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? I mean, not the ones in your history book, but actual texts. If not, you should. Most, 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 like reading serialized work very much. Not just the ancient ones but even the modern-day novels as well. 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. Others’ works were combined as novels by other literary enthusiasts and publications after their death. Some of such 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-lengthed novels, combining every part or even a bit more. Let’s have a look at them together.
1. Vanity Fair
Full Title: Vanity Fair: Pen and Pencil Sketches of English Society
Author: William Makepeace Thakeray
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
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
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 shown 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
Full Title: Uncle Tom’s Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly
Author: Harriet Beecher Stowe
Publishing Date: 1851
This book was initially published in two volumes and is about, 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.
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
Full Title: The Portrait of a Lady
Author: Henry James
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
Full Title: Treasure Island
Author: Robert Louis Stevenson
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
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
Full Title: The Jungle
Author: Upton Sinclair
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
Full Title: The Woman in White
Author: Wilkie Collins
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.
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, 2 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.
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
Full Title: The Painted Veil
Author: W. Somerset Maugham
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
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
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 ad then into a full-lengthed 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
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
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
Full Title: The Count of Monte Cristo
Author: Alexandre Dumas
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 escapes. 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
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. Thie story of this novel revolves around Margaret Hale.
Upon being left with a church with crises 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
Full Title: Heart of Darkness
Author: Joseph Conrad
Publishing Date: 1899
In three parts, this novella 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. The story told in 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 onboard 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.
Conclusion| 20 Books Which Were Originally Serial Novels
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.
Also, don’t miss out on these: