According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Agatha Christie holds the record for the best-selling fiction author of all time. Her books (78 novels) have been published in 44 different languages and have sold over 2 billion copies worldwide. But where do you begin if you want to start reading Agatha Christie?
Dame Agatha Christie was born in 1890 in Torquay, England. She wrote her first poem in 1901, and 15 years later, she released her first novel, The Mysterious Affair At Styles, which featured the now infamous detective, Hercule Poirot. According to this article, she was a part-time archaeologist, an expert on poisons, and only second in popularity to Shakespeare.
Now, just over 100 years since her first book was published, it can seem intimidating to start reading her vast catalogue of books. Where do you start? How do you read them – in order of publication, by series? What should you avoid? I’m here to help you out.
Now, I’m no expert on Agatha Christie’s books. I only started reading her stories in 2017, but I’ve enjoyed my journey immensely. Even now, I always wonder where I should go next with her books, but first, let me take you back to the start.
Reading Agatha Christie: 5 Exciting and Essential Reads
Murder on the Orient Express
This is the first book by Agatha Christie that I read, and it gripped me to the end! It’s very readable, with the layout of the book in 3 sections:
Part I: The Facts
Part II: The Evidence
Part III: Hercule Poirot Sits Back and Thinks
Because of this layout, it’s an excellent introduction to how Christie’s books work, especially with the Poirot series. Although this book is the ninth in the Hercule Poirot series, reading it first doesn’t detract from the earlier books.
Perfect to read on a snowy night, this story takes place on a train, the famous Orient Express, during its 3-day journey. The path is eventually blocked as the snow comes down harder, and the train stops. It’s anything but relaxing as the passengers are stuck in a snowstorm, and someone has been murdered.
And Then There Were None
The best thing about Agatha Christie’s books is that they don’t all belong to the same series. It’s easy to think that Christie’s only detective is Poirot and that he occurs in every book, but she has some wonderful standalone reads that are perfect when you don’t want to read a series.
And Then There Were None is one of those mysteries where you will not guess who the culprit is until you’re told at the very end. And in the meantime, the murders keep happening.
This story takes place in an isolated mansion. Ten people are invited to the mansion, and they are cut off from all civilization while they’re there. There’s a storm and a killer on the loose – will you be able to figure out who it is?
The Murder at The Vicarage
These days, when you think of a cozy mystery, you might picture an unlikely heroine who lives in a small town, maybe owns a few cats, who witnesses or hears of a murder and wants to be the one to solve it.
In a nutshell – minus the cats – you have Miss Marple.
This is the first book in the Miss Marple series. It takes place in a small village where nothing ever happens until the day Colonel Protheroe, the churchwarden, is found murdered. The village’s old maid, Miss Marple, is sure that she knows a handful of people who had reason to commit the crime.
This story is so cozy and very different from the Poirot mysteries.
The Mysterious Affair At Styles
Of course, to read Agatha Christie, you eventually have to go back to the beginning and read her first published work, The Mysterious Affair At Styles. This is where we first meet Poirot as he investigates a murder at the lavish estate of Styles Court. The suspects are plenty, the police are clueless, and only Poirot can solve this case.
If you’re like me, you might have started with a book other than the first in the Poirot series (which works so long as it’s not the last book in the series – not advisable). But even if you’ve met Poirot before, it’s fun to see how the world met him for the first time as a quirky Belgian detective who has come to settle down.
An essential read for all Agatha Christie fans, The Mysterious Affair At Styles is the first book to show the unique Agatha Christie style — and is an example of how she was always very clever with her detective and mystery books.
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
The last recommendation on my list is one of the most loved books by Agatha Christie. In The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, the widow Farrars is murdered and then the man she planned to marry, Roger Ackroyd, is murdered soon after. This book is full of twists and turns and is probably one of Christie’s best-known works.
This is the third book in the Poirot series, and if you’ve read a few of Poirot’s works by now, you’ll love his quirkiness and silliness. He’s trying to grow vegetable marrows at the beginning of this story and startles a neighbour as he’s throwing them over the fence. It really is another book to cement the love her readers have for the little Belgian detective.
This book is a masterpiece and is so wonderfully executed that it’s easy to see why it’s so well known.
I hope this list of books helps you start your Agatha Christie reading journey. I will admit that once you start reading her novels, you can’t stop. Her writing is impeccable and unique, and even though she does have a few books that aren’t up to par, her catalogue is vast and well worth an exploration.
For more Agatha Christie content, visit my Agatha Christie Reading Challenge.
Do you read Agatha Christie’s novels? I’d love to hear your recommendations below!