Charles Dickens: A Life by Claire Tomalin

Chatelaine editor's pick: Charles Dickens' work ethic and philanthropic sense are just a few things described in this biography that sets out to explore the writer's ingenuity

charles dickens

4. Charles Dickens: A Life

What drove Charles Dickens to genius is investigated in this new work by British biographer Claire Tomalin. The answers she finds: a childhood of impoverishment, a punishing work ethic, including many 14-hour days, a stout sense of morality (as evidenced by philanthropic works, large and small, not just his writing) and an entrepreneurial spirit. As one critic said, Dickens wrote “like a special correspondent for posterity.” It’s an authoritative, exhaustive look at a complex man. If you’re really into Charles Dickens, also check out Tomalin’s The Invisible Woman, about his lover Nelly Ternan.

Charles Dickens: A Life
, Claire Tomalin, $36.

— V.M.