The most recommended Victorian books

Who picked these books? Meet our 157 experts.

157 authors created a book list connected to Victorian, and here are their favorite Victorian books.
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Book cover of The Young Housekeeper's Friend; Or, A Guide to Domestic Economy and Comfort

Jenne Bergstrom and Miko Osada Author Of The Little Women Cookbook: Novel Takes on Classic Recipes from Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy and Friends

From my list on food and cooking in Victorian America.

Why are we passionate about this?

Miko and Jenne are librarians who love to eat. Their love of classic children’s literature led them to start their 36 Eggs blog, where they recreate foods and experiences from their favorite books. In 2019, they published the Little Women Cookbook, which required extensive research into the food of the Victorian era.

Jenne's book list on food and cooking in Victorian America

Jenne Bergstrom and Miko Osada Why did Jenne love this book?

We consulted a wide variety of historical cookbooks while writing our book, but one in particular stands out: The Young Housekeeper’s Friend (or as we affectionately call it, YHF), first published in 1846. It is actually mentioned by name more than once in Little Women, so it became our first point of reference for the recipes we wanted to include. YHF was quite popular in its day, and went through several editions–with good reason, as we discovered. Of all the cookbooks we used in our research, the recipes in this one were always the tastiest and most reliable.

Even though by modern standards the recipes are rather vague, she actually gave quite a bit more instruction than other cookbooks of the era, and many of the chapters include an introduction that goes into more detail about the overall theory of how to cook that particular type of food. During the…

By Mary Hooker Cornelius,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Young Housekeeper's Friend; Or, A Guide to Domestic Economy and Comfort as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

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 was reproduced from the original artifact, and remains as true to the original work as possible. Therefore, you will see the original copyright references, library stamps (as most of these works have been housed in our most important libraries around the world), and other notations in the work.

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…

Book cover of Lily

Melissa Addey Author Of From the Ashes

From Melissa's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Reader Traveler History obsessed Romantic

Melissa's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Melissa Addey Why did Melissa love this book?

It is a novel about a foundling girl growing up in Victorian London, scrabbling to make a living while under the gloom of a hidden secret in her past that seems like it will snatch any happiness she finds away at any moment.

I almost didn’t like it because it was so unrelentingly harsh, but the historical accuracy and quality writing (and a tiny bit of hope at the end) had me filing it away as a very memorable and well-written historical novel. 

By Rose Tremain,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Lily as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From Sunday Times bestselling novelist Rose Tremain comes a gripping novel of murder and revenge set in Victorian England

Nobody knows yet that she is a murderer...

London, 1850. On a freezing winter's night, a baby is abandoned at the gates of a park only to be saved by a young policeman and taken to the Foundling Hospital.

After suffering years of brutal hardship at the Hospital, Lily is released into the world of Victorian London. But she is hiding a dreadful secret...

When Lily and the policeman meet again, Lily is convinced that he holds the key to her…

Book cover of Paul Clifford: "The easiest person to deceive is one's self"

Stephen Carver Author Of The Author Who Outsold Dickens: The Life and Works of W.H. Ainsworth

From my list on the 19th century they don’t teach you in school.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a great one for alternative histories. I’m particularly fascinated by authors who were bestsellers in their own day but have been edited out of the official version of ‘English literature’. We constantly have Dickens, the Brontës, George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, and so forth fed back to us through reprinted novels, costume dramas, and lavish film adaptations, but there were other authors active at the time who commanded huge sales but whose work has now been largely forgotten or disregarded. These authors deserve attention, while their rediscovered work would freshen up the ongoing discourse of cultural retrieval. Seek them out, as I have, and I promise it’ll be worth it.

Stephen's book list on the 19th century they don’t teach you in school

Stephen Carver Why did Stephen love this book?

This is the first of the ‘Newgate novels’ or ‘criminal romances’ that essentially heralded the start of modern crime fiction. After the death of Walter Scott and before the rise of Dickens, Lytton, like his contemporary W.H. Ainsworth, was the bestselling English novelist of his day; a position both men continued to share with Dickens until the late-1840s. Paul Clifford is a redemptive tale of a fictional Georgian highwayman, full of adventure and intrigue, underpinned by a social message about the link between poverty and crime. Imprisoned for an offence he didn’t commit, the hero emerges apprenticed in crime and ready to use these skills to survive. Paul Clifford is now only remembered, if it is remembered at all, for its opening line, ‘It was a dark and stormy night…’

By Edward Bulwer-Lytton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Paul Clifford as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Edward George Earle Bulwer-Lytton was born on May 25th, 1803 the youngest of three sons. When Edward was four his father died and his mother moved the family to London. As a child he was delicate and neurotic and failed to fit in at any number of boarding schools. However, he was academically and creatively precocious and, as a teenager, he published his first work; Ishmael and Other Poems in 1820. In 1822 he entered university at Cambridge and in 1825 he won the Chancellor's Gold Medal for English verse for Sculpture. The following year he received his B.A. degree…

Book cover of Beyond the Brotherhood: The Pre-Raphaelite Legacy

Kirsty Stonell Walker Author Of Pre-Raphaelite Girl Gang: Fifty Makers, Shakers and Heartbreakers from the Victorian Era

From my list on aspiring Pre-Raphaelite women.

Why am I passionate about this?

I absolutely love the Pre-Raphaelites, they are my utter passion and these books are the fuel for that fire. Who wouldn't want to be a Pre-Raphaelite woman? Smart, talented, resourceful, these women define what it is to make a mark and great some of the most ground-breaking art in history. I'm particularly obsessed with Pre-Raphaelite women, the artists and muses who created the art we love so much today. After spending almost 30 years researching their lives and loves, it's now my absolute pleasure in telling everyone about these astonishing women, and why we should love them and learn from them.

Kirsty's book list on aspiring Pre-Raphaelite women

Kirsty Stonell Walker Why did Kirsty love this book?

The Pre-Raphaelites were not just limited to the Victorian era, and this is a brilliant exhibition catalogue that explores how we are still loving the Pre-Raphaelites today in programmes like Game of Thrones and movies like The Lord of the Rings. It also reveals the way the 1960s responded to deeply unfashionable Pre-Raphaelite art and how important women were to the Pre-Raphaelites past and present.

Book cover of The Academy

Anna Jane Greenville Author Of The Girl Who Was a Gentleman

From my list on romance featuring tomboys.

Why am I passionate about this?

Having climbed many a tree with the boys as a kid, I cannot stay away from a good gender-bender romance. The suspense, the humour of it, and the inevitable conclusion that not your appearance but your choices define who you are – a perfect combination in my opinion. Mix in a male counterpart who is supportive and understanding and I am hooked! So much so, that I have written a book about a girl who dressed up as a boy.

Anna's book list on romance featuring tomboys

Anna Jane Greenville Why did Anna love this book?

A somewhat different kind of setting awaits readers in The Academy. It depicts a dystopia in space that resembles Victorian times quite strikingly. Pretty awesome combination, huh? The heroine infiltrates an all-boys school to become a spaceship pilot and navigate the stars. Only to discover even the galaxy is not big enough to run from love.

By Emmaline Andrews, Reese Dante (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Academy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Academy
Where things are not always as they seem…

My name is Kris Jameson and I’m a student at the Royal Academy. I’m at the top of all my classes, what they call a “model student.” There’s only one problem—the Academy is an all boys school and I’m a girl.

It started as a prank when I took my brother’s place. But things got complicated when I caught Broward, the school bully, in a compromising position. They got even worse when I was assigned my roommate—the handsome but enigmatic North who saved me several times from the bully’s attacks.…

Book cover of Dora's Workhouse Child

Laurie Bowler Author Of The Realm of Witches

From my list on fantasy you will get lost inside of.

Why am I passionate about this?

I especially love reading fantasy stories and stories based on actual historical events. I've been an avid reader since I was a little girl; while my siblings were playing outside or inside with toys I was the one sat curled up in the corner reading. I've also worked hard and gained qualifications in creative writing. I've also had a passion for writing and have written my own fantasy novels; being an author is simply amazing because you can create characters that are unique and special as well as true to life, plus you get to create worlds that are entirely different to our own. 

Laurie's book list on fantasy you will get lost inside of

Laurie Bowler Why did Laurie love this book?

This story is based on the Blackwell Union Workhouse, where we discover their hidden secrets regarding the intention to swap two innocent children. While one of them lives with a wealthy family, the other is forced into a life of poverty. Again, this storyline is heartwrenching with the descriptive storyline of historical workhouses and the treatment of those who ended up living there. It makes you stop and validate, appreciate and love everything we have today and all the opportunities available to everyone. There is no divide between those with more assets or money and those with very little. 

By Dolly Price,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dora's Workhouse Child as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Blackwell Union Workhouse hid a secret for 8 long years. Two daughters born behind the dark walls thrust into the arms of the wrong mothers – one mother the Master’s wife, the other a slave of poverty, Dora.

Phoebe and Claretta, the workhouse babies, switched at birth and thrust into an uncertain future.

As the years unfurl, destiny sends the young ladies in different directions, but their hearts are bound. One runs, the other seeks. One haunted by fears, the other reaching for a faith and a future. Both longing for love.

Their stories are woven into a lifelong saga…

Book cover of Sketches by Boz

Steve Morris Author Of Out on Top – A Collection of Upbeat Short Stories

From my list on short stories for when spare time is short.

Why am I passionate about this?

Short stories suit the speed of modern society. I began writing them as a child and began to get them published in magazines. My first collection of stories in 2009 got quite a lot of press in the UK and two more collections followed. Initially, they were darkly-themed backfiring scenarios for the anti-hero and I redressed the balance in Out on Top. We all deserve some good Karma!

Steve's book list on short stories for when spare time is short

Steve Morris Why did Steve love this book?

This is often overlooked by readers of Dickens. I think the term “sketches” is important here at a point where Dickens was still experimenting with his art and particularly his characters which were always going to be his greatest strength. Sketches by Boz is a collection of fascinatingly detailed insights into London life intertwined in episodes (or scenes) as Dickens terms it through a richly caricatured study of a set of interesting lives of the working classes, in a way that only Dickens has ever been able to do. The “sketches” had, prior to this, been serialized in weekly installments (the soap operas of the day). Dickens had experienced sufficient highs and lows of social mobility in his own life to fully qualify his portrayals. "The Tuggses at Ramsgate" is perhaps for me the most memorable but the whole volume is bursting with energetic individuality and character. I have…

By Charles Dickens,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sketches by Boz as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) was an English short story writer, dramatist, essayist, and the most popular novelist to come from the Victorian era. He created some of the most iconic characters and stories in English literature, including Mr. Pickwick from "The Pickwick Papers", Ebenezer Scrooge from "A Christmas Carol", David Copperfield, and Pip from "Great Expectations", to name a few. Dickens' began by writing serials for magazines, and from 1833-1836 he used the pseudonym Boz, taken from a childhood nickname for his younger brother. "Sketches by Boz" contains 56 stories and, like most of Dickens' work, vividly portrayed the lives of…

Book cover of Jack Dawkins

Jaq D Hawkins Author Of Dance of the Goblins

From my list on non-fantasy books for fantasy readers.

Why am I passionate about this?

I've been an avid reader across many genres since I learned to read as a child and have wandered into all sorts of categories to find literature I love. Fantasy became my first love, but that didn't mean I had to abandon everything else. I like finding great books that don't make the big publisher lists with their generic output. Since the rise of indie publishing, I've developed a habit of sampling anything that sounds like it might be interesting and have found some amazing and very original stories!

Jaq's book list on non-fantasy books for fantasy readers

Jaq D Hawkins Why did Jaq love this book?

Most Fantasy readers enjoy an occasional change and Historical Fiction is a popular companion genre, especially when it's set in England. Whether you love Classics or your experience of Dickens is limited to seeing the musical, Oliver!, the Artful Dodger is a fascinating character and this book follows him into adult life when he returns to Turn of the Century Victorian England. It's an easy read which is historically accurate but doesn't get bogged down in teaching history. A fast-moving adventure with humour and dastardly villains with a flavour that only this era can produce.

Overall it's a fun story with much of that 'different world' quality that Fantasy readers so love.

By Charlton Daines,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Jack Dawkins as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Artful Dodger returns with new adventures!

Jack Dawkins, once known as the Artful Dodger in the streets of London, was sent to Australia on a prison ship when he was little more than a boy. Now he has returned to find that London has changed while the boy has turned into a man.

With few prospects provided by his criminal past and having developed mannerisms that allow him to move amongst a higher strata of society, Jack turns his back on the streets that would have primed him as a successor to the murderer, Bill Sikes, and quickly remodels…

Book cover of Bellman & Black

Kate Strasdin Author Of The Dress Diary: Secrets from a Victorian Woman's Wardrobe

From my list on featuring fashion.

Why am I passionate about this?

For as long as I can remember I have been absolutely gripped by the stories that old clothes can tell. From visiting fashion museums as a child to collecting books on the subject, I was drawn to the shapes, the fabrics, and the tales. I can remember a curator once telling me that clothes are the closest we can get to people in the past. They are the ghostly outlines of our ancestors and that has stayed with me. We give so much away about ourselves through the clothes we choose to wear and so they really do matter.

Kate's book list on featuring fashion

Kate Strasdin Why did Kate love this book?

This has a very gothic kind of atmosphere and it is one that I recommend for the intricacies of 19th century dress etiquette.

It centres on the company of Bellman and Black, an emporium of mourning wares for the increasingly complicated garments and accessories required of grief in the 19th century. It gives such an insight into a world that is long gone but which was so important, where dress was able to communicate the stage of your life without a word spoken. 

By Diane Setterfield,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Bellman & Black as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

#1 New York Times bestselling author

“An astonishing work of genius.” —Bookreporter
“Magically transformative.” —Bookpage

Can one moment in time haunt you forever?
From the instant #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Thirteenth Tale comes a “poetic and mysterious” (Booklist) story that will haunt you to your very core.

Caught up in a moment of boyhood competition, William Bellman recklessly aims his slingshot at a rook resting on a branch, killing the bird instantly. It is a small but cruel act, and is soon forgotten. By the time he is grown, with a wife and children of his…

Book cover of The Women of Baker Street

L.A. Fields Author Of Mrs. Watson: Untold Stories

From my list on women dealing with domestic mysteries.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am the author of the Sherlockiana duology My Dear Watson and Mrs. Watson: Untold Stories. I chose these books because they all have British women at the helm, involve detectives and/or investigative processes, and contain close-to-home scandals and intrigue. In that sense, these are “domestic” mysteries—books that contain puzzles related to everyday household drama. Miss Marple, Harriet Vane, and the women of Baker Street solve literal detective cases. The secret writings of Anne Lister and Constance Wilde show how they decoded the homosexual element in their lives, and used their writing to maintain a sense of self in oppressive societies. Each of them are women after my own heart.

L.A.'s book list on women dealing with domestic mysteries

L.A. Fields Why did L.A. love this book?

The second of The House at Baker Street series, this book solves the mystery of why a disproportionate number of patients are dying in a private ward at St. Barts hospital in London.

Atmospheric and engaging, Birkby’s writing develops Mrs. Hudson and Mary Watson in practical, unsentimental ways while not ignoring their emotions, or how those feelings motivate them. These are two adults with unique histories and strengths, and they develop a bond equivalent to an aunt and niece after Mary becomes Mrs. Watson, and joins the cast of characters that frequent Mrs. Hudson’s 221B home.

These women are not vehicles for a Holmes and Watson storyline—the men are almost completely absent. These ladies are two fully realized characters with their own cases to solve and innocents to save.

By Michelle Birkby,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Women of Baker Street as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As Sherlock and Watson return from the famous Hound of the Baskervilles case, Mrs Hudson and Mary must face their own Hound, in the swirling fog of Victorian London . . .

When Mrs Hudson falls ill, she is taken into a private ward at St Barts hospital. Perhaps it is her over-active imagination, or her penchant for sniffing out secrets, but as she lies in her bed, slowly recovering, she finds herself surrounded by patients who all have some skeletons in their closets. A higher number of deaths than usual seem to occur on this ward. On her very…