As a massive book lover, I always try to read at least one book about the destination I’m heading to before my trip. And no… a guidebook doesn’t count.
The chances are high that you’re reading this blog post because you’re a little like me. In other words, you want to read a book or several books about London ahead of your own trip.
Am I right?
Because in this post, I’m going to share 12 books about London, plus a bunch more set in London that I believe (in my most humble opinion) that you must read.
And once you’ve finished with those, I’m also going to suggest 5 charming book shops in London that you should visit to indulge your literary obsession during your trip.
12 Books About London You Must Read
1. Pretty City London: Discovering London’s Beautiful Places
For a beautiful and fresh take on London, you should definitely read Pretty City London: Discovering London’s Beautiful Places.
It showcases lots of off the beaten path places to visit in London, as well as stunning Insta-worthy locations that you’ll likely want to check out during your visit. It even has some tips inside for shooting your own beautiful photos in London and makes for a perfect coffee table book.
2. The London Encyclopedia
Now in its third edition, The London Encyclopedia promises to be the most comprehensive book about London… EVER!
From history, to culture, to sightseeing, to maps and more, if you’re only going to have one London book on your shelf, then this should probably be it.
3. Do Not Pass Go: From the Old Kent Road to Mayfair
Named after the hugely successful Monopoly francise, Do Not Pass Go: From the Old Kent Road to Mayfair creatively discusses the history of London (since the 1930s – aka when Monopoly was invented), as well as the history of the franchise itself in one fun-packed book.
Alongside reading about the history of the UK’s most famous game and London, you can also have a few giggles along the way as you follow the author, Tim Moore, on his hilarious escapades around London.
A must read for London-lovers and Monopoly-lovers.
4. London’s Hidden Walks: Volumes 1-3
In case you’ve visited London before, or if you prefer exploring off the beaten path places, London’s Hidden Walks will be perfect for you.
It’s a pocket-sized three volume series that contains maps and photographs of 12 walks in each book. The books also contain interesting facts and information about the points of interest you’ll see along the way.
If you fancy seeing a different side of London, these books are well worth a read.
5. I Never Knew That About London
Or did you know that the British drive on the left due to archaic jousting rules?
I Never Knew That About London contains lots more useful… (or is it useless?) facts about London. One quick read and you’ll definitely be exclaiming over and over again “I didn’t know that!”
6. Georgian London: Into the Streets
One period of history that has had a lot of influence over the UK and very much how it looks today is the Georgian era.
Georgian London: Into the Streets is a charming read all about this period of history and how Londoners during this time behaved. Worth a read if you’re interested in this particular era!
7. Walk the Lines: The London Underground, Overground
The fact that there are several books about London in this list, which are related to walking tours and guides suggests that statement is probably true.
Walk the Lines: The London Underground, Overground tells the tale of Mark Mason, who decided to follow the entire length of the London Underground – above ground – before sharing what he found along the way, as well as what gossip he overheard.
Promising a deep look into London’s top sights, as well as local London life, this is a charming read.
8. London: A Travel Guide Through Time
London: A Travel Guide Through Time is a highly engaging read and showcases the best of London throughout six interesting periods of history.
In it, you’ll find interesting facts, stories and anecdotes related to London and Londoners throughout the time of the middle ages, Shakespeare, the Great Plague of London, the reign of Queen Victoria, the Blitz and London life during Joseph Merrick’s (aka The Elephant Man’s) life.
9. Londoners: The Days and Nights of London Now – as Told by Those Who Love it, Hate it, Live it, Left it and Long for it
Ignoring the impossibly long title, Londoners (for short) is a fun read.
The author, Craig Taylor, shares anecdotes, stories and private conversations from a full spectrum of London life including young and old, rich and poor, men and women.
It promises to provide plenty of insight into exactly what makes Londoners tick and what they really think about living in London.
10. 84 Charing Cross Road
Spanning two decades of an endearing friendship and passionate love affair, 84 Charing Cross Road is based on the true story of when a woman from New York wrote to the owners of a shop (found at 84 Charing Cross Road in London), which specialised in rare and secondhand books at the time.
The story is told via a series of letters originally sent between the pair (starting in the 1940s), which also give a clue into what London was like back then and how Londoners behaved.
Today, there is a McDonald’s at 84 Charing Cross Road (a little less poetic perhaps), but there is a nod to the original shop, thanks to a plaque on the front of the building, which reads:
84 Charing Cross Road. The booksellers Marks & Co. were on this site which became world renowned through the book by Helene Hanff.
11. Tired of London, Tired of Life: One Thing A Day To Do in London
Packed full of interesting, unique and fun things to do in London throughout each day of the year, Tired of London, Tired of Life is the perfect read for locals and first time visitors alike.
A couple of my favourites include finding Aphrodite in the British Museum on Valentine’s Day and drinking in a bar made entirely of Swedish ice… basically, with this book on your coffee table, you’ll never be short of finding new things to do in the UK’s capital.
12. Literary London
Literary London allows you to follow in the footsteps of Oscar Wilde, Shakespeare, Lord Byron and many more literary greats as you learn how they spent their days in London, where they got their inspiration from, and where you can visit today to get another step closer to each of them.
I think you’ll agree that this is an absolute must for book lovers living in or visiting London!
5 Books Set in London Also Worth a Read
1. The Cormoran Strike Series
Written by J.K. Rowling (under the pseudonym of Robert Galbraith), the Cormoran Strike novels follow the trials and tribulations of London-based Private Investigator, Cormoran Strike.
Throughout the books, he solves multiple crimes in London… but don’t let this put you off from visiting! The books are cleverly written and will keep you guessing as well as turning the page.
2. Wolf Hall
Wolf Hall follows the true story of Thomas Cromwell, the 1st Earl of Essex and Chief Minister to King Henry VIII from 1532 to 1540.
Steeped in intrigue, secrecy, treachery and politics, Wolf Hall, is a great read for those interested in Tudor history and Tudor court life in London.
3. The Bridget Jones Series
Aside from Harry Potter, Bridget Jones’s Diary is possibly one of the UK’s most iconic novels of the 21st Century.
There are four books in the set in total, which follow the trials and tribulations of ditzy Bridget Jones who gets herself into all sorts of trouble… much like Scott and I do when we go travelling!
But given Bridget owns a flat in London and is incredibly British, the books are a fun little read for London book lovers!
4. The Adventures and Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes
The Adventures and Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes are a collection of short stories that follow Holmes and his sidekick, Doctor Watson, as they solve murder mysteries throughout London and beyond.
While we’re on the subject of Sherlock, you should also make it your mission to find the Sherlock Holmes Statue on Marylebone Road, as well as the Sherlock Holmes Museum on Baker Street during your next trip to London.
5. The Shopaholic Series
Despite the movie edition (Confessions of a Shopaholic) being set in New York, the original ‘Shopaholic’ books actually follow the financial disasters of a London local (who also used to live in my hometown of Bristol!)
The books are fun and quick reads, and will definitely make you feel miles better about your own financial situation… with or without the London price tag.
Buy The Secret Dreamworld Of A Shopaholic (Book 1) >>>
Buy Shopaholic Abroad (Book 2) >>>
Buy Shopaholic Ties The Knot (Book 3) >>>
Buy Shopaholic & Sister (Book 4) >>>
Buy Shopaholic & Baby (Book 5) >>>
Buy Mini Shopaholic (Book 6) >>>
Buy Shopaholic to the Stars (Book 7) >>>
Buy Shopaholic to the Rescue (Book 8) >>>
Finished Reading Those? Here Are 5 Charming Bookshops in London You Must Visit
1. Daunt Books, 83 Marylebone High Street
Often touted as one of the most beautiful bookshops in London, the Daunt Books flagship store on Marylebone High Street is housed in what used to be an Edwardian bookshop, complete with skylights, oak wood panelling and huge windows. Their speciality is travel, so this is where you should come in London if you need guidebooks, language books, travel memoirs, maps and more.
2. Heywood Hill, 10 Curzon Street
Specialising in rare books and collectors items, the independent book store, Heywood Hill is a real treat for bibliophiles. If you have some extra cash to flash, they even offer a bespoke service of building your own unique library of books… one day dear friends, one day…
3. Persephone Books, 59 Lamb’s Conduit Street
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Based in Bloomsbury, Persephone Books is an independent publisher and bookshop, which was founded in 1999 by Nicola Beauman. The store’s unique selling point is that it reprints forgotten fiction and non-fiction works by female writers, and redresses each of them in their (now iconic) grey cover.
4. Goldsboro Books, 23-27 Cecil Court
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Specialising in first edition books, collectors items and signed editions, Goldsboro Books has been operating out of their London-based shop for nearly twenty years. One of their largest claims to fame is that they were once the only bookshop in the world to have signed copies of The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (pseudonym of the infamous J.K. Rowling herself).
5. Hatchards, 187 Piccadilly
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Claiming to be the oldest bookshop in the whole of the UK, Hatchards was founded in 1797 by John Hatchard and is now a branch of Waterstones. The shop is still trading today – there’s even a portrait of John Hatchard himself hanging above the stairs!
Well, there you have it: 12 books about London you must read, 5 books set in London also worth a read, and 5 bookshops in London you must visit… don’t say I don’t give you anything! 😉
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