Ranking the Novels of Dickens

I'm still reading The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club (to give it its full original title). I'm reading a chapter now and then, which is, unsurprisingly, slow going. It's very enjoyable though, and the fact that about 70% of it is interlude and stories related by characters the Pickwickians meet on their travels, it's a reasonable approach. I liked the tale of Tom Smart. :)
Pickwick continues to entertain. I'm about half way through it now, on chapter 28. This is a book in which Dickens demonstrates his genius for amusing prose, clever juxtapositions and character. There are many asides and bits of dialogue that delight. Here is a remark from Sam Weller's old man in the last chapter, spoken to his son:

"'Cause I'm a married man, Samivel, 'cause I'm a married man. Wen you're a married man, Samivel, you'll understand a good many things as you don't understand now; but whether it's worth goin' through so much, to learn so little, as the charity boy said ven he got to the end of the alphabet, is a matter o' taste. I rayther think it isn't."
Oh, yes, I did finish The Pickwick Papers. Very entertaining; also long and a little drawn out. There is a plot and story arc, but its not exactly the key feature of the book. Whether I'll read it again, I'm not sure, but having got through it, I should think I'm now highly likely to read all Dickens books, given this is probably the 'toughest' in some regards.

Updated list from me:

Category 1: Dickens' finest work, combining mature writing, exceptional characters and deep plots
Bleak House
Our Mutual Friend

Great Expectations

Category 2: Classic works, with great characters and highly memorable scenes, but flawed in some way
Dombey and Son (loss of a major character early on was a strange choice)
Hard Times (less 'Dickensian' than other books, otherwise great)

The Old Curiosity Shop (two story threads move apart for Nell's journey; but best Dickens villain perhaps)
David Copperfield (flabby middle is poorly paced, with a disjointed storyline; but first and last third are great)

Category 3: Lesser Dickens: good reads, and still recommended works, but not to be prioritised given their imperfections
Oliver Twist (coincidences abound; terrific characters but plot difficult to accept)
Nickolas Nickleby (somewhat light plot doesn't engage the reader as much as his best; lacks the eccentricity of his best works)
A Tale of Two Cities (less intertwined Dickensian plotting and less strong on character, but has its moments, certainly)
The Pickwick Papers (early style, with many deviations and inserted tales (not all great); but terrific characters and a good end)

11 read, 3½ to go; I'm still to read Barnaby Rudge, Martin Chuzzelwit, Little Dorrit and the ½, which is Edwin Drood.
I quite agree with your top three.

Apparently I liked Nickleby more than you did because I'd have placed it higher.

I'll be interested to see what you think of Little Dorrit.
I quite agree with your top three.
Apparently I liked Nickleby more than you did because I'd have placed it higher.
I think my appreciation of Nickleby could change/improve depending on mood and expectation. It had much I enjoyed in it, and in any event, my list distinguishes very good books, from absolute classics after all.
Of the ones you have yet to read, Bick, Barnaby Rudge I need to reread. Martin Chuzzlewit is a masterpiece and would get a comic work into your first category. Little Dorrit is certainly a major work, but I'm not sure where I'd place it in your three categories. Edwin Drood has to go in your third category because it has the imperfection of being unfinished with, undoubtedly, many chapters yet to go. Those'd be my thoughts on that group. You'll find all of them to be enjoyable reads, I should think.
I never read any of Dicken's works, but perhaps it's time to do so. I might pick one from Bick's 'Category 1' list to start off with.
I have only seen the movie adaptations of some of books. Not the same though.

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