If you are travelling to London soon, if you just love London, or are just interested in information and the history of London, there are so many wonderful books out there for you to discover and read. I have collected together a list of my favorite books about London. These books cover all kinds of aspects of London: from complete histories to interviews with the people who live there, and the macabre side of London. These are my top 10 favorite London books that I would highly recommend on London.
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- London: The Biography by Peter Ackroyd
London: The Biography by Peter Ackroyd is number one on my list of books about London. If you have to choose one book only to read about London, it should be this one. Peter Ackroyd is meticulous in his research of the subjects that he covers, and this book is testament to that. This book guides you through the entire history of London, and much of its charm is the little insights and snippets of information that it gives. It is a large book, but the way it is written makes it perfect to be dipped into every now and again. This book is the most comprehensive collection of the history of London that you could possibly read.
2. The Diary of Samuel Pepys by Samuel Pepys
This is number two on my list because it is just a fantastic book and fantastic read. Straight from the pen of Samuel Pepys himself, his diary covered many major events in London’s history that he experienced first hand, including the Plague and the Great Fire of London. Pepys was quite a saucy character and quite a rogue! This is a great account of major historical events in London and the UK, as well as a personal insight into the character of this great man. You will laugh out loud at some of the goings on in his diary!
3. The House by the Thames, and the People who Lived there by Gillian Tindall.
This book is absolutely delightful. Many of you who have visited London may have noticed a house close by the Globe theatre on the South Bank of the Thames. This house along Bankside has been there since the 18th century, with many different owners and tenants. This book traces the history of the house, as well as the area around the house, and the history of London in general. It is a fantastic book that shows how time changes places and people.
4. 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 by Craig Taylor
This one could certainly get the award for the longest book title about London! This book contains 83 interviews with chosen people in London – from all classes and walks of life. Londoners themselves are telling it like it is in this book. It covers interviews with such varied Londoners as a Soldier of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, an illegal immigrant, and a female bouncer as just a taste of what’s inside. It is a great insight into the varied lives of Londoners. Just call this book ‘Londoners!’
5. Necropolis: London and its Dead by Catharine Arnold
This is a slightly macabre book about London, but it is a fascinating one. It is a tour of London’s graveyards, cemeteries and other burial places, all the way back to the Romans. It is full of details about funeral and death traditions and rites, and insights into death and mourning in London throughout history.
6. A Curious Guide to London by Simon Leyland
This book is full of curious, off-beat and interesting facts about London throughout history. If you want to read about the more bizarre and unusual side of London’s history this is the book for you. Here you can read all about the Great Beer Flood, petticoat duels and much much more.
7. London: A History in Maps by Peter Barber
This book is written by the head of the map collection at the British Library. Peter Barber shows the entire history of London, from when it was just fields to the built city it is today. Fascinating for anybody who loves maps and wants to view the entire history of London.
8. Thames: Sacred River by Peter Ackroyd
Here is another book by Peter Ackroyd, who really is one of the best authors writing about London today. The Thames runs through London and is and has been a mightily important river. This book covers the history of the Thames, going back to before London was even a place, and portrays the lives of those living and working around the Thames.
9. Underground London: Travels Beneath the City Streets by Stephen Smith
There is a lot of London and its history underneath the city streets that everyone normally sees. Stephen Smith explores the facts and history beneath London’s streets that you don’t know about, sharing interesting tidbits and stories. This is a fascinating book to dip into.
10. In Search of London by H.V. Morton
This is a little gem of a book which focuses on London just after the Blitz and the Second World War. H.V. Morton was actually reporting on London in its post-war state, with the rubble of the buildings strewn all around him. He also focuses on the history of London, as well as its present state in the aftermath of immediate history. It is a great little book to read to give you a real sense of London, and especially what its inhabitants went through during the war.
If you have a great book about London that you would like to recommend to me please let me know!