CultureLearnTravel

There is no shortage of great literature about England, or by English writers. Whether it’s about the English and their manners, a foreigner moving to London, a little red-headed school girl taking a class trip, or a day in the life of a woman planning a party, stories set in the country you’re visiting will provide you with a new perspective and add another layer of excitement into your planning or actual trip.

If you’re headed to England, spend some time reading these books before your travels. Reading about a country you will soon explore will make your adventures rich with knowledge and more fulfilling. There’s nothing like learning as much as you can before a trip to get the most out of it and to see the stories you read about come to life.

1. LONDON: A BIOGRAPHY by Peter Ackroyd

Get to know London through its history, people, and observations. Two thousand years worth of history and folklore are in this biography of the capital of England – read it to get a good sense of the culture and events that shaped this city.

2. A LITTLE PRINCESS by Francis Hodgson Burnett
You might know this story better as the movie version, which we grew up watching too many times to count. In this 1905 children’s novel, wealthy Sara Crewe tries to make friends at boarding school in London. However, when her father, Captain Crewe dies, the headmistress of the school strips Sara of her nice things, and she is transformed from a princess to a pauper.

3. SORRY!: THE ENGLISH AND THEIR MANNERS by Henry Hitchings
What does it mean to have proper manners? Henry Hitchings examines English manners and investigates what it means to be English. We love books that help us better understand different cultures, mannerisms, and provide a unique anthropological view of how others live.

4. WHITE TEETH by Zadie Smith
Zadie Smith’s debut novel is the story of two friends and veterans from World War II – Archie Jones and Samad Iqbal – in their later years. Set in North London, Smith tackles a beautiful story of friendship, life, race, history, and culture.

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5. THE GREAT STINK by Clare Clark
In 1855, engineer William May returns to Victorian London to transform the city’s sewer system. When a murder occurs in the tunnels, William is considered a suspect. Clark creatively combines fact and fiction to produce a gripping story.

6. BLEAK HOUSE by Charles Dickens
Dickens tackles the injustices of the British legal system in this classic novel. Known as one of Dickens’ most ambitious novel, he takes readers from the British aristocracy to the poorest of the London slums.

7. LONDONERS by Craig Taylor
Journalist Craig Taylor shines a unique perspective on London through the eyes of those who live there. From a rickshaw driver in the West End to a Soldier of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, London is loved and hated. The memories and stories from those who have been a part of its history are included in this book.

8. MRS. DALLOWAY by Virginia Woolf
Virginia Woolf’s extraordinary talent is captured in this novel through her examination of a day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway as she prepares for a party in London in June 1923.

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9. A CONCISE CHINESE-ENGLISH DICTIONARY FOR LOVERS by Xiaolu Guo
An inventive novel of language and love, Guo explorse a young Chinese woman’s journey to London to learn English. When she meets an Englishman and falls in love, she learns more about herself and language than ever before.

10. THE BALLAD OF PECKHAM RYE by Muriel Spark
In this story, Dougal Douglas, a Scottish migrant, moves to Peckham in London and wreaks havoc on the town and those who live there. This 1960 short novel is known to have a fresh comic style and interesting supernatural elements.

11. BRICK LANE by Monica Ali
After an arranged marriage, Nazneen is taken to London and has to leave her Bangladeshi village behind. Readers are taken along for the adventures of Nazneen’s new life.

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12. THE NIGHT WATCH by Sarah Waters
In this story of four Londoners, three women and a young man’s lives intertwine and then change in the shadow of a grant event. We are all for literary suspense.

13. SECOND-CLASS CITIZEN by Buchi Emecheta
In this classic tale of a Nigerian woman, Adah, who brings her family to London, themes about immigration, identity, and racism emerge. Though Adah seeks an independent life for herself and her children, she is faced with the hard truths of being a new citizen.

14. MADELINE IN LONDON by Ludwig Bemelmans
The beloved Madeline makes her way to London with her class and Miss Clavel to visit Pepito, who has just moved there.

15. PRIDE AND PREJUDICE by Jane Austen
First published in 1813, this beautiful novel is one for the ages. The story follows Elizabeth Bennet as she deals with issues of manners, upbringing, morality, education, and marriage in the society of the landed gentry of the British Regency. You can never go wrong with Jane Austen.

What books about London have you read or are interested in reading?

P.S. 11 books to read before traveling to Ireland.

CultureLearn

If Ireland is on your list of places to go, take some time to read this combination of Irish authors, history, memoirs, and fictional tales before your travels. Reading about a country you will soon explore will make your adventures rich with knowledge and more fulfilling. Whether you’re reading a book by an Irish author or learning about how the Irish used to live in the 1900’s, there’s nothing like learning as much as you can before a trip to get the most out of it and see those stories come to life.

ireland 1ULYSSES BY JAMES JOYCE

Ulysses is considered to be one of the most important works of Modernist literature. In this classic novel by Irish writer, James Joyce, the encounters of Leopold Bloom in Dublin on June 16, 1904, are chronicled. Though lengthy, this book is a must-read.

 

ireland 2HOW THE IRISH SAVED CIVILIZATION BY THOMAS CAHILL

If you’re a history buff, this untold story of Ireland’s role in maintaining Western Culture and how Ireland helped Europe transition and evolve from the classical age of Rome to the medieval era will be right up your alley.

 

ireland 3A SECRET MAP OF IRELAND BY ROSITA BOLAND

Rosita Boland takes readers on a tour through Ireland’s 32 counties and shares her extraordinary (and very unusual) travels.

 

ireland 4TO SCHOOL THROUGH THE FIELDS BY ALICE TAYLOR

A charming memoir by Alice Taylor who shares her Irish childhood and the memories that accompany it.

 

ireland 5LET THE GREAT WORLD SPIN BY COLUM McCANN

Though this novel takes place in New York City in the 1970’s, Irish author Colum McCann’s writing is worth getting to know before making your way to his homeland.

 

ireland 6THE BACK OF BEYOND: A SEARCH FOR THE SOUL OF IRELAND BY JAMES CHARLES ROY

A noted authority on Irish travel and history, James Charles Roy guides readers (and in the book, a group of Americans), through the backwaters of ancient Ireland.

 

 

ireland 7GULLIVER’S TRAVELS BY JONATHAN SWIFT

A classic of English literature, this novel by Irish writer Jonathan Swift is a satire on human nature and a parody of the traveler’s tales sub-genre. For a literary adventure, pick this book up before your real-life adventures.

 

ireland 8DUBLINERS BY JAMES JOYCE

In Joyce’s collection of short stories, he describes with great detail his observations of the life of Dublin’s poorer classes. As Joyce brings Dublin to life, there’s no way you won’t be immersed in lives of Dubliners in the 1900’s.

 

ireland 9A SHORT HISTORY OF IRELAND BY RICHARD KILLEEN

For a quick read about Irish history. A good starting point and overview before your travels.

 

 

ireland 10THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY BY OSCAR WILDE

Irish writer Oscar Wilde wrote this philosophical novel in 1890, and it’s worth reading before traveling to this author’s homeland.

 

ireland 12THE MODERNISATION OF IRISH SOCIETY: 1848 – 1918 BY JOSEPH LEE

For history and political fans, read about how Ireland became one of the most modern and advanced political cultures in the world at that time. Get a more in-depth look at Ireland’s history and how it modernized.

 

What books on Ireland have you found interesting? Happy reading and safe travels!