100 books like Imagining England's Past

By Susan Owens,

Here are 100 books that Imagining England's Past fans have personally recommended if you like Imagining England's Past. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Notes from Deep Time: A Journey Through Our Past and Future Worlds

Charlotte Mullins Author Of A Little History of Art

From my list on the British landscape.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in Yorkshire and spent many happy hours as a teenager wandering about the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, looking at giant Henry Moores in the rolling landscape. I subsequently trained as an art historian and have spent the last thirty years writing about art, from the YBAs to our prehistoric roots. A Little History of Art was borne out of this journey. Increasingly I have been drawn to researching what art can tell us about British history. My bookshelves groan with monographs but these five volumes have helped me think more deeply about Britain’s landscapes and its past. I hope they will do the same for you.

Charlotte's book list on the British landscape

Charlotte Mullins Why did Charlotte love this book?

This book expanded how I thought about time and about the landscape we take for granted.

It opened up the prehistoric world from a contemporary perspective, showing how a sense of deep geological time can help us understand our own place in the world better today.

Gordon explains why categories of things can be useful in deepening our understanding of a place: as she says, ‘a named landscape thickens.’

I also found this book so useful in working out how to cram 100,000 years of history into one volume for my book!

By Helen Gordon,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Notes from Deep Time as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Astounding ... To call this a "history" does not do justice to Helen Gordon's ambition'
Simon Ings, Daily Telegraph

'Awe-inspiring ... She has imbued geological tales with a beauty and humanity'
Shaoni Bhattacharya-Woodward, Mail on Sunday

The story of the Earth is written into our landscape: it's there in the curves of hills, the colours of stone, surprising eruptions of vegetation. Wanting a fresh perspective on her own life, the writer Helen Gordon set out to read that epic narrative.

Her odyssey takes her from the secret fossils of London to the 3-billion-year-old rocks of the Scottish Highlands, and from…


Book cover of Radical Landscapes

Charlotte Mullins Author Of A Little History of Art

From my list on the British landscape.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in Yorkshire and spent many happy hours as a teenager wandering about the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, looking at giant Henry Moores in the rolling landscape. I subsequently trained as an art historian and have spent the last thirty years writing about art, from the YBAs to our prehistoric roots. A Little History of Art was borne out of this journey. Increasingly I have been drawn to researching what art can tell us about British history. My bookshelves groan with monographs but these five volumes have helped me think more deeply about Britain’s landscapes and its past. I hope they will do the same for you.

Charlotte's book list on the British landscape

Charlotte Mullins Why did Charlotte love this book?

What do we mean by landscape? What do we mean by Britain?

Radical Landscapes has been a springboard for me for the book I am currently researching for Yale on British Art.

It is the exhibition catalogue for a wide-ranging exhibition that was held at Tate Liverpool in 2022 and offers twelve essays on the latest thinking on queer theory, folk art, geopolitics, community spaces, and more.

Internal landscapes, botanical specimens, protests, maps – this book helped me expand my thinking about landscape beyond the picturesque and the sublime.

By Darren Pih (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Radical Landscapes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Throughout the twentieth-century artists have responded to the landscape in emotional, physical and political ways: exploring themes of belonging to the land by interrogating the relationship between landscape history and identity, the enclosure or militarisation of land, to artists creating works that harness or dramatise natural earth processes. As the custodian of the national collection of British art, Tate's climate emergency declaration points to a wider concern and care for the environment that underpins the themes in Radical Landscapes.
Structured on three broad thematic sections; 'Trespass', 'Landscape and Identity', and 'Climate Breakdown', there will be around 100 works in total…


Book cover of England on Fire: A Visual Journey through Albion's Psychic Landscape

Charlotte Mullins Author Of A Little History of Art

From my list on the British landscape.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in Yorkshire and spent many happy hours as a teenager wandering about the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, looking at giant Henry Moores in the rolling landscape. I subsequently trained as an art historian and have spent the last thirty years writing about art, from the YBAs to our prehistoric roots. A Little History of Art was borne out of this journey. Increasingly I have been drawn to researching what art can tell us about British history. My bookshelves groan with monographs but these five volumes have helped me think more deeply about Britain’s landscapes and its past. I hope they will do the same for you.

Charlotte's book list on the British landscape

Charlotte Mullins Why did Charlotte love this book?

I don’t know why there aren’t more books like this – England on Fire comprises twelve visual essays that span 2,000 years of English art, from a Celtic sculpture of a head from c.100–300AD (that looks like a Modigliani) to new work by Cathy de Monchaux, Claire Partington and George Shaw.

Themes are broad, such as ‘Myth, Magic and Ritual’ and 'Rebellious Nature’ and chapters include folk rituals, landscape vistas, photographic tableaux, stained glass, and prints.

It picks a romantic path through time, with multiple works by William Blake, Samuel Palmer, and Frederick H. Evans, and it is a great way to view different interpretations of the English landscape.

By Stephen Ellcock, Mat Osman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This is a book about English art like no other.

Forget the tired rogues' gallery of lords and ladies, forget the tall ships and haywains. These images cut to the heart of England's psychic landscapes to portray an Albion unhinged, where magic and rebellion and destruction are the horses to which the country is hitched. On these fabled shores we are all castaways, whether our family has lived here for four thousand years or for four.

Here you will find depictions of ancient trackways, chalk carvings and standing stones, of animal-masked community rituals, of streets set ablaze in protest, of…


Book cover of Digging Up Britain: A New History in Ten Extraordinary Discoveries

Charlotte Mullins Author Of A Little History of Art

From my list on the British landscape.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in Yorkshire and spent many happy hours as a teenager wandering about the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, looking at giant Henry Moores in the rolling landscape. I subsequently trained as an art historian and have spent the last thirty years writing about art, from the YBAs to our prehistoric roots. A Little History of Art was borne out of this journey. Increasingly I have been drawn to researching what art can tell us about British history. My bookshelves groan with monographs but these five volumes have helped me think more deeply about Britain’s landscapes and its past. I hope they will do the same for you.

Charlotte's book list on the British landscape

Charlotte Mullins Why did Charlotte love this book?

I first read this book when I was trying to pull together all the disparate locations, time periods, and art movements for my book.

This task was a little overwhelming and Digging Up Britain taught me how to make choices about what to include and what to leave out, how to weave it all into a narrative that makes sense, and how to bring prehistory to life.

Unusually, this book travels back in time as we travel through it. It is like an archaeological dig – we start with the Vikings and then the Staffordshire Hoard but end up with the Star Carr deer hunters and a million years of history.

It is a book you can dip into or read cover to cover (as I did) and it has some good illustrations and maps throughout. 

By Mike Pitts,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Digging Up Britain as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Britain has long been fascinated with its own history and identity, as an island nation besieged by invaders from beyond the seas: the Romans, Vikings and Normans. The long saga of prehistory is often forgotten - but our understanding of our past is changing.

Mike Pitts presents ten astounding archaeological discoveries that shed new light on those who came before us, and radically altered the way we think about our history. His compelling, sometimes teasing, archaeological odyssey illustrates the diversity, complexity and sheer strangeness of the lives that represent Britain's past.

With 79 illustrations, 24 in colour


Book cover of The Arthurian Encyclopedia

Helen Fulton Author Of A Companion to Arthurian Literature

From my list on sensible stories about King Arthur.

Why am I passionate about this?

I came to the Arthurian legends through the medium of medieval Welsh literature, a subject that had intrigued and challenged me since I was an undergraduate. I found the language impenetrable and yet beautiful, while the literature it encoded was fascinatingly unlike the literary traditions of England and France. I wanted to connect with a version of Arthur that preceded the romance traditions of France and England and bears witness to a much older culture and social organisation. Though I've learned to love other versions of Arthur, and indeed I teach the Arthurian legends as part of my academic work, the stark drama of the Welsh poems and tales continues to intrigue me.

Helen's book list on sensible stories about King Arthur

Helen Fulton Why did Helen love this book?

This was one of the first Arthurian reference books and remains one of the best.

Its comprehensive scope, covering Arthurian legends and characters across many European literatures, provides answers to all possible questions about the world of Arthur. The format of short alphabetical entries is perfect for browsing – you will find all you need to know about the Bleeding Lance or the ‘Gargantuan Chronicles’ among many other lesser-known Arthurian curiosities.

I found this book invaluable when I was preparing my own book and I still dip into it when teaching students.

By Norris J Lacy (editor), Geoffrey Ashe (editor), Sandra Ness Ihle (editor) , Marianne E. Kalinke (editor) , Raymond H. Thompson (editor)

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Discusses the literary, musical, and film versions of the story of King Arthur and surveys the characters, themes, and history of the Arthur legend


Book cover of The Nibelungenlied

Nicholas Jubber Author Of Epic Continent: Adventures in the Great Stories of Europe

From my list on the greatest epics from around the world.

Why am I passionate about this?

Nicholas Jubber has written for the Guardian, Irish Times and Telegraph, amongst other publications. He has won the Dolman Travel Book Award, for which he has been shortlisted three times, and his books have been picked by National Geographic, Wanderlust and the New York Times, amongst other publications, for their books of the year.

Nicholas' book list on the greatest epics from around the world

Nicholas Jubber Why did Nicholas love this book?

Dark and violent, this twelfth-century tale of love and revenge is a compelling vision of medieval values, combining many of the tropes of later pseudo-medieval sagas – treasure, gory battles, a cloak of invisibility, sexual deception and a dragon – with the spiritual angst that the later tales miss. From Siegfried’s brief encounter with a scaly beast to the fire-and-blood blitzkrieg of the climax – a ferocious battle in the hall of Attila the Hun – the story is told with breathless passion. Whether it glamourises war, or warns against its cost, is a matter of enduring debate. The tale has certainly had its share of cranky fans, from the silent movie filmmaker Fritz Lang to Heinrich Himmler, a testament to its provocative power.

Which version to read? The Penguin edition, translated by A.T. Hatto and published in 1965, offers a very readable prose version that captures the tale’s fiery…

By Unknown, A.T. Hatto (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Written by an unknown author in the twelfth century, this powerful tale of murder and revenge reaches back to the earliest epochs of German antiquity, transforming centuries-old legend into a masterpiece of chivalric drama. Siegfried, a great prince of the Netherlands, wins the hand of the beautiful princess Kriemhild of Burgundy, by aiding her brother Gunther in his struggle to seduce a powerful Icelandic Queen. But the two women quarrel, and Siegfried is ultimately destroyed by those he trusts the most. Comparable in scope to the Iliad, this skilfully crafted work combines the fragments of half-forgotten myths to create one…


Book cover of The Moonlight Sculptor: The Birth of A Dark Gamer (Book 1)

Kevin Murphy Author Of First Login

From my list on LitRPG, graphic novels, and light novels.

Why am I passionate about this?

LitRPG is special. It really is. LitRPG provides authors with some of the most powerful tools in storytelling. Computer-simulated worlds make magic fully believable. They enable giant mysteries, actual monsters, forbidden treasures, and incredibly diverse adversaries. LitRPG can be a love story or a tale of revenge. It can bring hope, despair, or just desserts. It’s a perfect vehicle for modern fantasy—a setting where the apocalypse can be at hand, where humans can fight gods, and where the world itself might be sentient. My love for LitRPG drove me to write an epic containing a series of huge, underlying mysteries that would reveal themselves over the course of the story.

Kevin's book list on LitRPG, graphic novels, and light novels

Kevin Murphy Why did Kevin love this book?

Did you know that LitRPG was originally forged in the east? The Moonlight Sculptor (or Legendary Moonlight Sculptor, LMS, as most know it) was so popular that its ravenous fans spread it to the rest of the world. The series sets up a number of important tropes for the genre going forward. Many consider LMS to be required reading, but you should know going in that it has a very spotty translation. It’s a massive body of work, too, spanning 57 published volumes.

In it, a hardworking miser pseudonymously known as Weed overprepares and over-delivers time and time again. Watching Weed grow and affect his world is exciting and addictive. LMS is really engaging. It’s an excellent, albeit silly read. If you only read one Korean LitRPG, read this one.

By Heesung Nam,

Why should I read it?

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


Book cover of Tales of Ancient Egypt

Angela Cecil Reid Author Of Nile Cat

From my list on deciphering ancient Egypt.

Why am I passionate about this?

For as long as I can remember I have been intrigued by a family mystery. Names such as Howard Carter, Tutankhamun, and Didlington Hall permeated my childhood along with phrases such as ‘a mummy’s curse’ and ‘financial disaster’. Something had happened years before I was born, which no one would discuss. As an adult I decided to search for the truth, and on the way found inspiration to fulfil a long held ambition, which was to write. I discovered that my family had played a vital, but often forgotten, role in Howard Carter's discovery of Tutankhamun. Our story is of wealth lost, extraordinary characters, passion and tragedy, but through it all Egypt winds like a twist of golden thread.

Angela's book list on deciphering ancient Egypt

Angela Cecil Reid Why did Angela love this book?

This was my introduction to ancient Egypt. I was twelve when I was given this book. I was immediately entranced by the beautifully told stories not only of the gods, but also of magic, shipwrecks, princesses, and thieves.

Egypt is an extraordinary country entirely reliant for thousands of years on the annual inundation of the river Nile. If the water levels were too low there was starvation, and too high there were devastating floods. In some places, the fertile area is a little wider than the flight of an arrow. With life so precarious, it is not surprising that the afterlife became so important to all Egyptians and that they spun so many myths to explain the inexplicable, and give structure to their world.

This book is a great introduction to understanding the ancient Egyptians for anyone, but particularly for younger readers of 10+.

By Roger Lancelyn Green,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Tales of Ancient Egypt as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

These stories include the great myths - of Amen-Ra, who created all the creatures in the world; of Isis, seaching the waters for her dead husband Osiris; of the Bennu Bird and the Book of Thoth. But there are also tales told for pleasure about magic, treasure and adventure - even the first ever Cinderella story.


Book cover of The Visigoths in History and Legend

David M. Gwynn Author Of The Goths: Lost Civilizations

From my list on the Goths of history and legend.

Why am I passionate about this?

Born and raised in New Zealand, about as far from the Roman world as one can get, I got hooked on history as a child and began university life as an ancient and medieval double major, studying everything from the classical Greeks and Romans to Charlemagne and the Crusades. By the time I came to Oxford to write my PhD, I decided that my greatest interest lay in the dramatic transformation which saw classical antiquity evolve into medieval Christendom. I've been fortunate enough to write and teach about many different aspects of that transformation and I'm currently Associate Professor in Ancient and Late Antique History at Royal Holloway, in the University of London. 

David's book list on the Goths of history and legend

David M. Gwynn Why did David love this book?

The Visigothic kingdom of Spain was long dismissed in older books as a barbaric backwater, the darkest point of the so-called Dark Ages. Yet it was, in truth, a vibrant cultural centre for more than two centuries, until falling to the forces of Islam in 711. Hillgarth’s fascinating book gives an excellent short survey of Visigothic history, and then explores how the legends surrounding the Goths were developed and exploited by later Spanish generations, from the Christian Reconquista and the sixteenth-century Golden Age to modern times. This creation of an idealized Gothic past provided inspiration and a sense of identity in Spain, in sharp contrast to Italy where the Goths were depicted during the Renaissance as the savage destroyers of classical civilization.

By J.N. Hillgarth,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Visigoths in History and Legend as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book explores one of the central myths of Spain: the idea that Spanish culture arose from that of the Visigoths. It begins with a sketch of Visigothic history, then proceeds to explore attitudes towards the Goths and legends and myths that developed around them from late antiquity to the twentieth century; such ideas proved influential among those who saw the Goths as their spiritual, if not literal, ancestors. The focus is on the myth of the Goths as expressed in literature of a broadly historical nature; many authors have played a significant role in forming and shaping this myth,…


Book cover of The Nine

Brandon Crilly Author Of Catalyst

From my list on fantasy where the gods (maybe) can’t be trusted.

Why am I passionate about this?

Pantheons and worship are elements of culture I’ve always found fascinating, partly from being a mostly secular person with relatives who are very religious. I read a lot of epic fantasy when I was younger that featured gods, like Erikson, and I love finding more recent works that play with how deities might affect a world, and vice versa. But I also picked some of the books below because they inject cli-fi or solarpunk into their worlds – something I’ve been adding to my second-world fantasy lately. Because why not create the same sort of aesthetic in other worlds? 

Brandon's book list on fantasy where the gods (maybe) can’t be trusted

Brandon Crilly Why did Brandon love this book?

This book was a serious inspiration for me when my debut novel was in an earlier draft. Tracy crafts this cool theology where “God” is a scientist and the world his Experiment, but not everyone agrees on whether that Experiment should be allowed to run free. What if God gets tired of playing and throws out the ant farm, or decide it’s not working…? The Nine centers on a motley-found family of characters, many of whom have rich backstories with each other that we get bits and pieces of, which is like catnip to me as a reader (and writer).

By Tracy Townsend,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the dark streets of Corma exists a book that writes itself, a book that some would kill for... Black market courier Rowena Downshire is just trying to pay her mother’s freedom from debtor's prison when an urgent and unexpected delivery leads her face to face with a creature out of nightmares. Rowena escapes with her life, but the strange book she was ordered to deliver is stolen. The Alchemist knows things few men have lived to tell about, and when Rowena shows up on his doorstep, frightened and empty-handed, he knows better than to turn her away. What he…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in legends, art, and King Arthur?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about legends, art, and King Arthur.

Legends Explore 29 books about legends
Art Explore 888 books about art
King Arthur Explore 62 books about King Arthur