My London trip reading list

I have been to the UK a few times, but mostly up north in the glorious Cheshire and Peak District area in Bollington.  For my first trip I read two books that really helped me, as an American, dive into England.  If you are traveling there for the first time, do read Bryson and grab a Frommers.

The two books that were most interesting, insightful, and entertaining are Kingdom by the Sea by Paul Theroux, and Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson.

This time I am taking a more literary tack, whilst focusing on London itself.  This is my first time to really be IN London.  I have been over, under, through, and around London before, but this time I am here all for London.  A week in Kensington and Albertropolis.

Hound of the Baskervilles – I started reading this a few weeks ago and just finished.  I read it as a kid, but wanted to get the Sherlock vibe as an adult.  Most of the story takes place with Watson out in Devonshire, but we see some of London out of Holmes’ front window and along a Hansom cab ride.

I Never Knew That About London – This book ain’t no Lonely Planet guide.  It is pretty starchy and heavy on Blue Plaque churches.  There is more in the book about where Samuel Pepys’ wife was buried than on the Gherkin building.  I have never said this phrase in my life, and may never again: “I wanted more Gherkin”.

Albion – I just started Peter Ackroyd’s chronological exploration of English imagination and creativity from Beowolf to Bacon to Bronte to Britten.  I will dig up London: The Biography if I get a chance. After all, it is a 13 hour flight each way!

Nigella Kitchen – This is NOT a nook edition; I still get my cookbooks the old fashioned way.  One thing I am super excited about is eating while in the UK is the  Full English Breakfast.  British food gets picked on, but they deserve praise for whatever Nigella Lawson makes, beer, cheese, Michelin starred chefs from France, and Full English.  I am going to be staying in Nigella’s ‘hood the SW3, so maybe I will bump into her.

Jason Dark: Ghost Hunter vol. 1  – a modern book that takes an old school Gothic-horror-mystery romp through foggy Victorian London.  This is not Sherlock Holmes where there is a Scooby Doo normal explanation for everything.  In Jason Dark, the evil is supernatural, and REAL. Here is a sample:

He had no answer for these questions, of course, but various thoughts streamed through his mind. The demon had been headed uptown, he knew that. With his stagecoach he was headed towards either Pall Mall or Haymarket before he had to abandon the carriage. Both streets would have taken him to the West End. –  Demon’s Night – pg 62.

Sparrowhawk Book Two: Hugh Kenrick – I love this series by Ed Cline, and am re-reading this volume for its London locations.  This book is set just before the series makes the leap to the Colonies and sets up the narrative for the American Revolution.

Below are some great books to read before and during your trip to London and and the rest of England.

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