Not that there's any agreement as to which these are. A.N. Wilson had a piece in the Guardian yesterday in which he listed his top ten (two of then being journalism not fiction) and Nicholas Nickleby wasn't among them. The people who commented were all over the shop. Quite a few- influenced perhaps by F.R. Leavis and the fact that it's been a "A" level set text- voted for Hard Times- which I think is the weakest. Chesterton once said that Dickens is like a loaf or a joint or a cake (I forget exactly which) and the individual books are like slices cut from a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. There is no single masterpiece and the one you choose as your favourite says more about you- and your tastes and moods and personality- than it does about Dickens. For what it's worth, Wilson rates a Christmas Carol as number one- and it's certainly as nearly flawless as anything he wrote- but, than again, it's short. My favourite is Little Dorrit- but I know this has a lot to do with the time and place I first read it.
But before I continue with the Dickens marathon I'm slotting in David Mitchell's new novel about the seventies rock band- Utopia Avenue.