discussion: london town

If you didn’t already know, this September I am moving to London to do my MA in Publishing. I am incredibly excited and nervous all at the same time. I’ve never lived in a big city before, but I know that London is probably the best place for me to be, career-wise.

Whenever I go to a new place, I try to have read about it beforehand. It makes me feel like I have a bit of an insight to the place, and it is especially exciting when I recognize a place from the book!Β So – my question to you is: what books should I read to prepare me for London?

Here are some of my favourite books that are set in London:

An Unreliable Guide to London: This is a fantastic anthology that is split into four sections: North, South, East and West London. Filled with weird and wonderful short stories about London and its inhabitants, I would personally say that this is an essential read for anyone living in or interested in London. My review can be found here.

Neverwhere: What list about London would be complete without a mention of this classic SFF novel? London Above is the world we know, but London Below has actual black friars in Blackfriars, angels in Angel Islington, and ‘MIND THE GAP’ begins to take on sinister meanings…

Brick Lane: Immigration, love, and London are at the forefront of this classic story. Full ofΒ female characters who are so lifelike that I feel like I’ve actually met them, this is recommended to absolutely everyone.Β My review is here!

The Lonely Londoners: This is a book that I read in my first year of my undergraduate, and it remains one of my favourite texts of my degree. This is a story of West Indian immigrants, written in wonderful dialect. (I will note though – there’s quite a lot of misogyny.)

Bleak House: What list of London books would be complete without a bit of Dickens? He isn’t my favourite, but for describing Victorian London, I don’t know if he can be beat. Some of my favourite sections of Bleak House took place in the creepy, foggy streets of London.

A couple of honourable mentions for me have to be White Teeth, the Sherlock Holmes stories, and The Buddha of Suburbia.

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19 thoughts on “discussion: london town

    • whatthelog says:

      I think I’ve heard of that one – thank you for reminding me! πŸ˜€
      Thanks! I’ve got student accommodation for the first year, which looks surprisingly nice! I’m so excited.

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  1. ahitsdina says:

    I hope you enjoy London and find your footing in the publishing world. I don’t know if you have heard of it, but the Shades of Magic trilogy by VE Schwab has not 1, not 2, but 4 Londons. Best of luck, lovely.

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  2. theorangutanlibrarian says:

    Ooh good luck on the move- hope you have lots of fun!! Neverwhere and Bleak House are *perfect* choices!! I think Keep the Aspidistra Flying is also excellent if you want something a bit different to those books πŸ˜€

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  3. justanotherloststudent says:

    Ahhhhh, I wholeheartedly welcome you to London (when you move that is). I have lived in London my entire life, so if you have any questions I am your person. In terms of books you should def read The Night Watch by Sarah Waters if you haven’t already b/c it is great and one of my favourite books, and also anything by Virginia Woolf (both fiction and non-fiction) as her work has been greatly inspired by London. I also did a history module this year called “Walking Through London’s History” so I can also recommend more walking/history type books if you’re interested.

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    • whatthelog says:

      Thanks! I should be living in the Finsbury Park area – my friends assure me that I probably won’t get stabbed there, which is nice to know (they live in Croydon).
      Ooh yes, I’ve always wanted to read Sara Waters! Thanks for reminding me! And yess, Woolf is such a good shout!
      And definitely- I really like history books which are a bit more personal/focus on witness accounts and things rather than just stating facts. Are any of the ones you read like that?

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      • justanotherloststudent says:

        I know a few like that. I’m not sure if it’s your type of thing but maybe try having a look at John Gay’s ‘Trivia’ which is a first hand account of walking through London during the early 18th century. And other proper historical type accounts you could look at are Charles Booth’s ‘Life and Labour of the People in London’ from the early 19th century I think, Samuel Pepys diaries (http://www.pepysdiary.com/), Virginia Woolf’s Street Haunting, there’s a book by someone called Matthew Beaumont called Nightwalking: A Nocturnal History of London which is supposed to be quite good. And then I have list of a tonne of books about homosexuality, prostitution and women in london xD

        I have a few books by someone called Catherine Arnold, one called Necropolis about the history of London’s cemeteries and one called Bedlam: London and it’s mad, which are really interesting but also written for the general public so they’re not as fact-heavy and more focused on weaving a historical narrative.

        Ahhh yeah you’ll be totally fine in Finsbury Park. I’ve lived in about 10-12 different places in London (including Croydon) and I’m from Brixton. You’re very, very unlikely to get stabbed in London – that’s a bit of an unfortunate stereotype. Most places are pretty chill.

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      • whatthelog says:

        Fabulous, thank you!!! I’m thinking about doing a whole month of just reading about London and these sound fab – also, homosexuality, prostitution and women?! YES PLEASE! (Is it weird that these are like my three favourite things?!) And the Bedlam one sounds fascinating as well!
        Ha, fabulous! And yeah, my friends just like to tease me I think πŸ˜‚

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  4. Jackie B @ Death by Tsundoku says:

    Congrats on starting your MA! That is SUPER exciting! I adore London as a tourist. I’m sure I’d adore it even more as a citizen. πŸ™‚

    If you are into non-fiction I recommend London by Peter Ackroyd. It describes London from Roman times to modern day. I also have been highly recommended Londoners by Craig Taylor. It’s an oral history of the city told through the interviews of 80 locals. I haven’t read it yet, but it’s on my non-fiction shortlist.

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    • whatthelog says:

      Thank you!! If you’re ever in London, let me know πŸ™‚

      Oh yes, I think I’ve heard of the Ackroyd. Is it written as a kind of narrative, or is it quite dry? I find non-fiction difficult sometimes. And Londoners sounds interesting, definitely going to look it up on goodreads. I like it when non-fiction focuses on specific people/their memories rather than just facts. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jackie B @ Death by Tsundoku says:

        I agree that non-fiction can be dry sometimes. This had it’s dry moments, for sure. I read it in small chunks over the course of almost two years. I definitely skimmed some things. But I really enjoyed reading it and I learned a lot in the end. It gave me an appreciation for London (and the UK in general) I did not have before. So, in a sense, I guess I recommend it highly because it really affected me, but it is probably not a great read for those not super interested in non-fiction. O_o

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      • whatthelog says:

        I find it really difficult to read books over a long period of time – I either devour them or I just don’t read them. I wonder why that is.
        I’ll still check it out!

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