20 Books Which Were Originally Serial Novels

20 Books Which Were Originally Serial Novels

Let me ask you something. What kind of books, novels, or literary works do you usually read? Fiction? Fantasy? Self-help books, maybe? But have you ever tried reading ancient or historical texts? If not, you should. Almost all, of those works are available today in the novel form. Still, not everybody knows that most of those texts were initially published in a serialized format in different magazines. Here, I’ll share with you some books which were originally serial novels.

Personally! I haven’t read much of the serialized novels. The only difference is that in ancient times, they were publicized through newspapers and magazines, while today, the internet does the work for us. Serialization of work was highly popular in the 1800s and 1900s, as they brought a wide readership to the author.

Serialization of a workpiece or a novel means breaking it down into small portions or “episodes” meant to be published in a newspaper or a magazine after a specific amount of time. Some authors, like Charles Dickens, wrote in a way to be meant to be broken down into serials, but there were some authors with some works who never actually wanted to break down their work but had to. Serialization of work was highly popular in the 1800s and 1900s, as they brought a wide readership to the author.

You look for any popular text during the time of the French revolution, the Napoleon wars, or maybe the civil wars. Most of them would be serialized originally. But after gaining huge successes in that format, many authors revised and edited their work and published them as full-fledged novels. Some of those works are discussed below, so let’s get into reading them.

20 Such Books Which Were Originally Published in Serial Form

These books, without any doubt, were published in the serialized format during the time they were initially written. Still, if you look for them today, you’ll get full-length novels, combining every part or even a bit more. Let’s have a look at them together.

1. Vanity Fair

vanity fair book cover | Books Which Were Originally Serial Novels

Full Title: Vanity Fair: Pen and Pencil Sketches of English Society

Author: William Makepeace Thackeray

Genre: Social Criticism and Satire

Publishing Date: 1847


This novel was initially published in serial form as a 19-volume monthly format from 1847 to 1848. In 1848, it was re-published in a single volume format and changed the subtitle from “pen and pencil sketches of Indian society” to “A novel without a hero.”

It is set in the period during and after the Napoleonic wars. It follows the life of Becky Sharp, Amelia Sedley, and their friends and families during the time of war. It puts forward the author’s satirical view of the British society of the 19th century.

2. A Tale of Two Cities

a tale of two cities book cover

Full Title: A Tale of Two Cities

Author: Charles Dickens

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publishing Date: 1859


This novel Dickens is nearly 45 chapters long, and it was initially published in 31 weekly installments in “All the Year Round,” Dickens’s new literary periodical. From April 1859 to November 1859, Dickens republished the chapters of this novel as eight monthly sections in “green covers.”

“A Tale of Two Cities” is set around and about the times of the French Revolution in London and Paris. It’s about Doctor Manette, who had been imprisoned for 18 long years in the Bastille in Paris, and how he gets released to live a life with Lucie, his daughter whom he had never met.

3. Crime and Punishment

crime and punishment book cover

Full Title: Crime and Punishment

Author: Fyodor Dostoevsky

Genre: Philosophical Fiction

Publishing Date: 1866


Published initially in twelve monthly installments in 1866 in “The Russian Messenger,” it is one of the supreme achievements in the genre of world literature. It revolves around Rodion Raskolnikov and the mental and emotional dilemmas he faces when he decides to kill an older woman who stores her wealth in her flat.

He is justifying it by saying that crimes are justifiable if they remove obstacles from the paths of extraordinary men. After doing the deed, he is seen confused, disgusted, and somewhere subtly guilty.

4. Uncle Tom’s Cabin

uncle tom's cabin book cover

Full Title: Uncle Tom’s Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly

Author: Harriet Beecher Stowe

Genre: Fiction

Publishing Date: 1851


This book was initially published in two volumes and, without any doubt, the biggest issue of the era, discrimination against Afro-Americans and the culture of slavery in the United States.

This book has brought about revolutions inside the hearts and minds of many people. This work of literature has also been said to have helped lay the groundwork for the American Civil War. It revolves around the life of Uncle Tom, who is an enslaved Black person, suffering for a long time but still refusing to lose faith till the very end. The other characters’ roles revolve around him.

5. Middlemarch

middlemarch book cover

Full Title: Middlemarch, A Study of Provincial Life

Author: George Elliot

Genre: Historical Romance

Publishing Date: 1871


This novel by Mary Anne Evans, pen name George Eliot, was initially published in eight installments in 1871 and 1872. Set in a fictional town, it follows several plots, including idealism, the status of women, the nature of marriage, religion, self-interest, political reform, education, and hypocrisy.

It is broadly based on some historical events like the early railways, the 1832 Reform Act, and the accession of King William IV.

6. The Portrait of a Lady

the portrait of a lady book cover

Full Title: The Portrait of a Lady

Author: Henry James

Genre: Romance

Publishing Date: 1880


Being one of the finest of James’s work, it was initially published in Serialized manner from 1880 to 1881 in The Atlantic Monthly and Macmillan’s Magazine. This piece of work is so fine that even critics appreciate it. It is about Isabel Archer, who has inherited a good amount of wealth and is brought to Europe by her aunt.

She is now expected to get married, but she is determined to create her fate. Soon, she finds herself getting attracted to a guy named Gilbert Osmond, but he isn’t the charming and cultivated self he looks like. It is a tale of love and betrayal, relatable even to the modern audience.

7. Treasure Island

Treasure Island book cover

Full Title: Treasure Island

Author: Robert Louis Stevenson

Genre: Coming-of-Age

Publishing Date: 1881


Initially titled The Sea Cook: A Story for Boys, this novel was initially published in serials from 1881 to 1882 in Young Folks, a children’s magazine under the title of Treasure of Island Or the Mutiny of the Hispaniola.

The main plot of this work is the never-ending conflict between the good and the bad, the only difference being that this one is made more engaging from the evil side, which doesn’t happen often. This tale is filled with Villainy, greed, betrayal, and daring. This book was basically written to please boys and older men, not creating much fuzz in the female audience of that time, but it has equal appeal among all the social groups today.

8. Anna Karenina

Anna Karenina book cover

Full Title: Anna Karenina

Author: Leo Tolstoy

Genre: Literary Realism

Publishing Date: 1875


Being the first true novel by the author, this one was initially published in serial installments in The Russian Messenger (except the last part) from 1875 to 1877 and was published in the booking form in 1878.

Divided into eight parts, spread over 800 pages and contained in two parts, it revolves around Anna Karenina and her extramarital affair with cavalry officer Count Alexei Kirillovich Vronsky. It centers the themes like family, trust, faith, betrayal, desire, marriage, rural life, and city life.

9. The Jungle

The Jungle book cover

Full Title: The Jungle

Author: Upton Sinclair

Genre: Fiction

Publishing Date: 1905


This novel was first published in a socialist newspaper, Appeal to Reason, in serial format in 1905. The author wrote this book mainly to describe that the meat industry and its working conditions were to advocate socialism in the US.

Several social issues like unpleasant living conditions, harsh working conditions, lack of social support, working-class poverty, and a sense of hopelessness among workers. This book is one of the reasons responsible for launching the Meat Inspection Act.

10. The Woman in White

the woman in white book cover

Full Title: The Woman in White

Author: Wilkie Collins

Genre: Mystery

Publishing Date: 1860


Initially, this novel was published in Charles Dickens’s magazine All the Year Round (UK) and Harper’s Weekly (US) in serial form from 1859 to 60. It was published in the form of a book in 1860. It is the author’s fifth published novel. The story is considered an early example of detective fiction where the protagonist employs many of the ways and techniques of later private detectives.

This story is written from more than one perspective, which means it has multiple narrative styles. The plot of the novel revolves around Walter Hartright, who has had an eerie encounter on a moonlight road in London.

11. Ulysses

ulysses book cover

Full Title: Ulysses

Author: James Joyce

Genre: Experimental Literature

Publishing Date: 1918


This novel was first published in serialized format in the American journal The Little Review from 1918 to 1920 and then published as a whole book in Paris on Joyce’s 40th birthday, 2nd February 1922. You might be familiar with Homer’s European classical epic, The Odyssey. This book is loosely based on that epic. There are many similarities between the epic and the novel, one of which is that Ulysses is Latin for Odysseus, the protagonist of the epic Odyssey.

The novel establishes parallels between the main characters of the two works, Bloom(from Ulysses) and Odysseus(from Odyssey), Molly Bloom(from Ulysses) and Penelope(from Odyssey), and Stephen Dedalus(from Ulysses) and Telemachus(from Odyssey). It includes different writing styles from different periods of English Literature.

12. Musashi

musashi book cover

Full Title: Musashi

Author: Eiji Yoshikawa

Genre: Historical Novel

Publishing Date: 1935


A Japanese novel on the list, this one was published in serial format between the years 1935 and 1939 in Asahi Shimbun and then in a full-length novel format, selling over 120 million copies. This epic novel is an attempt by the author to replicate the life and deeds of Miyamoto Musashi, a legendary Japanese warrior.

This book is based on the battle of Sekigahara. Miyamoto was originally Shinmen Takezō, who reinvents himself as Miyamoto Musashi after being forced by monk Takuan who now wanders around the whole of Japan doing martial arts, training young pupils, getting involved in feuds and fights, and finding a way through romance.

13. The Painted Veil

the painted veil book cover

Full Title: The Painted Veil

Author: W. Somerset Maugham

Genre: Romance

Publishing Date: 1924


Taking its title from P.B. Shelly’s sonnet “Lift Not the Painted Veil,” this novel was first published in five serials in the Cosmopolitan from 1924 to1925 and then in May 1925, it was serialized in eight parts in Nash’s Magazine. This book is beautiful, just like its title, but is starved for love from the protagonist’s point of view. Kitty Fane’s husband discovers her extramarital affair and her adulterous acts outside of marriage. She is forced to accompany him to a hotspot of the cholera epidemic.

This novel depicts human growth, positive changes, and the ability to forgive and love again.

14. In Cold Blood

In Cold Blood book cover

Full Title: In Cold Blood

Author: Truman Capote

Genre: Crime Fiction

Publishing Date: 1965


This heart thrilling crime fiction was first published in a four-volume serial in the New Yorker in 1965 and then into an entire book in 1966. The first piece published in the New Yorker was an immediate success, especially in the city of Kansas, as the New Yorker was sold almost immediately there.

Not many people know this, but this novel is the second-best-selling true crime history novel in the history of reading and writing. It took the author six years to work on this book. The novel’s background is set as the author learns about a quadruple murder. To investigate, he travels to Kansas and works for six years on this book, reconstructing the murder, the investigation, and the capture and execution of the culprits.

15. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas book cover

Full Title: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream

Author: Hunter S. Thompson

Genre: Roman à clef

Publishing Date: 1971


This book was first published in Rolling Stone magazine in two volumes in 1971 and then into a full-length book in 1972. It is a drug-filled novel based on two trips taken by the author, renamed Raoul Duke, with his attorney and Chicano activist Oscar Zeta Acosta in March and April 1971.

It displays an unpleasant depiction of illegal drug use. This novel is one of the author’s best works and is a perfect blend of facts and fiction.

16. The War of the Worlds

The War of the Worlds book cover

Full Title: The War of the Worlds

Author: H.G. Wells

Genre: Scientific Romance

Publishing Date: 1879


This novel was first serialized in 1897 by Pearson’s Magazine and Cosmopolitan magazine. It provides a detailed account of the conflict between the entire humankind and extra-terrestrial beings. Being a first-person narrative, It is written from the point of view of an unnamed protagonist and his younger brother. It hints at a possible life form on Mars, planning to invade Earth in regard to their own deteriorating resources.

17. Madame Bovary

Madame Bovary book cover

Full Title: Madame Bovary: Provincial Manners

Author: Gustave Flaubert

Genre: Psychological Fiction

Publishing Date: 1856


First published in serialized format in the magazine Revue de Paris between 1856 and 1856, it is the debut novel of this French author. There was a trial against this novel for being offensive, and that made this novel notorious.

This novel is overall a developed work of literary realism where the protagonist is living beyond her means so that she can escape the bogusness and emptiness of life in the province. In the current day, this novel is considered one of the most influential and practical pieces of work written by the author to date.

18. The Count of Monte Cristo

The Count of Monte Cristo book cover

Full Title: The Count of Monte Cristo

Author: Alexandre Dumas

Genre: Romance

Publishing Date: 1844


Like every book on this list, this one was also initially published in serialization from 1844 to 1846. Journal des Débats in eighteen parts.

The themes followed in this novel are mercy, vengeance, justice, forgiveness, and hope. It revolves around the story of a nineteen-year-old young man, Edmond Dantès, who was to marry his fiancée, Mercédès, but before he could do that, he was wrongly imprisoned and sent to jail, from where he escaped.

He has now acquired a fortune and seeks vengeance on those responsible for his wrongful imprisonment. This novel is set in the era of the reign of Louis-Phillip in France, in the Bourbon Restoration. It begins on the day when Napoleon left Elba, his first island of exile, and spans up to a hundred days when Napoleon returned to power.

19. North and South

North and South book cover

Full Title: North and South

Author: Elizabeth Gaskell

Genre: Social Fiction

Publishing Date: 1854


In twenty episodes, this novel was first serialized from 1854 to 1855 in Household Words. The story of this novel revolves around Margaret Hale.

Upon being left with a church in crisis by her father, she gets uprooted from the ever-comfortable life she was leading and moves to the north of England with her family. She gets familiar with the ugly, poor, and miserable state of her surroundings in the town of Milton, due to which a sense of justice and compassion towards the local mill workers. They are in sheer poverty and suffering.

Her passion for justice becomes even stronger when she develops a relationship with John Thornton, the owner of the mill. Many believe that Margaret Hale is one of the best and most original heroines of the Victorian era of literature.

20. Heart of Darkness

heart of darkness book cover

Full Title: Heart of Darkness

Author: Joseph Conrad

Genre: Fiction

Publishing Date: 1899


In 3 parts, this novel was first published in the serialized manner in Blackwood’s Magazine in 1899, the magazine’s 1000th issue: special edition. In 1902, Heart of Darkness was included in the book Youth: a Narrative, and two Other Stories, published in 1902.

This book is of Charlie Marlow, the protagonist of the story, as a captain of a ferry boat and his recounting of an adventure with a group of onboarded men on an anchored ship. We can say that it is “a story within a story.”

This book visualizes corruption during European colonialism and from the point of view of the one who has been corrupted. It is even considered the most influential work ever written in this regard.

Final Words

These were some of the super awesome and amazing novels, novellas, and books originally published in serial formal but evolved into full-length books over time. As already mentioned, serialization of long texts was a culture or, let’s say, a trend in the olden times.

Even today, we have serialized work. If we go on the internet and look at specific platforms, it isn’t as popular a trend as it was back in the days.

If You liked this recommendation, do check out more below:

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