10 Great Books About London

Just like New York and Paris, London is yet another major city that has captured writers’ imaginations for centuries. Here are 10 great books set in the heart of England.

1. London: A Biography by Peter Ackroyd.

Want to learn about the history of London? Pick up Peter Ackryod’s London: A Biography. The 900-page tome details the city’s history from its Roman origins to present day, but does so in an engaging, narrative way – you can’t go wrong!

2. Absolute Beginners by Colin MacInnes.

Set in 1958 Notting Hill, Colin MacInnes’ Absolute Beginners profiles the beginning of British youth culture. Follow along as the protagonist, a teenage photographer, records his run-ins with the people on the fringe of society and with sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.

3. Londoners by Craig Taylor.

The most famous books set in London tend to deal with the Victorian age, so check out Craig Taylor’s Londoners for a modern take. The esteemed journalist interviewed 80 Londoners for a look at the city from its most interesting natives, like a Buckingham Palace guard.

4. White Teeth by Zadie Smith.

Zadie Smith’s debut awed the literary world when it was first published. White Teeth chronicles two families in a London suburb over 40 years, touching on weighty issues of race and class.

5. Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding

Perhaps it’s the famous London fog that makes so many novels set in the city depressing…but there are some comedic gems set in London, too! Nowhere is that more evident in Helen Fielding’s chick-lit classic, Bridget Jones’ Diary. The epistolary novel chronicles a year in the life of Bridget Jones as she obsesses over career, family and her love life.

6. Bleak House by Charles Dickens.

Chances are, you didn’t actually read anything by Charles Dickens in high school – but there’s a reason his novels are considered classic. Thought to be Dickens’ best work, Bleak House is a sprawling tale of London’s underworld that has at its center the long-running litigation case of Jarndyce v. Jarndyce.

7. Saturday by Ian McEwan.

Like Mrs. Dalloway, another London classic, Ian McEwan’s Saturday takes place over the course of just one day. Ostensibly, it’s about how a neurosurgeon deals with an unexpected encounter — but really it’s about the neurosurgeon’s struggle to understand himself in a post-9/11 world. Be prepared for a lot of thought, but not a ton of action.

8. Tunnel Vision by Keith Lowe.

The night before his wedding, Andy bets that he can visit every Tube station in a day – and if he loses the bet, he won’t be able to get to his wedding. Keith Lowe’s Tunnel Vision has a wacky premise to be sure, but it’s a fascinating look at a part of London most armchair tourists don’t really get to see.

9. Brick Lane by Monica Ali.

You can’t understand modern London without understanding the immigrant experience. That’s why we recommend Brick Lane. Set in the heart of London’s Bangladeshi community, Monica Ali’s novel focuses on Nazneen, a Bangladeshi woman who moves to London to marry a man 20 years her senior. Nazneen is fascinated by the new world she’s been thrust into, including a young man with whom she begins an affair.

10. A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Mysteries set in London are a dime a dozen — but you can’t go wrong with Sherlock Holmes, the greatest detective of all time. Check out A Study in Scarlet, when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle first introduced Holmes (and Watson!) to the world.

Liked this? Check out 10 Great Books About Paris!

Written by Sasha Graffagna

Just like New York and Paris, London is yet another major city that has captured writers’ imaginations for centuries. Here are 10 great books set in the heart of England.

1. London: A Biography by Peter Ackroyd.

Want to learn about the history of London? Pick up Peter Ackryod’s London: A Biography. The 900-page tome details the city’s history from its Roman origins to present day, but does so in an engaging, narrative way – you can’t go wrong!

2. Absolute Beginners by Colin MacInnes.

Set in 1958 Notting Hill, Colin MacInnes’ Absolute Beginners profiles the beginning of British youth culture. Follow along as the protagonist, a teenage photographer, records his run-ins with the people on the fringe of society and with sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.

3. Londoners by Craig Taylor.

The most famous books set in London tend to deal with the Victorian age, so check out Craig Taylor’s Londoners for a modern take. The esteemed journalist interviewed 80 Londoners for a look at the city from its most interesting natives, like a Buckingham Palace guard.

4. White Teeth by Zadie Smith.

Zadie Smith’s debut awed the literary world when it was first published. White Teeth chronicles two families in a London suburb over 40 years, touching on weighty issues of race and class.

5. Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding

Perhaps it’s the famous London fog that makes so many novels set in the city depressing…but there are some comedic gems set in London, too! Nowhere is that more evident in Helen Fielding’s chick-lit classic, Bridget Jones’ Diary. The epistolary novel chronicles a year in the life of Bridget Jones as she obsesses over career, family and her love life.

6. Bleak House by Charles Dickens.

Chances are, you didn’t actually read anything by Charles Dickens in high school – but there’s a reason his novels are considered classic. Thought to be Dickens’ best work, Bleak House is a sprawling tale of London’s underworld that has at its center the long-running litigation case of Jarndyce v. Jarndyce.

7. Saturday by Ian McEwan.

Like Mrs. Dalloway, another London classic, Ian McEwan’s Saturday takes place over the course of just one day. Ostensibly, it’s about how a neurosurgeon deals with an unexpected encounter — but really it’s about the neurosurgeon’s struggle to understand himself in a post-9/11 world. Be prepared for a lot of thought, but not a ton of action.

8. Tunnel Vision by Keith Lowe.

The night before his wedding, Andy bets that he can visit every Tube station in a day – and if he loses the bet, he won’t be able to get to his wedding. Keith Lowe’s Tunnel Vision has a wacky premise to be sure, but it’s a fascinating look at a part of London most armchair tourists don’t really get to see.

9. Brick Lane by Monica Ali.

You can’t understand modern London without understanding the immigrant experience. That’s why we recommend Brick Lane. Set in the heart of London’s Bangladeshi community, Monica Ali’s novel focuses on Nazneen, a Bangladeshi woman who moves to London to marry a man 20 years her senior. Nazneen is fascinated by the new world she’s been thrust into, including a young man with whom she begins an affair.

10. A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Mysteries set in London are a dime a dozen — but you can’t go wrong with Sherlock Holmes, the greatest detective of all time. Check out A Study in Scarlet, when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle first introduced Holmes (and Watson!) to the world.

Liked this? Check out 10 Great Books About Paris!

Written by Sasha Graffagna

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