The best books on British folklore and customs

Who am I?

Described as a “literary raconteur” and a “virtuoso,” Tim Rayborn admits to nothing, but it’s true that he’s a versatile writer, award-winning editor, and an acclaimed musician. He’s written dozens of books, appeared on more than forty recordings, plays scores of unusual instruments, and visited five continents. Tim lived in England for nearly seven years and has a Ph.D. in medieval studies from the University of Leeds, which he likes to pretend means that he knows what he’s talking about. He has written a large number of books and magazine articles about history, music, and the arts. He will undoubtedly write more, whether anyone wants him to or not.


I wrote...

Qwyrk

By Tim Rayborn,

Book cover of Qwyrk

What is my book about?

Qwyrk is having a bad day; several, in fact. One of the Shadow folk tasked with keeping an eye on humanity, she’s ready for a well-earned break in Yorkshire, but now she’s (literally) run into a girl, Jilly, who just saw something quite supernatural and truly awful happen in her town. As Qwyrk tries to unravel the mystery, layers of villainy are exposed, and she’s stuck with an assortment of unlikely folk that she’d rather not have “helping” her. Together, they confront ancient magic, medieval conspiracies, and the possible end of the world (that again?). It’s not the holiday Qwyrk was hoping for!

Qwyrk is the first book in a series about the adventures of a group of misfits at the edge of reality in modern northern England, a world of shadows, Nighttime Nasties, sorcery, folklore, tacky nightclub attire, an abundance of sarcasm, and even elves… though they are a bit silly.

The books I picked & why

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In Search of England: Journeys into the English Past

By Michael Wood,

Book cover of In Search of England: Journeys into the English Past

Why this book?

Wood is known for his stellar television documentaries, but he’s also a prolific and talented author. This gem of a book delves into some of the most famous legends of English/British folklore, ones that still capture the popular imagination. He then examines some key historical events and people from the earlier Middle Ages, and their importance even now. Written in an engaging style, it’s an excellent introduction to the roots and origins of so much British culture.     

In Search of England: Journeys into the English Past

By Michael Wood,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked In Search of England as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Where does the idea of England and Englishness come from? Can we see it beginning in the Dark and Middle Ages? Michael Wood tackles these fascinating questions in two ways. First, with a series of pieces on famous English myths. And secondly by looking at the history of half a dozen places in England: a farmhouse on Dartmoor, a battlefield in Sheffield, a medieval village near Leicester...By these means he describes the origins of a sense of Englishness, and how it has developed through the centuries. "The book triumphs...His England is both a real place and an invented community which…


The Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain

By Ronald Hutton,

Book cover of The Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain

Why this book?

As the title implies, this book is a comprehensive survey of the many kinds of rituals and observances for different seasons to mark the passage of the year, reaching far back into history and pre-history. While many of these celebrations are no longer observed, some have endured and found popularity throughout the world. This is a fascinating look into British traditions and folklore, both those of pagan origin and those taken over or refitted by Christianity in more recent times.  

The Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain

By Ronald Hutton,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Stations of the Sun as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Comprehensive and engaging, this colourful study covers the whole sweep of ritual history from the earliest written records to the present day. From May Day revels and Midsummer fires, to Harvest Home and Hallowe'en, to the twelve days of Christmas, Ronald Hutton takes us on a fascinating journey through the ritual year in Britain. He challenges many common assumptions about the customs of the past, and debunks many myths surrounding festivals of the present, to
illuminate the history of the calendar year we live by today.


The Way of Wyrd

By Brian Bates,

Book cover of The Way of Wyrd

Why this book?

This intriguing novel tells the story of a young Christian monk, Brand, who is sent to find and learn from a Saxon shaman/sorcerer, Wulf. The shaman turns Brand’s life upside down, introducing him to a strange, mysterious, and magical world that Brand never imagined existed. Written like a modern spiritual quest, but set in Anglo-Saxon England, the novel is an ingenious combination of old and new, inspired by charms and healings in a thousand-year-old manuscript in the British Library.

The Way of Wyrd

By Brian Bates,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Way of Wyrd as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The compelling cult classic, now reissued in a brand new edition with a new introduction by Brian Bates. This bestselling fictionalized account of an Anglo-Saxon sorcerer and mystic is based on years of research by psychologist and university professor Brian Bates.

Sent on a mission deep into the forests of pagan Anglo-Saxon England, Wat Brand, a Christian scribe, suddenly finds his vision of the world turned upside down. The familiar English countryside is not what it seems; threatening spirits, birds of omen and plants of power lurk in this landscape of unseen terrors and mysterious forces. With Wulf, a sorcerer…


The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain

By Bill Bryson,

Book cover of The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain

Why this book?

Bill Bryson is an international treasure, a keen observer of the modern quirks and foibles of his fellow humans all over the world. His wit and ability to good-naturedly skewer just about anything and anyone are a marvel to read. This book is perhaps a sequel to his earlier work, Notes from a Small Island, but both provide valuable insights into British culture and its many charms and annoyances. Hilarious!

The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain

By Bill Bryson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Road to Little Dribbling as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WINNER: NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER READER AWARD FOR BEST TRAVEL BOOK OF THE YEAR 2016
WINNER: BOOKS ARE MY BAG READER AWARD FOR BEST AUTOBIOGRAPHY OR BIOGRAPHY 2016

Twenty years ago, Bill Bryson went on a trip around Britain to celebrate the green and kindly island that had become his adopted country. The hilarious book that resulted, Notes from a Small Island, was taken to the nation's heart and became the bestselling travel book ever, and was also voted in a BBC poll the book that best represents Britain.Now, to mark the twentieth anniversary of that modern classic, Bryson makes a…


Good Omens

By Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman,

Book cover of Good Omens

Why this book?

This classic modern fantasy by Gaiman and Pratchett is a brilliant blend of folklore, history, end-of-the-world scenarios, British humor, and some genuine sweetness and humanity, as two angels become the unlikely saviors of a world on the brink of ending. Their adventures across modern Britain as they try to save everything are a marvel. The apocalypse has never been so much fun! 

Good Omens

By Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman,

Why should I read it?

14 authors picked Good Omens as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

THE BOOK BEHIND THE AMAZON PRIME/BBC SERIES STARRING DAVID TENNANT, MICHAEL SHEEN, JON HAMM AND BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH

'Ridiculously inventive and gloriously funny' Guardian

What if, for once, the predictions are right, and the Apocalypse really is due to arrive next Saturday, just after tea?

It's a predicament that Aziraphale, a somewhat fussy angel, and Crowley, a fast-living demon, now find themselves in. They've been living amongst Earth's mortals since The Beginning and, truth be told, have grown rather fond of the lifestyle and, in all honesty, are not actually looking forward to the coming Apocalypse.

And then there's the small…


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