it’s the sort of thing that George Eliot and Marian Evans are most interested in. It’s a humiliating middle-ground. That’s to say, Maggie begins to elope with Stephen, but half-way through on board ship, she... (Source)

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40

Cranford

'It is very pleasant dining with a bachelor...I only hope it is not improper; so many pleasant things are!'

A portrait of the residents of an English country town in the mid nineteenth century, Cranford relates the adventures of Miss Matty and Miss Deborah, two middle-aged spinster sisters striving to live with dignity in reduced circumstances. Through a series of vignettes, Elizabeth Gaskell portrays a community governed by old-fashioned habits and dominated by friendships between women. Her wry account of rural life is undercut, however, by tragedy in its depiction...
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41

Sense and Sensibility

Alternate cover edition of ISBN 9780141439662

'The more I know of the world, the more am I convinced that I shall never see a man whom I can really love. I require so much!'

Marianne Dashwood wears her heart on her sleeve, and when she falls in love with the dashing but unsuitable John Willoughby she ignores her sister Elinor's warning that her impulsive behaviour leaves her open to gossip and innuendo. Meanwhile Elinor, always sensitive to social convention, is struggling to conceal her own romantic disappointment, even from those closest to her. Through...
more
Recommended by Edward Skidelsky, and 1 others.

Edward SkidelskyJane Austen’s purpose is to illustrate this very Aristotelian virtue of prudence: that you’ve got to look out for your interests, you mustn’t just give in to passion. (Source)

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42

The Sign of Four (Sherlock Holmes, #2)

As a dense yellow fog swirls through the streets of London, a deep melancholy has descended on Sherlock Holmes, who sits in a cocaine-induced haze at 221B Baker Street. His mood is only lifted by a visit from a beautiful but distressed young woman - Mary Morstan, whose father vanished ten years before. Four years later she began to receive an exquisite gift every year: a large, lustrous pearl. Now she has had an intriguing invitation to meet her unknown benefactor and urges Holmes and Watson to accompany her. And in the ensuing investigation - which involves a wronged woman, a stolen hoard of... more

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43

Agnes Grey

Agnes Grey is the touching story of a young girl who decides to enter the world as a governess, but whose bright illusions of acceptance, freedom and friendship are gradually destroyed.

Drawing on her own experience, Anne Brontë charts the development of gentle Agnes and sympathetically depicts the harsh treatment she receives along the way. Leaving her idyllic home and close-knit family, Agnes arrives at the Bloomfield’s residence, inside whose walls reign cruelty and neglect. Although faced with tyrannical children and over-indulgent parents, the generosity of spirit and...
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44
Alexia Maccon, the Lady Woolsey, awakens in the wee hours of the mid-afternoon to find her husband, who should be decently asleep like any normal werewolf, yelling at the top of his lungs. Then he disappears; leaving her to deal with a regiment of supernatural soldiers encamped on her doorstep, a plethora of exorcised ghosts, and an angry Queen Victoria.

But Alexia is armed with her trusty parasol, the latest fashions, and an arsenal of biting civility. So even when her investigations take her to Scotland, the backwater of ugly waistcoats, she is prepared: upending werewolf pack...
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45

Hard Times

"My satire is against those who see figures and averages, and nothing else," proclaimed Charles Dickens in explaining the theme of this classic novel. Published in 1854, the story concerns one Thomas Gradgrind, a "fanatic of the demonstrable fact," who raises his children, Tom and Louisa, in a stifling and arid atmosphere of grim practicality.

Without a moral compass to guide them, the children sink into lives of desperation and despair, played out against the grim background of Coketown, a wretched community shadowed by an industrial behemoth. Louisa falls into a loveless marriage...
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46

Our Mutual Friend

A satiric masterpiece about the allure and peril of money, Our Mutual Friend revolves around the inheritance of a dust-heap where the rich throw their trash. When the body of John Harmon, the dust-heap’s expected heir, is found in the Thames, fortunes change hands surprisingly, raising to new heights “Noddy” Boffin, a low-born but kindly clerk who becomes “the Golden Dustman.” Charles Dickens’s last complete novel, Our Mutual Friend encompasses the great themes of his earlier works: the pretensions of the nouveaux riches, the ingenuousness of the aspiring poor, and the unfailing... more
Recommended by Iain Sinclair, Christine L. Corton, and 2 others.

Iain SinclairThis book comes very late in Dickens’s own career, but it has a powerful sense – a sense that’s been crucial to me – of London depending on the river. (Source)

Christine L. CortonWe have this tour de force writing where he describes the London fog. It’s grey in the countryside and as it moves closer to the centre of the City of London it gets blacker and blacker. (Source)

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47

Little Dorrit

A novel of serendipity, of fortunes won and lost, and of the spectre of imprisonment that hangs over all aspects of Victorian society, Charles Dickens's Little Dorrit is edited with an introduction by Stephen Wall in Penguin Classics.

When Arthur Clennam returns to England after many years abroad, he takes a kindly interest in Amy Dorrit, his mother's seamstress, and in the affairs of Amy's father, William Dorrit, a man of shabby grandeur, long imprisoned for debt in Marshalsea prison. As Arthur soon discovers, the dark shadow of the prison stretches far beyond its walls to...
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48

The Secret Garden

"One of the most delightful and enduring classics of children's literature, The Secret Garden by Victorian author Frances Hodgson Burnett has remained a firm favorite with children the world over ever since it made its first appearance. Initially published as a serial story in 1910 in The American Magazine, it was brought out in novel form in 1911.

The plot centers round Mary Lennox, a young English girl who returns to England from India, having suffered the immense trauma by losing both her parents in a cholera epidemic. However, her memories of her parents are not pleasant, as...
more
Recommended by Clare Morpurgo, M G Leonard, and 2 others.

Clare MorpurgoThe book is about a girl coming to live in England from India. She is a sickly child who had a pretty awful early childhood in India. (Source)

M G LeonardThe redemptive power of the natural world and gardening was something that struck a chord with me. (Source)

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49
All 4 Novels & 56 Short Stories of the Sherlock Holmes Canon (including "The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes") with More Than 480 Illustrations by Sidney Paget & Others

The Complete Sherlock Holmes (Illustrated) from Top Five Classics is the only fully illustrated, single-volume edition of the entire Sherlock Holmes Canon available, and features:

• All 4 novels and 56 short stories, including Arthur Conan Doyle's final 1927 collection, "The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes"
• More than 480 captioned illustrations, including all 357 Holmes illustrations...
more

Michael DirdaIt really has a superbly eerie atmosphere. Most Sherlockians, if they had to pick just one story to represent the canon, would choose this one. (Source)

Douglas StarrIn a world beset by uncertainty and chaos and fear, it’s comforting to imagine there is someone out there who, with keen intelligence and a scientific method, can put things back in order, and make the world safe again. I think that’s part of Holmes’s enduring appeal. (Source)

Andrew LeesIt is often claimed that Holmes is the epitome of the rational, cold-blooded scientist but, in fact, most of his crimes are solved by backing his hunches and a fair amount of guesswork. (Source)

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50
"LET THE WICKED BE ASHAMED, AND LET THEM BE SILENT IN THE GRAVE."
These ominous words, slashed from the pages of a book of Psalms, are the last threat that the darling of London society, Sir Edward Grey, receives from his killer. Before he can show them to Nicholas Brisbane, the private inquiry agent he has retained for his protection, Sir Edward collapses and dies at his London home, in the presence of his wife, Julia, and a roomful of dinner guests.

Prepared to accept that Edward's death was due to a long-standing physical infirmity, Julia is outraged when Brisbane visits...

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51

Silas Marner

Falsely accused of theft, Silas Marner is cut off from his community but finds refuge in the village of Raveloe, where he is eyed with distant suspicion. Like a spider from a fairy-tale, Silas fills fifteen monotonous years with weaving and accumulating gold. The son of the wealthy local Squire, Godfrey Cass also seeks an escape from his past. One snowy winter, two events change the course of their lives: Silas's gold is stolen and, a child crawls across his threshold.

About the Series For over 100 years Oxford World's Classics has made available the broadest...
more
Recommended by Kyle Pruett, and 1 others.

Kyle PruettGeorge Eliot is a hell of a writer and I’m a big fan of the way liberal arts help us sharpen our philosophies. (Source)

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52

Tipping the Velvet

Nan King, an oyster girl, is captivated by the music hall phenomenon Kitty Butler, a male impersonator extraordinaire treading the boards in Canterbury. Through a friend at the box office, Nan manages to visit all her shows and finally meet her heroine. Soon after, she becomes Kitty's dresser and the two head for the bright lights of Leicester Square where they begin a glittering career as music-hall stars in an all-singing and dancing double act. At the same time, behind closed doors, they admit their attraction to each other and their affair begins. less
Recommended by Vanora Bennett, and 1 others.

Vanora BennettIt is. It’s about a girl named Nan who goes off to the Pantomime Theatre, which is on the South Coast of England, and sees a girl named Kitty, who is a male impersonator, on the stage and falls in love with her. You’re not sure if it’s a sexual love or a girlish crush but she does go off to London with her and it does turn into a love affair. They begin living together but it becomes complicated... (Source)

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53
Nineteenth-century Britain was then the world's most prosperous nation, yet Victorians would bury meat in earth and wring sheets out in boiling water with their bare hands. Such drudgery was routine for the parents of people still living, but the knowledge of it has passed as if it had never been.

Following the daily life of a middle-class Victorian house from room to room; from childbirth in the master bedroom through the kitchen, scullery, dining room, and parlor, all the way to the sickroom; Judith Flanders draws on diaries, advice books, and other sources to resurrect an age...
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54
It's one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It's quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to Finishing School.

Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners--and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.

But Sophronia soon...
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55
Quitting her husband's house and moving back in with her horrible family, Lady Maccon becomes the scandal of the London season in the third book of the NYT bestselling Parasol Protectorate series.

Queen Victoria dismisses her from the Shadow Council, and the only person who can explain anything, Lord Akeldama, unexpectedly leaves town. To top it all off, Alexia is attacked by homicidal mechanical ladybugs, indicating, as only ladybugs can, the fact that all of London's vampires are now very much interested in seeing Alexia quite thoroughly dead.

While Lord...
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56
Sugar, 19, prostitute in Victorian London, yearns for a better life. From brutal brothel-keeper Mrs Castaway, she ascends in society. Affections of self-involved perfume magnate William Rackham soon smells like love. Her social rise attracts preening socialites, drunken journalists, untrustworthy servants, vile guttersnipes, and whores of all kinds. less

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57
London, 1887.

After burying her spinster aunt, orphaned Veronica Speedwell is free to resume her world travels in pursuit of scientific inquiry—and the occasional romantic dalliance. As familiar with hunting butterflies as with fending off admirers, Veronica intends to embark upon the journey of a lifetime.

But fate has other plans when Veronica thwarts her own attempted abduction with the help of an enigmatic German baron, who offers her sanctuary in the care of his friend Stoker, a reclusive and bad-tempered natural historian. But before the baron can reveal...
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58
Winner of the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction

Five devastating human stories and a dark and moving portrait of Victorian London—the untold lives of the women killed by Jack the Ripper.

Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine and Mary-Jane are famous for the same thing, though they never met. They came from Fleet Street, Knightsbridge, Wolverhampton, Sweden, and Wales. They wrote ballads, ran coffee houses, lived on country estates, they breathed ink-dust from printing presses and escaped people-traffickers.

What they had in common was the year of their...
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Isabelle Khurshudyan[email protected] is awesome and you should check this book out! https://t.co/RL8L1xF8xZ (Source)

Sarah ChurchwellMassive congratulations to @HallieRubenhold for being longlisted for the @BGPrize for her brilliant book The Five!! So well deserved and a complete thrill for #twitterstorians! 🎉🎊📚💃 (Source)

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59

Emma

Emma Woodhouse is one of Austen's most captivating and vivid characters. Beautiful, spoilt, vain and irrepressibly witty, Emma organizes the lives of the inhabitants of her sleepy little village and plays matchmaker with devastating effect. less
Recommended by Robert McCrum, Stella Tillyard, and 2 others.

Robert McCrumYou’ve got to have Jane Austen. (Source)

Stella TillyardEmma is the Regency novel in the sense that it was written and published during the Regency. I think the feel of much of Jane Austen is really in the late 1790s – the beginning of the French Wars. Jane Austen wasn’t writing about politics. She is famously someone who writes about what she knows. Her world is essentially a provincial world of manners. (Source)

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60
Lady Alexia Maccon, soulless, is at it again, only this time the trouble is not her fault. When a mad ghost threatens the queen, Alexia is on the case, following a trail that leads her deep into her husband's past. Top that off with a sister who has joined the suffragette movement (shocking!), Madame Lefoux's latest mechanical invention, and a plague of zombie porcupines and Alexia barely has time to remember she happens to be eight months pregnant.

Will Alexia manage to determine who is trying to kill Queen Victoria before it is too late? Is it the vampires again or is there a...
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Don't have time to read the top Victorian books of all time? Read Shortform summaries.

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  • Interactive exercises: apply the book's ideas to your own life with our educators' guidance.
61

The Night Circus

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus...
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62

Nicholas Nickleby

Our hero confronts a large and varied cast, including Wackford Squeers, the fantastic ogre of a schoolmaster, and Vincent Crummles, the grandiloquent ham actor, on his comic and satirical adventures up and down the country. Punishing wickedness, befriending the helpless, strutting the stage, and falling in love, Nicholas shares some of his creator's energy and earnestness as he faces the pressing issues of early Victorian society.

About the Series: For over 100 years Oxford World's Classics has made available the broadest spectrum of literature from around the globe. Each...
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Recommended by David Hargreaves, and 1 others.

David HargreavesDeeply frightening. Dickens captures something here that is absolutely essential about our choices and our obligations in the world. (Source)

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63
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is a work of children's literature by the English mathematician and author, the Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, written under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll. It tells the story of a girl named Alice who falls down a rabbit-hole into a fantasy realm populated by grotesque figures like talking playing cards and anthropomorphic creatures. The Wonderland described in the tale plays with logic in ways that have made the story of lasting popularity with adults as well as children. It is considered to be one of the most characteristic examples of the genre of... more
Recommended by Georg Grey, and 1 others.

Georg GreyThe best book on programming for the layman is Alice in Wonderland; but that's because it's the best book on anything for laymen. (Source)

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64

Timeless (Parasol Protectorate, #5)

Alexia Tarabotti, Lady Maccon, has settled into domestic bliss. Of course, being Alexia, such bliss involves integrating werewolves into London High society, living in a vampire's second best closet, and coping with a precocious toddler who is prone to turning supernatural willy-nilly. Even Ivy Tunstell's acting troupe's latest play, disastrous to say the least, cannot put a dampener on Alexia's enjoyment of her new London lifestyle.

Until, that is, she receives a summons from Alexandria that cannot be ignored. With husband, child and Tunstells in tow, Alexia boards a steamer to...
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65

Mary Barton

This is Elizabeth Gaskell's first novel, a widely acclaimed work based on the actual murder, in 1831, of a progressive mill owner. It follows Mary Barton, daughter of a man implicated in the murder, through her adolescence, when she suffers the advances of the mill owner, and later through
love and marriage. Set in Manchester, between 1837-42, it paints a powerful and moving picture of working-class life in Victorian England.
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66

Daniel Deronda

As Daniel Deronda opens, Gwendolen Harleth is poised at the roulette-table, prepared to throw away her family fortune. She is observed by Daniel Deronda, a young man groomed in the finest tradition of the English upper-classes. And while Gwendolen loses everything and becomes trapped in an oppressive marriage, Deronda's fortunes take a different turn. After a dramatic encounter with Mirah, a young Jewish woman, he embarks on a search for her lost family and finds himself drawn into ever-deeper sympathies with Jewish aspirations and identity. 'I meant everything in the book to be... more
Recommended by Alex Carlile, and 1 others.

Alex CarlileIf you can find the time please read Daniel Deronda because it is part of the essential bibliography for life. (Source)

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67

The Pickwick Papers

In 1836 the 23-year-old Dickens was invited by his publishers to write `a monthly something' illustrated by sporting plates. Thus the Pickwick Club was born: its supposed `papers' soom outgrew their origins and became a brilliantly comic novel, still among Dicken's most popular works. less
Recommended by Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, and 1 others.

Robert Douglas-FairhurstDickens wrote it quickly and happily; you can see the atmosphere of the approach of Christmas and a snowy landscape all the way through the episode itself. It’s a world of blazing log fires, and punch bowls, and friendship, and a return to childhood games. (Source)

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68
Librarian's Note: Alternate cover for this ISBN can be found here.

Four young ladies enter London society and band together to each find a husband. Has the third "Wallflower" now met her match?

A Devil's Bargain

Easily the shyest Wallflower, Evangeline Jenner stands to become the wealthiest, once her inheritance comes due. Because she must first escape the clutches of her unscrupulous relatives, Evie has approached the rake Viscount St. Vincent with a most outrageous...
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69

The Warden

The first of Trollope’s popular Barsetshire novels, set in the fictional cathedral town of Barchester, The Warden centers on the honorable cleric Septimus Harding, one of Trollope’s most memorable characters. When Harding is accused of mismanaging church funds, his predicament lays bare the complexities of the Victorian world and of nineteenth-century provincial life. And, as Louis Auchincloss observes in his Introduction, “The theme of The Warden presents the kind of social problem that always fascinated Trollope: the inevitable clash of ancient privilege with modern social... more
Recommended by Peter Stothard, Kathleen Taylor, and 2 others.

Peter StothardIt is a nuanced book and a good one for any editor to read. (Source)

Kathleen TaylorThe Warden is interesting because, again, you don’t get that many books…that have an old man as the protagonist. (Source)

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70

Persuasion

Twenty-seven-year old Anne Elliot is Austen's most adult heroine. Eight years before the story proper begins, she is happily betrothed to a naval officer, Frederick Wentworth, but she precipitously breaks off the engagement when persuaded by her friend Lady Russell that such a match is unworthy. The breakup produces in Anne a deep and long-lasting regret. When later Wentworth returns from sea a rich and successful captain, he finds Anne's family on the brink of financial ruin and his own sister a tenant in Kellynch Hall, the Elliot estate. All the tension of the novel revolves around one... more
Recommended by Jenny Davidson, and 1 others.

Jenny DavidsonPersuasion is an unusually brilliant novel, just in terms of its style of narration. Out of all of the novels Austen published in her short life, this one feels most to me like a real love story. (Source)

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Don't have time to read the top Victorian books of all time? Read Shortform summaries.

Shortform summaries help you learn 10x faster by:

  • Being comprehensive: you learn the most important points in the book
  • Cutting out the fluff: you focus your time on what's important to know
  • Interactive exercises: apply the book's ideas to your own life with our educators' guidance.
71

Treasure Island

The most popular pirate story ever written in English, featuring one of literature's most beloved villains, Treasure Island has been happily devoured by several generations of boys-and girls-and grownups. less

Richard BransonToday is World Book Day, a wonderful opportunity to address this #ChallengeRichard sent in by Mike Gonzalez of New Jersey: Make a list of your top 65 books to read in a lifetime. (Source)

Barack ObamaDuring a trip to a public library in Washington’s Anacostia neighborhood in 2015, Obama shared some of his childhood favorites with a group of young students. He also read (and acted out) Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak to kids at the White House in 2014. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald Where the Wild... (Source)

Michael MorpurgoThis is the first book that I ever read on my own and I take great pleasure and pride in that. It was the first book where I really identified strongly with the boy Jim in it. He was about the same age as I was when I began reading it. (Source)

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72
Ah, Christmas! Gemma Doyle is looking forward to a holiday from Spence Academy, spending time with her friends in the city, attending ritzy balls, and on a somber note, tending to her ailing father. As she prepares to ring in the New Year, 1896, a handsome young man, Lord Denby, has set his sights on Gemma, or so it seems. Yet amidst the distractions of London, Gemma’s visions intensify–visions of three girls dressed in white, to whom something horrific has happened, something only the realms can explain...

The lure is strong, and before long, Gemma, Felicity, and Ann are turning...
more

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73

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes

Silver Blaze
The Adventure of the Yellow Face
The Adventure of the Stockbroker's Clerk
The Adventure of the "Gloria Scott"
The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual
The Adventure of the Reigate Squires
The Adventure of the Crooked Man
The Adventure of the Resident Patient
The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter
The Adventure of the Navel Treaty
The Final Problem
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74

The Mayor of Casterbridge

I’ve not always been what I am now

In a fit of drunken anger, Michael Henchard sells his wife and baby daughter for five guineas at a country fair. Over the course of the following years, he manages to establish himself as a respected and prosperous pillar of the community of Casterbridge, but behind his success there always lurk the shameful secret of his past and a personality prone to self-destructive pride and temper. Subtitled ‘A Story of a Man of Character’, Hardy’s powerful and sympathetic study of the heroic but deeply flawed Henchard is also an intensely dramatic...
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75

The War of the Worlds

When an army of invading Martians lands in England, panic and terror seize the population. As the aliens traverse the country in huge three-legged machines, incinerating all in their path with a heat ray and spreading noxious toxic gases, the people of the Earth must come to terms with the prospect of the end of human civilization and the beginning of Martian rule.

Inspiring films, radio dramas, comic-book adaptations, television series and sequels,The War of the Worlds is a prototypical work of science fiction which has influenced every alien story that has come since, and is...
more
Recommended by Roger Luckhurst, and 1 others.

Roger LuckhurstWells’ brilliant satirical stroke of turning colonialism on its head. (Source)

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76

A Little Princess

Sara Crewe, an exceptionally intelligent and imaginative student at Miss Minchin's Select Seminary for Young Ladies, is devastated when her adored, indulgent father dies. Now penniless and banished to a room in the attic, Sara is demeaned, abused, and forced to work as a servant. How this resourceful girl's fortunes change again is at the center of A Little Princess, one of the best-loved stories in all of children's literature.

This unique and fully annotated edition appends excerpts from Frances Hodgson Burnett's original 1888 novella Sara Crewe and the...
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77
From gifted new writer Tasha Alexander comes a stunning novel of historical suspense set in Victorian England, meticulously researched and with a twisty plot that involves stolen antiquities, betrayal, and murder

And Only to Deceive

For Emily, accepting the proposal of Philip, the Viscount Ashton, was an easy way to escape her overbearing mother, who was set on a grand society match. So when Emily's dashing husband died on safari soon after their wedding, she felt little grief. After all, she barely knew him. Now, nearly two years later, she discovers...
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Carmilla

A classic Victorian vampire novella, which influenced Bram Stoker's later treatment of the vampire mythos in Dracula. less

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79

The Return of the Native

Tempestuous Eustacia Vye passes her days dreaming of passionate love and the escape it may bring from the small community of Egdon Heath. Hearing that Clym Yeobright is to return from Paris, she sets her heart on marrying him, believing that through him she can leave rural life and find fulfilment elsewhere. But she is to be disappointed, for Clym has dreams of his own, and they have little in common with Eustacia’s. Their unhappy marriage causes havoc in the lives of those close to them, in particular Damon Wildeve, Eustacia’s former lover, Clym’s mother and his cousin Thomasin. The Return... more

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80
Does one need four fully grown foxgloves for decorating a dinner table for six guests? Or is it six foxgloves to kill four fully grown guests?

Sophronia's first year at Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality has certainly been rousing! For one thing, finishing school is training her to be a spy--won't Mumsy be surprised? Furthermore, Sophronia got mixed up in an intrigue over a stolen device and had a cheese pie thrown at her in a most horrid display of poor manners.

Now, as she sneaks around the dirigible school, eavesdropping on...
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81
Librarian's Note: Alternate cover for this ISBN can be found here.

Four young ladies enter London society with one necessary goal: they must use their feminine wit and wiles to find a husband. So they band together, and a daring husband-hunting scheme is born.

It happened at the ball...

Where beautiful but bold Lillian Bowman quickly learned that her independent American ways weren't entirely "the thing." And the most disapproving of all was insufferable, snobbish,...
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82
London, 1887. At the Curiosity Club, a ladies-only establishment for daring and intrepid women, Victorian adventuress Veronica Speedwell meets the mysterious Lady Sundridge, who begs her to take on an impossible task--saving society art patron Miles Ramsforth from execution. Ramsforth, accused of the brutal murder of his mistress, Artemisia, will face the hangman's noose in a week's time if the real killer is not found.

But Lady Sundridge is not all that she seems, and unmasking her true identity is only the first of many secrets Veronica must uncover. Together with her...
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83
It has been a year of change since Gemma Doyle arrived at the foreboding Spence Academy. Her mother murdered, her father a laudanum addict, Gemma has relied on an unsuspected strength and has discovered an ability to travel to an enchanted world called the realms, where dark magic runs wild. Despite certain peril, Gemma has bound the magic to herself and forged unlikely new alliances.

Now, as Gemma approaches her London debut, the time has come to test these bonds. The Order - the mysterious group her mother was once part of - is grappling for control of the realms, as is the...
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84

Adam Bede

George Eliot's first full-length novel, Adam Bede paints a powerful portrait of rural life, seduction, faith, and redemption. First published in 1859, this innovative novel carried its readers back sixty years to a time of impending change for England and the wider world. Eliot's penetrating portrayal of the interaction of ordinary people brought a new social realism to the novel, in which humor and tragedy co-exist, and fellow-feeling is the mainstay of human relationships. This is the first edition based on Eliot's final revision of the novel in 1861, using the definitive Clarendon... more
Recommended by Philip Davis, Andrew Copson, and 2 others.

Philip DavisIt explores ‘morality’ (which might otherwise seem a very dull Victorian concept) as an inner psychological process, in which Arthur realises the indelible consequences of his actions. (Source)

Andrew CopsonGeorge Eliot was a great 19th century humanist. (Source)

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85

Stalking Jack the Ripper (Stalking Jack the Ripper, #1)

Presented by James Patterson's new children's imprint, this deliciously creepy horror novel has a storyline inspired by the Ripper murders and an unexpected, blood-chilling conclusion...

Seventeen-year-old Audrey Rose Wadsworth was born a lord's daughter, with a life of wealth and privilege stretched out before her. But between the social teas and silk dress fittings, she leads a forbidden secret life.

Against her stern father's wishes and society's expectations, Audrey often slips away to her uncle's laboratory to study the gruesome practice of forensic medicine. When...
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86
Trollope's comic masterpiece of plotting and backstabbing opens as the Bishop of Barchester lies on his deathbed. Soon a pitched battle breaks out over who will take power, involving, among others, the zealous reformer Dr Proudie, his fiendish wife and the unctuous schemer Obadiah Slope.

Barchester Towers is one of the best-loved novels in Trollope's Chronicles of Barsetshire series, which captured nineteenth-century provincial England with wit, worldly wisdom and an unparalleled gift for characterization. It is the second book in the Chronicles of Barsetshire.
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87

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

Librarian note: Alternate cover edition of 9780765356154.

Sophisticated, witty, and ingeniously convincing, Susanna Clarke's magisterial novel weaves magic into a flawlessly detailed vision of historical England. She has created a world so thoroughly enchanting that eight hundred pages leave readers longing for more.

English magicians were once the wonder of the known world, with fairy servants at their beck and call; they could command winds, mountains,...
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Recommended by Lev Grossman, Tendai Huchu, and 2 others.

Lev GrossmanIt’s a magic that feels absolutely real, as if the book were an eyewitness account. Not since Lewis has the supernatural been such a thrilling, immediate, concrete presence on the page. It’s no accident that I began The Magicians in 2004 – Strange is the book that woke me up to the power of the new fantasy. Read it, and you may be woken up too. (Source)

Tendai HuchuI chose this book because it really blurs the line between fiction and history. Just the use of footnotes and references to texts that likely don’t exist yet unless Susanna Clarke writes them in! (Source)

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88
Introducing an exciting new series! Steeped in Victorian atmosphere and intrigue, this diverting mystery trails a feisty heroine as she takes on a precarious secret assignment.

Rescued from the gallows in 1850s London, young orphan (and thief) Mary Quinn is surprised to be offered a singular education, instruction in fine manners — and an unusual vocation. Miss Scrimshaw’s Academy for Girls is a cover for an all-female investigative unit called The Agency, and at seventeen, Mary is about to put her training to the test. Assuming the guise of a lady’s companion, she must...
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89
The year is 1881. Meet the Mackenzie family—rich, powerful, dangerous, eccentric. A lady couldn't be seen with them without ruin. Rumors surround them—of tragic violence, of their mistresses, of their dark appetites, of scandals that set England and Scotland abuzz.

The youngest brother, Ian, known as the Mad Mackenzie, spent most of his young life in an asylum, and everyone agrees he is decidedly odd. He's also hard and handsome and has a penchant for Ming pottery and beautiful women.

Beth Ackerley, widow, has recently come into a fortune. She has decided that she...
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90
Fresh from a six-month sojourn in Italy, Lady Julia returns home to Sussex to find her father's estate crowded with family and friends— but dark deeds are afoot at the deconsecrated abbey, and a murderer roams the ancient cloisters.

Much to her surprise, the one man she had hoped to forget—the enigmatic and compelling Nicholas Brisbane—is among her father's houseguests… and he is not alone. Not to be outdone, Julia shows him that two can play at flirtation and promptly introduces him to her devoted, younger, titled Italian count.

But the homecoming celebrations quickly...
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Don't have time to read the top Victorian books of all time? Read Shortform summaries.

Shortform summaries help you learn 10x faster by:

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  • Cutting out the fluff: you focus your time on what's important to know
  • Interactive exercises: apply the book's ideas to your own life with our educators' guidance.
91
Have you ever wished you could live in an earlier, more romantic era?

Ladies, welcome to the 19th century, where there's arsenic in your face cream, a pot of cold pee sits under your bed, and all of your underwear is crotchless. (Why? Shush, dear. A lady doesn't question.)

UNMENTIONABLE is your hilarious, illustrated, scandalously honest (yet never crass) guide to the secrets of Victorian womanhood, giving you detailed advice on:

~ What to wear
~ Where to relieve yourself
~ How to conceal your loathsome addiction to menstruating
~ What to...
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92

The Way We Live Now

Widely acknowledged to be the masterpiece of Trollope's prolific Victorian career, "The Way We Live Now" is the scathing satire he wrote upon returning to England after traveling abroad. In seeking to discuss the deceit and dissipation he found, Trollope spared no iniquitous aspect he perceived in business, politics, social classes, literature, and various vice-related activities. The result of his efforts is an impressive array of characters, such as the old coquette Lady Carbury, her dissolute son Sir Felix, a spoiled and treacherously lovely heiress Marie, and her colossal figure of a... more
Recommended by John Gapper, and 1 others.

John GapperAbsolutely. And, slightly atypically for Trollope, it is a book written in a spirit of moral disgust. Trollope generally takes a detached, somewhat comic or ironic view of society. But here we have contempt for the state of Victorian Britain in 1875. (Source)

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93
Four young ladies at the side of the ballroom make a pact to help each other find husbands . . . no matter what it takes

Proud and beautiful Annabelle Peyton could have her pick of suitors—if only she had a dowry. Her family is on the brink of disaster, and the only way Annabelle can save them is to marry a wealthy man. Unfortunately her most persistent admirer is the brash Simon Hunt, a handsome and ambitious entrepreneur who wants her as his mistress.

Annabelle is determined to resist Simon's wicked propositions, but she can't deny her attraction to the boldly...
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94

The Portrait of a Lady

An alternate cover edition for this ISBN can be found here and here and here.

Introduction and Notes by Lionel Kelly, Senior Lecturer in English, University of Reading Transplanted to Europe from her native America, Isabel Archer has candour, beauty, intelligence, an independent spirit and a...
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Recommended by Katie Kitamura, Salley Vickers, and 2 others.

Katie KitamuraMarriage as a social institution, marriage as a form of power—these are at the heart of the story here. (Source)

Salley VickersThe lesson here is that however much freedom you think you have, you haven’t really got it if your instincts are not free. (Source)

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95

No Name

'Mr Vanstone's daughters are Nobody's Children'.

Magdalen Vanstone and her sister Norah learn the true meaning of social stigma in Victorian England only after the traumatic discovery that their dearly loved parents, whose sudden deaths have left them orphans, were not married at the time of their birth. Disinherited by law and brutally ousted from Combe-Raven, the idyllic country estate which has been their peaceful home since childhood, the two young women are left to fend for themselves. While the submissive Norah follows a path of duty and hardship as a governess, her...
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96
Sophronia continues her second year at finishing school in style—with a steel-bladed fan secreted in the folds of her ball gown, of course. Such a fashionable choice of weapon comes in handy when Sophronia, her best friend Dimity, sweet sootie Soap, and the charming Lord Felix Mersey stowaway on a train to return their classmate Sidheag to her werewolf pack in Scotland.

No one suspected what—or who—they would find aboard that suspiciously empty train. Sophronia uncovers a plot that threatens to throw all of London into chaos and she must decide where her loyalties lie, once and...
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97
From the critically acclaimed author of The Invention of Murder, an extraordinary, revelatory portrait of everyday life on the streets of Dickens' London.

The nineteenth century was a time of unprecedented change, and nowhere was this more apparent than London. In only a few decades, the capital grew from a compact Regency town into a sprawling metropolis of 6.5 million inhabitants, the largest city the world had ever seen. Technology—railways, street-lighting, and sewers—transformed both the city and the experience of city-living, as London expanded in every direction. Now Judith...
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98
Careless of both murder and manners, Charlotte Ellison and her sister, two determinedly unconventional young women, ignore Victorian mores and actively join the police investigation, led by young Inspector Thomas Pitt, into the murder of their servant girl. Reissue. less

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99

A Poisoned Season (Lady Emily, #2)

London's social season is in full swing, and Victorian aristocracy is atwitter over a certain gentleman who claims to be the direct descendant of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. Adding to their fascination with all things French, an audacious cat burglar is systematically stealing valuable items that once belonged to the ill–fated queen.

But things take a dark turn. The owner of one of the pilfered treasures is found murdered after the theft is reported in the newspapers, and the mysterious thief develops a twisted obsession with Lady Emily Ashton. It takes all of Lady Emily's wit...

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The Turn of the Screw

A very young woman's first job: governess for two weirdly beautiful, strangely distant, oddly silent children, Miles and Flora, at a forlorn estate...An estate haunted by a beckoning evil.

Half-seen figures who glare from dark towers and dusty windows- silent, foul phantoms who, day by day, night by night, come closer, ever closer. With growing horror, the helpless governess realizes the fiendish creatures want the children, seeking to corrupt their bodies, possess their minds, own their souls...

But worse-much worse- the governess discovers that Miles and Flora have no...
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Don't have time to read the top Victorian books of all time? Read Shortform summaries.

Shortform summaries help you learn 10x faster by:

  • Being comprehensive: you learn the most important points in the book
  • Cutting out the fluff: you focus your time on what's important to know
  • Interactive exercises: apply the book's ideas to your own life with our educators' guidance.