This weekend is the anniversary of Charles Dickens's birth in 1812. Here are ten books by the finest of his Victorian contemporaries.

The Egoist, by George Meredith

Now sadly neglected, Meredith was renowned for his strong plotting and amusing dialogue. This tragicomic novel portrays the plight of the self-absorbed Sir Willoughby Patterne, and his confusion when he is rejected as a suitor by not one woman but two.

Vanity Fair, by William Thackeray

Teeming with character, this is the story of Becky Sharp, a spikey, young woman who lives up to her name as she rises through the ranks in the Napoleonic age with little regard for anything but her own advancement. This society satire remains one of the best-loved English novels.

The Woman in White, by Wilkie Collins

One of the earliest detective novels, it begins with a meeting between a young man and a woman dressed in white who he later learns has escaped an asylum. Still as spine-chilling as in Old Vic's day.

New Grub Street, by George Gissing

Two aspiring writers compete to make their names in the London world of letters, and in so doing treat the women in their lives appallingly. Dismal, cynical, realistic and enjoyable.

The Trumpet Major, by Thomas Hardy

Set early in the Napoleonic Wars, Hardy's tale of a young man's unquenchable love for a woman who has eyes only for another subtly captures the feel of Regency England and the effect war had upon it. As always, the countryside plays as big a role as people do.

Shirley, by Charlotte Bronte

The romantic plot is gothic and mawkish in the extreme, but the writing lifts this tale of a hard-pressed mill owner who cannot marry for love from the banal to something deeply atmospheric and memorable. Its popularity led to Shirley becoming a girl's and not a boy's name.

Dracula, by Bram Stoker

Composed from a series of letters, ship's logs, telegrams and diary entries, this sinister story of vampires is the grandfather of the horror genre. Stoker researched European folk tales for added authenticity, if there is such a thing in the world of the supernatural.

Cranford, by Elizabeth Gaskell

Written as a serial for the magazine Household Words, which Dickens edited, this is one of Gaskell's best-known works, a collection of vignettes of small town life as experienced by a cast of doughty women.

Middlemarch, by George Eliot

Described by Virginia Woolf as "one of the few English novels written for grown-up people", it is the story of idealistic Dorothea Brooke and her marriage to the aged, dry and hypochondriacal Edward Casaubon, who very soon ceases to thrill her. A brilliant evocation of parochial English life, and of the miseries and dilemmas in a mismatch which can never be acknowledged.

Dr Thorne, by Anthony Trollope

After The Warden this is one of Trollope's best-loved novels. Part of the Barchester series, it has two heroes - the Dr Thorne of the title, and young Frank Gresham, heir to a dwindling fortune frittered by his father. He loves Dr Thorne's penniless niece, but everyone knows he cannot marry except for money.