Books of London Calling…

This week will mainly see me in London, both for work and for pleasure, which I am really, really looking forward to. I have to admit that when I left, after living there for over twelve years, back in 2010 I had fallen completely out of love with the city and never wanted to go back. The few short visits I have had in the interim haven’t thawed me I have a feeling this one will as it’s a longer trip and I have filled it with friends, much book based shenanigans and much more.

As some of you may well be aware, I like to read about the places I am in and so I have been pondering which London books I should pack, or pop on my devil’s device if I decide to take that with me, for my venture – though I have a feeling I will be gaining books as I go on this trip. After my odd London phobia for the last few years I have tried to read as little set there as possible and now I feel like I should have a couple of options to read whilst there, which ones would you recommend?

I was planning on binging on the new Underground Lines series that Penguin have published as the London Tube turns 150 years old this year (can you believe it is that old?) and read six of them as I know I will be using those six tubes on the trip. However I simply didn’t have the time though I might pop one or two in my back to read on the way, but don’t they look beautiful?

Tube Tales

I was going to schedule loads of posts to go up while I was away, then I was going to give the blog a holiday however now I have decided I am going to do something else… Random live blog posts of my adventures as I go along. Fret not these won’t be endless and won’t simply be a picture of the train with ‘I am on the train’ underneath, they will be choice posts on and off over the next few days as I catch up with friends (some who are authors you may know), publishers and publicists, bloggers, bookshops I spot (and probably fall into) and literary landmarks I spot whilst out and about plus some of my favourite old haunts. Sound like a plan? It will be like a mini break in London with me, sort of.

I hope you enjoy them. I have decided to call them ‘London Calling’. In the meantime before they start… What books set in London would you recommend I try and read (if I have time), could you name a literary ones and crime based ones?



Filed under London Calling, Random Savidgeness

19 responses to “Books of London Calling…

  1. I recently read Capital – I read it on paper, my other half read it on audio book, our friend Linda read it on Kindle, and we all reviewed it together – highly recommended.

  2. Sarah C

    I recently read Martin Amis’ London Fields and loved it and its depiction of a dark and strange almost-apocalyptic London – one both familiar and strange at the same time.

  3. gaskella

    Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch – hilarious and exciting magical crime in the City – gives a different view of Covent Garden and Bloomsbury.

  4. Agree, Rivers of London is great fun. Also, what about The Night Watch by Sara Waters for Blitz London? And don’t forget Mrs Dalloway.

  5. Have a great trip, Simon! I’m pretty sure anything I would recommend you’ve already read, except maybe Oliver Twist. 🙂

    I look forward to seeing everyone’s recommendations.

  6. Kats

    Hi Simon,
    You’re bound to have a wonderful trip, wish I could come, too! I left London as you arrived there (almost – I moved to Zurich in 1999), and I still feel homesick even looking at a tube map!
    My favourite London based novel last year was “The heart broke in” by James Meek. Even though it was nominated for the Costa Prize, I find that it has had surprisingly little buzz, and the average rating on GoodReads is terrible, but trust me on this one, a solid 4 star read! k:-) Knowing you (or thinking that I do, having you in my ear so much!) I am sure you’ll enjoy this family saga. Especially given how much love you felt for Maggie O’s Heatwave.
    Now please excuse me whilst I work out how I can get these gorgeous Penguin celebratory tube editions into my house without breaking the self-imposed book buying ban….

  7. JanetD

    Try 64 Caring Cross Road. I love this book and it can be read quickly if needed.

  8. I love the tube, I really like the look of those books. I just read a book about the history of the tube, called Underground Overground. I also recommend Peter Ackroyd’s London Under, all about the things underneath London.

  9. Janet D

    I meant 84 of course.Sorry

  10. Girls of Slender Means
    Balad of Peckham Rye (almost in London hehe)
    Down & Out in Paris & London
    The Buddha of Suburbia
    Tropic of Ruislip
    At Bertram’s Hotel
    Jennie (Paul Gallico)

    etc, etc

  11. Just finished packing for my own trip – my London book stack consists of 2 Tubelines (District and Piccadilly), a book about a pub Shakespeare’s Local, Lanchester’s Capital and Stav Sherez’s A Dark Redemption. Also a book set in Edinburgh for the trip home.

  12. tarynnicole

    Hi Simon, I read a book years ago called Bleeding London by Geoff Nicholson. It is three interwoven stories, one about someone who is marking off streets in the A-Z and once he was walked down every street in London is planning on killing himself, there is a gangster (?) who comes to London to seek revenge on the people who raped his girlfriend and there is a bookseller who is trying to have sex outdoors in as many places as possible. It is very dark, quite violent but also very funny. It also delved into London’s history and forelore. It may be out of print but you might be able to pick it up second hand – it’s well worth a read and a highly original look a the city.

  13. EllenB

    For mysteries, you might enjoy Deborah Crombie’s series. Most of them take place in London and a charming feature is that in each book the endpapers are hand drawn maps of the locations that are featured in the particular book. I recommend starting with the first in the series as there is a lot of character development that moves forward through the series. Have a great trip!

  14. Its the history of the city that always holds the fascination for me so my choice reflects that. How about Edward Rutherfurd’s London – a bit sprawling I know but does a good job of tracing the city..’s history. Pepys diaries wd be an option too. Or Peter Ackroyd’s Hawksmoor

  15. Rosemary

    Some of Barbara Pym’s novels feature 1950s London – Excellent Women is set in Pimlico just after the war (Mildred attends a Lenten service in a church that is still half devastated by bombing, and sees a woman sitting amongst the debris, making coffee on a primus stove), and in Jane & Prudence, Pru, the glamorous friend of country vicar’s wife Jane, lives in a bijou London flat where she entertains her lovers. In No Fond Return of Love, Dulcie lives in a respectable London suburb, but her niece decides to move into a boarding house in a leafy London square, where Aylwin – who has a smart London house and is old enough to be her father – tries to woo her. Dulcie’s friend Viola (who would like to be wooed by Aylwin) lives in a depressing bedsit.

    I’d also recommend Joan Wyndham’s Love Letters – set in bohemian Chelsea in the 1930s – 40s – and the L-Shaped Room, Lynn Reid Banks’ wonderful novel about an ‘unmarried mother’ living in a boarding house in a seedy part of London after she’s been thrown out by her father.

    Great suggestions in all these comments!

  16. kirstenhwhyte

    Terribly sorry to bother you, but I thought you should know that I have nominated you for The Sunshine Award…nd-nominations/

  17. have fun ,all the best stu

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