In What Order Should I Read George MacDonald’s Books? (Part I: Novels)

“What order should I read George MacDonald’s books in?” is one of the most frequently asked questions in regard to the Scotsman’s writings. Here is our answer to this important question!

Reading MacDonald’s books in order is a simple affair, if it is only approached in the right manner; but if (as often happens) no account is taken of the differing types of books available, any advice is liable to cause confusion. The most “user friendly” method is to distinguish between fantasy and realism, Scottish novels and English, children’s stories and stories written for adults, and so on, for this will make things easiest in the long run. I have laid out such a scheme below for MacDonald’s novels, continuing with the fantasies and other works in a second blog.

SCOTTISH NOVELS: 

MacDonald wrote twelve full-length Scottish novels, with only two having sequels: his most popular novel Sir Gibbie is followed by his longest novel Donal Grant; and another beloved work, Malcolm, sets up its successor, The Marquis of Lossie. The other eight novels can be approached in any order, with no loss to the reader. It would be prudent however, for those daunted by the broad  “Doric” Scots dialogue, to begin either with What’s Mine’s Mine (the only one of the twelve to contain NO Scots speech), or with any of our unabridged and translated works: Robert Falconer, Castle Warlock, Sir Gibbie/Donal Grant, Malcolm/The Marquis of Lossie, Salted With Fire. Alec Forbes of Howglen is due for translation in 2024, with David Elginbrod, Heather and Snow, and The Elect Lady all to follow.

Here, for the sake of reference, are the twelve Scottish novels in publication order:

  • David Elginbrod (1863)
  • Alec Forbes of Howglen (1865)
  • Robert Falconer (1868)
  • Malcolm (1875)
  • The Marquis of Lossie (1877)
  • Sir Gibbie (1879)
  • Castle Warlock (1881)
  • Donal Grant (1883)
  • What’s Mine’s Mine (1886)
  • The Elect Lady (1888)
  • Heather and Snow (1893)
  • Salted With Fire (1897)

 

Wee Sir Gibbie
Illustration for Sir Gibbie, MacDonald’s most popular novel (artist: Carrie Stout)

ENGLISH NOVELS:

MacDonald wrote fourteen English novels, with two trilogies included. Annals of a Quiet Neighbourhood is the first book of the “Marshmallows” trilogy (the sequels being The Seaboard Parish and The Vicar’s Daughter.) Thomas Wingfold, Curate marks the beginning of the Wingfold trilogy (with Paul Faber, Surgeon and There and Back completing the set.) These two trilogies ought to be read in order, but the rest of the English novels have no obvious sequence, giving the reader free rein where they are concerned. It is worth noting that, since only the Scottish novels include the difficult Scots tongue, our primary focus at The Room to Roam has been our unabridged translations of these books set in MacDonald’s homeland. By contrast, we have so far published only one of the English novels—Thomas Wingfold, Curate—but more are planned for 2024, including the rest of the Wingfold trilogy, and Annals of a Quiet Neighbourhood.

The publication order for MacDonald’s English novels is as follows:

  • Adela Cathcart (1864)
  • Annals of a Quiet Neighbourhood (1867)
  • Guild Court (1868)
  • The Seaboard Parish (1869)
  • Wilfrid Cumbermede (1871)
  • The Vicar’s Daughter (1871)
  • St. George and St. Michael (1876)
  • Thomas Wingfold Curate (1876)
  • Paul Faber, Surgeon (1879)
  • Mary Marston (1881)
  • Weighed and Wanting (1882)
  • Home Again (1887)
  • There and Back (1891)
  • The Flight of the Shadow (1891)

Continue here for Part II – our reading order for MacDonald’s Fantasy works and more…

David Jack
David Jack

David Jack is a Scotsman who is translating all of MacDonald's Scottish novels into English, with the original Scots dialogue side-by-side. His goal is to make these novels accessible to readers who are not familiar with the Scots language.

In What Order Should I Read George MacDonald’s Books? (Part II: Fantasy &c.)
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