Where to Start: The 7 Must-Read Sherlock Holmes Stories

Sherlock Statue

Sherlock Holmes statue in London, England/Photo © Shutterstock

“Elementary,” “Sherlock,” “House,” “Sherlock Holmes”: These are just some of the more obvious adaptations of the great series of work by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle made in recent years. If you are a fan of any one of these, or if you are simply looking to dive into classic literature that has shaped detective-storytelling for decades, here is a cheat sheet for the must-read stories from Doyle’s fantastic collection of works.

1. A Study in Scarlet

A Study in Scarlet
If you want to acquaint yourself with Sherlock Holmes and his partner-in-crime-solving, Dr. John Watson, you should really start at the beginning. Doyle’s characters are still taking shape in this first tale, but it’s truly essential to set up the rest of the stories. In it, we learn how the pair came to meet and work together, and are introduced to Sherlock’s idiosyncratic and ingenious ways.

2. The Sign of Four

The Sign of Four
Also a good place to start, “The Sign of Four” explains how Watson came to be married: a key point in the relationship between the two men. Watson as the domesticated man is a stark contrast to Holmes’s independent and disconnected nature, and is often depicted in – and at the core of – various adaptations of Doyle’s work.

3. The Adventures and Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes

A Scandal in Bohemia
The first story in the collection The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, this may not be Doyle’s longest tale, but it has left quite a lasting impression as the only piece to reference “The Woman” Irene Adler. Doyle’s stories frequently refer to “women’s intuition” and many of his female characters are perceived as quite clever (if not, perhaps, untrustworthy), but only Adler has gone on to be repeatedly portrayed in television and films as one of the people held highest in Holmes’s esteem. For anyone interested in the character’s origins, “A Scandal in Bohemia” is essential.

Other stories from The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes worth noting are: The Boscombe Valley Mystery, The Man With the Twisted Lip, The Speckled Band, and The Copper Beeches.

4. The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes

The Final Problem
Brought to the reader in the final story of the collection The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, James Moriarty is considered to be the arch-nemesis of detective hero Sherlock Holmes. He is described by Holmes as the “Napoleon of crime” and the only man to match him in wit. Simply put, no list of Holmes must-reads would be complete without the tight but significant story of their battle at the falls of Reichenbach.

Other stories from The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes to consider adding to your list are The Gloria Scott, The Greek Interpreter, and The Naval Treaty.

5. The Hound of the Baskervilles, A Study in Scarlet, The Sign of Four

The Hound of the Baskervilles
Written after The Final Problem but set before, The Hound of the Baskervilles is probably Doyle’s most famous Holmes adventure and therefore should not be missed. Rather than a short, Hound is a longer novel like A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of Four and an enjoyable romp of a mystery that stands alone better than any other Holmes work.

6. The Return of Sherlock Holmes

The Empty House
For reasons that shall not be spoiled for newbies, Watson goes several years without documenting Holmes’s cases. The two are finally reunited in this first story of the collection The Return of Sherlock Holmes. You will be delighted by Watson’s joyful reaction to his friend’s reappearance, and this short will lead you directly into a new series of adventures for the pair including The Dancing Men and The Three Students.

7. The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes

The Three Garridebs
In the final collection of short Holmes stories, The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes, lies a small narrative called The Three Garridebs. The case itself is not necessarily the most fascinating of Doyle’s work, but it is in this particular story, when Watson is suddenly injured, that Sherlock’s true affection for his only friend is revealed. It is a lovely note on which to end such a wonderful anthology of works, as it is really where the stories began: a surprising, and perfect, friendship. And that is why the small tale should find its way to your must-reads.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

There are a great deal more Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson stories beyond what we’ve featured on this list, and all are worth exploring. These choice titles, however, should not be skipped and will offer the perfect introduction to Doyle’s sharp and highly revered world. If you’re a smart reader looking for something classic but fun, the decision to start these delightful tales should be rather, well, elementary.

Advertisements

14 Favorite Book Sidekicks to Celebrate on Dr. Watson’s Birthday

Goodreads Blog: Posted by Hayley Igarashi on July 07, 2017

BudsToday is the birthday of one of literature’s most beloved and long-suffering sidekicks, Dr. John Watson. A war veteran as well as an accomplished writer and detective, Watson gives Sherlock Holmes much-needed backup and friendship, all while enduring less-than-complimentary observations about his character. “You have a grand gift for silence, Watson,” Sherlock says at one point. “It makes you quite invaluable as a companion.”

To celebrate the good doctor’s birthday, [goodreads.com] asked you on Facebook and Twitter to share your favorite book sidekicks. Check out some of the most popular answers below and add your own in the comments!

Sherlock1. Dr. John Watson
Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes books and stories

Sherlock’s friend, roommate, biographer, crime-solving partner and on-hand physician

 

Harry Potter2. Ron and Hermione
J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books

Harry’s fellow Gryffindors, friends, partners in managing mischief, frequent rescuers (especially Hermione) and family

Click here for the rest of the list…

Author Birthdays

Alexander Pope (b. May 21, 1688, London, UK; d. May 30, 1744, Twickenham, UK)

Pope“To err is human; to forgive, divine.” Find more quotes here.

What you should read: An Essay on Man

For more information on Alexander Pope, click here.

 

Arthur Conan Doyle (b. May 22, 1859, Edinburgh, UK; d. July 7, 1930, Crowborough, UK)

Doyle“When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” Find more quotes here.

What you should read: A Study in Scarlet… or anything with Sherlock Holmes

For more information on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, click here.

 

Mitch Albom (b. May 23, 1958, Passaic, NJ)

Albom“If you’re always battling against getting older, you’re always going to be unhappy, because it’s going to happen anyhow.” Find more quotes here.

What you should read: Tuesdays with Morrie

For more information on Mitch Albom, click here.

 

Ralph Waldo Emerson (b. May 25, 1803, Boston, MA; d. April 27, 1882, Concord, MA)

Emerson“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” Find more quotes here.

What you should read: Nature

For more information on Ralph Waldo Emerson, click here.

 

Robert Ludlum (b. May 25, 1927, New York, NY; d. March 12, 2001, Naples, FL)

Ludlum“Life is extremely complicated.” Find more quotes here.

What you should read: The Bourne Identity

For more information on Robert Ludlum, click here.

 

Tony Hillerman (b. May 27, 1925, Sacred Heart, OK ; d. October 26, 2008, Albuquerque, NM)

Hillerman“You write for two people, yourself and your audience, who are usually better educated and at least as smart.” Find more quotes here.

What you should read: The Blessing Way

For more information on Tony Hillerman, click here.

 

Harlan Ellison (b. May 27, 1934, Cleveland, OH)

Ellison_H“The two most common elements in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity.” Find more quotes here.

What you should read: I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream

For more information on Harlan Ellison, click here.

On this day in fictional history…

Dinosaurs!Dinosaur

It’s all about the dinosaurs. Indirectly.

It was on this day, (fictitious) August 18, in the early years of the 20th century that the bearded dynamo, Professor Challenger (perhaps the third most famous protagonist created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, behind a certain famous detective and his doctor friend) first discovered The Lost World atop a high plateau in the middle of the Amazon rain forest. And what did he find there? Actually, all manner of ridiculous things, but chief among them – DINOSAURS! Most of them did not want to be friends.

Does this logo make you hear theme music? Because I hear theme music.Coincidentally, (fictitious) August 18 is also the day that the devious Dennis Nedry sabotaged the computer system at the newly-created, island theme park, Jurassic Park (in Jurassic Park the novel, not the movie – August apparently wasn’t Hollywood enough so they changed it to June), leading to the escape of several of the park’s residents – which would happen to be DINOSAURS! Most of them didn’t want to be friends either.

It turns out, dinosaurs, at least the meat-eaters, not terribly nice.

So, avoid any remote islands or isolated rain forest plateaus that might attract or harbor otherwise extinct animals today. There are much easier ways to get your hands on dinosaurs anyway. Like in books. Now, if I only knew where you could go for those