Happy birthday, Mr Dickens!

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 07 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 07 February, 2012, 12:00am


Tomorrow, bookworms all over the world will be wishing 'Happy Birthday!' to a novelist who wrote some of the greatest works of fiction ever published: Charles Dickens.

He was born on February 7, 1812 and died on June 8, 1870.

His stories are famous all over the world, and his books have been translated into hundreds of languages and made into countless movies and TV series.

So, what is so special about Dickens? Why do people still want to read his novels more than 140 years after his death?

The answer is easy. Dickens wrote brilliant, gripping stories and created memorable characters like Oliver Twist and Ebenezer Scrooge. The characters and storylines he created are timeless, and so people continue to enjoy and be inspired by them.

A special read

Losing yourself in a story by Dickens is a unique experience. One minute you will be laughing out loud as one of his comic characters does or says something outrageous, and the next you will be on the edge of your seat as the story twists, and something truly shocking happens to the main character.

You will creep through the shadowy streets of Victorian London meeting dark villains and cheering on heroes. You will sit in dingy school classrooms where youngsters suffer at the hands of cruel teachers.

But, most importantly, you will get drawn into the story Dickens is telling, and be anxious to find out what will happen to the characters that fill his books. And that is what good reading is all about.

Unforgettable characters

Charles Dickens created more than 2,000 of the most famous and unforgettable characters ever to leap off the pages of a book into a reader's imagination. You will meet killers and conmen, madmen and clowns, innocent young girls and evil old women. You will also rub shoulders with dashing heroes and horrible villains.

Dickens' novels were first published in serial format, which people bought weekly in a magazine. No one would buy next week's edition if they weren't hooked on the story, so Dickens had to make them gripping.

The author toured theatres in England and America acting out scenes from his novels in front of packed audiences. He was a superstar performer as well as a writer.

Top Dickens Picks

Dickens' novels are all big, thick books filled with complex language. You can't rush through them in a couple of hours. But there are good abridged versions available. Here are our top five Dickens novels.

1 Oliver Twist

The story of a young orphan boy caught up in the criminal underworld of Victorian London.

2 Great Expectations

A mysterious benefactor gives a poor boy a large sum of money so he can get a good education. But this new life comes at a terrible cost.

3 A Tale of Two Cities

A British family is caught up in the terrible events of the French revolution.

4 Nicholas Nickleby

A young boy is sent off to a brutal boarding school by his cruel stepfather, and his once-comfortable life changes forever.

5 A Christmas Carol

A selfish, rich man learns the value of giving; the book also influenced the way Christmas is celebrated today.