100 books like The Lonely Londoners

By Sam Selvon,

Here are 100 books that The Lonely Londoners fans have personally recommended if you like The Lonely Londoners. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Rosewater

Jendella Benson Author Of Hope and Glory

From my list on introducing you to Black London.

Why am I passionate about this?

Much of the Britain that's exported to the world is fed by the monochromatic myth of nobility and royalty, but the heart of Britain is multifaceted and multicultural. I didn’t grow up in London, but grew up visiting family here and ‘The Big Smoke’ had an allure for me. The people were all different colours and ethnicities and it truly felt like the most exciting place in the world. I moved here the week I turned 18, and I haven’t left. It's a harsh, expensive city, and it's much too busy to provide anyone with any lasting sanity, but here I found a version of Black Britain that I was missing in my hometown.

Jendella's book list on introducing you to Black London

Jendella Benson Why did Jendella love this book?

Besides the fact that I love a messy, sexy love story, Rosewater captures the very real feeling of being in your mid-20s in a beautiful but harsh city and trying to work your ish out.

Elsie, the main character, is a poet, which I feel leads a song-like quality to the narrative. This is for dreamers and lovers and those who kind of know what they want but are scared of throwing themselves at it fully. 

By Liv Little,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A TODAY and LGBTQ Reads Most Anticipated Book of 2023 * A Goodreads Buzziest Debut Novel of the New Year * An Electric Lit Most Anticipated LGBTQ+ Book of Spring 2023 * A Bustle Most Anticipated Book of Spring & Summer 2023 * A Nylon April 2023 Must-Read Book * An Ebony Required Reading Pick for April

For fans of Bolu Babalola and Tia Williams comes a "tender, soulful, and sexy" (Phoebe Robinson) debut novel about finding love in an unexpected place.

Elsie is a sexy, funny, and fiercely independent woman in south London. But several things in her life…


Book cover of Small Worlds

Jendella Benson Author Of Hope and Glory

From my list on introducing you to Black London.

Why am I passionate about this?

Much of the Britain that's exported to the world is fed by the monochromatic myth of nobility and royalty, but the heart of Britain is multifaceted and multicultural. I didn’t grow up in London, but grew up visiting family here and ‘The Big Smoke’ had an allure for me. The people were all different colours and ethnicities and it truly felt like the most exciting place in the world. I moved here the week I turned 18, and I haven’t left. It's a harsh, expensive city, and it's much too busy to provide anyone with any lasting sanity, but here I found a version of Black Britain that I was missing in my hometown.

Jendella's book list on introducing you to Black London

Jendella Benson Why did Jendella love this book?

This is a gorgeous book to be savoured slowly.

It is suffused with music throughout (and the nerd within me loves the reoccurring literary motifs and phrases that definitely lend a musical quality to the book) and took me back to lazy summer days as a teenager when I first moved to London and the city felt wide open with excitement and possibility.

This is another love story, but one about community, family and the first loves that we learn from our parents.

By Caleb Azumah Nelson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An exhilarating and expansive new novel about fathers and sons, faith and friendship from National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 honoree and Costa First Novel Award winning author Caleb Azumah Nelson

One of the most acclaimed and internationally bestselling “unforgettable” (New York Times) debuts of the 2021, Caleb Azumah Nelson’s London-set love story Open Water took the US by storm and introduced the world to a salient and insightful new voice in fiction. Now, with his second novel Small Worlds, the prodigious Azumah Nelson brings another set of enduring characters to brilliant life in his signature rhythmic, melodic prose.

Set…


Book cover of Settlers: Journeys Through the Food, Faith and Culture of Black African London

Jendella Benson Author Of Hope and Glory

From my list on introducing you to Black London.

Why am I passionate about this?

Much of the Britain that's exported to the world is fed by the monochromatic myth of nobility and royalty, but the heart of Britain is multifaceted and multicultural. I didn’t grow up in London, but grew up visiting family here and ‘The Big Smoke’ had an allure for me. The people were all different colours and ethnicities and it truly felt like the most exciting place in the world. I moved here the week I turned 18, and I haven’t left. It's a harsh, expensive city, and it's much too busy to provide anyone with any lasting sanity, but here I found a version of Black Britain that I was missing in my hometown.

Jendella's book list on introducing you to Black London

Jendella Benson Why did Jendella love this book?

This book fills a gap that I didn’t know was missing until I read it.

Not much has been written documenting the history of Black Africans in 20th/21st Century London, but Jimi Famurewa covers the migration, the cultural contributions, the food, the music, the community…ah, it really covers a lot.

Non-fiction is never really my go-to but is immensely readable and the research is thorough and sharp. It filled in some the gaps in the word-of-mouth anecdotes you hear from the older generation, as well as introduced me to corners of our history that I wasn’t as familiar with.

By Jimi Famurewa,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A journey into the extraordinary, vibrant world of Black African London which is shaping modern Britain. What makes a Londoner? What is it to be Black, African and British? And how can we understand the many tangled roots of our modern nation without knowing the story of how it came to be? This is a story that begins not with the 'Windrush Generation' of Caribbean immigrants to Britain, but with post-1960s arrivals from African countries like Nigeria, Ghana, Zimbabwe and Somalia. Some came from former British colonies in the wake of newfound independence; others arrived seeking prosperity and an English…


Book cover of East of Acre Lane

Jendella Benson Author Of Hope and Glory

From my list on introducing you to Black London.

Why am I passionate about this?

Much of the Britain that's exported to the world is fed by the monochromatic myth of nobility and royalty, but the heart of Britain is multifaceted and multicultural. I didn’t grow up in London, but grew up visiting family here and ‘The Big Smoke’ had an allure for me. The people were all different colours and ethnicities and it truly felt like the most exciting place in the world. I moved here the week I turned 18, and I haven’t left. It's a harsh, expensive city, and it's much too busy to provide anyone with any lasting sanity, but here I found a version of Black Britain that I was missing in my hometown.

Jendella's book list on introducing you to Black London

Jendella Benson Why did Jendella love this book?

This is a modern classic – one that provides a slice of a very pivotal time in Black British history.

The 1980s saw a lot of civil unrest in Britain, from workers’ strikes to uprisings fuelled by racial tensions and police brutality. East of Acre Lane is set in Brixton – a neighbourhood in London that saw its fair share of uprisings – amongst the young Black Caribbean community.

It is such an authentic portrait, down to the musicality of the slang and dialects used. It’s immersive, it’s got action, it’s moving, it’s everything!

By Alex Wheatle,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked East of Acre Lane as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Alex Wheatle writes from a place of honesty and passion' Steve McQueen, director of Small Axe

East of Acre Lane is the fast-paced and razor sharp story of a young man trying to do the right thing from celebrated author Alex Wheatle, one of the figures who inspired Steve McQueen's Small Axe

It is 1981, and Brixton is on the verge of exploding. Biscuit lives with his mother, brother and sister, trapped hustling on the frontline for the South London badman Nunchucks. As the patience of the community breaks and the riots erupt, Biscuit must make a choice that could…


Book cover of Pigeon English

Gail Aldwin Author Of This Much Huxley Knows: A Story of Innocence, Misunderstandings, and Acceptance

From my list on contemporary adult novels with young narrators.

Why am I passionate about this?

Novelist, poet and scriptwriter. My interest in young narrators stems from a desire to effectively capture the voices of children in my novels. Creative writing PhD studies with the University of South Wales encouraged me to research different strategies and techniques used by published authors and to experiment with them in my writing. The String Games my debut novel was the result of this academic and creative journey. Further novels continue to include young voices in a starring role as I get inside the heads of a range of characters. After a stint as a university lecturer, I dabbled in fiction for children and through a collaboration with illustrator Fiona Zechmeister, Pandemonium a children’s picture book was published in 2020.

Gail's book list on contemporary adult novels with young narrators

Gail Aldwin Why did Gail love this book?

Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and currently an AQA English Literature GCSE text, Pigeon English is a debut novel that captures the experiences of eleven-year-old Harrison Opuku. A new arrival from Ghana, he lives with his mother and sister amongst the gang culture on a south London housing estate. Harri is an appealing narrator who uses a mixture of West African slang and a rapidly acquired local vernacular. The text is enlivened by dialogue presented in the form of a playscript with illustrations and lists promoting the visual quality of the story.

By Stephen Kelman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Newly arrived from Ghana with his mother and older sister, Harrison Opoku lives on the ninth floor of a block of flats on a London housing estate. The (second) best runner in the whole of Year 7, Harri races through his new life in his personalised trainers - the Adidas stripes drawn on in marker pen - unaware of the danger growing around him. But when a boy is knifed to death on the high street and a police appeal for witnesses draws only silence, Harri decides to start a murder investigation of his own. In doing so, he unwittingly…


Book cover of The Watchmaker of Filigree Street

Kristen O'Neal Author Of Lycanthropy and Other Chronic Illnesses

From my list on when something queer’s afoot.

Why am I passionate about this?

It’s great for me, personally, that queer means both strange and gay, in some way, because I’m both. I love writing stories that are zany, bizarre, and supernatural, but still grounded in the real world; giving detail to the strangeness makes it feel more real, like something that could have happened to a friend of a friend. I’m particularly moved by stories that work on both the literal and metaphorical level – being a werewolf is a metaphor for being queer and chronically ill, but my werewolf, Brigid, is also a chronically ill lesbian. Here are five of my favorite books that capture both definitions of the word queer. 

Kristen's book list on when something queer’s afoot

Kristen O'Neal Why did Kristen love this book?

Natasha Pulley’s grounded historical novel marries detailed research of late-19th-century England and Japan with something stranger and more fantastical – but these elements together heighten the narrative. Clerk Thaniel Steepleton’s relationship with clockwork-maker Keita Mori centers the story – they change one another in ways that even fate can’t completely anticipate. There’s a lot of tenderness between them, and it captures the way that falling in love can feel like meeting someone again, instead of for the first time. Also, there’s a pet clockwork octopus. That’s vital. 

By Natasha Pulley,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

SHORTLISTED FOR THE AUTHORS' CLUB BEST FIRST NOVEL AWARD 2016 SHORTLISTED FOR THE BETTY TRASK PRIZE 2016 FINALIST FOR THE LOCUS FIRST NOVEL AWARD 2016 An International Bestseller - A Guardian Summer Read - An Amazon Best Book of the Month - A Goodreads Best Book of the Month - A Buzzfeed Summer Read - A Foyles Book of the Month - AHuffington Post Summer Read - A Yorkshire Post Book of the Week In 1883, Thaniel Steepleton returns to his tiny flat to find a gold pocketwatch on his pillow. But he has worse fears than generous burglars; he…


Book cover of Hope and Glory

Lizzie Damilola Blackburn Author Of Yinka, Where Is Your Huzband?

From my list on that pay homage to south London.

Why am I passionate about this?

Having grown up and gone to school in south London, it will always have a special place in my heart. Call me biased, but I think it’s the best place in the capital. Hands down. I love that it’s home to many Afro-Caribbean families and how its cultural presence can be felt by just walking down any street. From the bustling markets selling plantain, yams, and hard dough bread to the throng of aunties wearing brightly-coloured, patterned lace as they make their way to church. With south London being so atmospheric, I knew I had to include it as a setting in my novel. It will always be my first home.  

Lizzie's book list on that pay homage to south London

Lizzie Damilola Blackburn Why did Lizzie love this book?

Hope and Glory has to be one of the most relatable books I’ve ever read, and not just because it’s set in my old stomping ground, Peckham. It follows Hope, a twenty-something British Nigerian who, after returning to London for her dad’s funeral, discovers a life-shattering family secret. What I loved about this book was that I felt as though the author was writing a love letter to those individuals who didn’t have it easy growing up and whose stories are not often told in mainstream fiction. I feel as though Hope and Glory will provide a sigh of relief for so many readers; I, for one, certainly felt seen. Beautifully observed, heartfelt and authentic, I felt a xylophone of emotions while reading this exquisite novel, but in the end, very hopeful.

By Jendella Benson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'So deliciously South London.' - Yomi Adegoke, author of SLAY IN YOUR LANE

'A sweeping, rich tale that explores family, secrets, loss, love and redemption within the context of a tessellation of cultures - written with a beautiful texture, Benson pulls you in to a deftly-woven story with tautly-written sentences, and before you know it you find yourself in too deep to get out, too deep to want to get out, wanting to know more.'
- Bolu Babalola, author of LOVE IN COLOUR

'Jendella Benson has drawn such a compelling world that Hope and Glory, the book and the characters…


Book cover of Huguenot Networks, 1560-1780: The Interactions and Impact of a Protestant Minority in Europe

Laura Jarnagin (Laura Jarnagin Pang) Author Of A Confluence of Transatlantic Networks: Elites, Capitalism, and Confederate Migration to Brazil

From my list on histories of merchant networks: messy, diverse, transnational, and transcultural.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a retired professor of History and International Political Economy. Unraveling knotted masses of string was a relaxing, enjoyable activity for me while growing up. As a historian, I continue to pick apart entangled matters,  particularly about capitalism as a complex system. Networks give structure to complex systems, and I find networked merchants in the modern era (ca. 1500- 1945) especially fascinating to study. Who were they? How did they create opportunities and work across borders and cultures? How did they work around adversities? How did they both perpetuate and diversify their networks? How did they link to and collaborate with one another? How do networks evolve?

Laura's book list on histories of merchant networks: messy, diverse, transnational, and transcultural

Laura Jarnagin (Laura Jarnagin Pang) Why did Laura love this book?

I am intrigued by how a minority group of one religion living within a territory populated by a majority group of another is able to transcend adversities and small numbers through networking, thereby creating synergies that, in turn, translate into power.

The Huguenots—part of a larger, deeply networked community of other European Protestants—did exactly that. Each of the thirteen chapters in this edited volume gives you a window into “who” and “how.”

By Vivienne Larminie (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Huguenot Networks, 1560-1780 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

These chapters explore how a religious minority not only gained a toehold in countries of exile, but also wove itself into their political, social, and religious fabric. The way for the refugees' departure from France was prepared through correspondence and the cultivation of commercial, military, scholarly and familial ties. On arrival at their destinations immigrants exploited contacts made by compatriots and co-religionists who had preceded them to find employment. London, a hub for the "Protestant international" from the reign of Elizabeth I, provided openings for tutors and journalists. Huguenot financial skills were at the heart of the early Bank of…


Book cover of Small Island

Eleanor Shearer Author Of River Sing Me Home

From my list on history in all its strange and unsettling glory.

Why am I passionate about this?

Long before I fell in love with History as an academic subject, I fell in love with stories. And as the granddaughter of Caribbean immigrants, true stories of my grandparents’ early lives could transport me to another place as vividly as fiction. So although I have studied History to Master’s level, where I specialized in the legacy of slavery, it is always to fiction that I turn to breathe life into the past. My favourite books are those that are unsettling in the unfamiliarity of the world they create, and yet deeply moving because, at heart, the characters are motivated by timeless and human things like grief, ambition, or love. 

Eleanor's book list on history in all its strange and unsettling glory

Eleanor Shearer Why did Eleanor love this book?

This novel is about the experience of the Windrush generation – the Caribbean people who moved to Britain after the Second World War.

Andrea Levy so perfectly captures the experiences of these people that I feel like I can see my own grandparents on the page.

But what I love most about this book is that it sees itself as telling a part of British history – showing how the Caribbean and Britain were connected, but also exploring with equal empathy the experiences of white British characters during and after the War.

As someone mixed race, it is so rare to find books that speak to both sides of my heritage, and this is one of them. 

By Andrea Levy,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Small Island as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Hortense shared Gilbert's dream of leaving Jamaica and coming to England to start a better life. But when she at last joins her husband, she is shocked by London's shabbiness and horrified at the way the English live. Even Gilbert is not the man she thought he was. Queenie's neighbours do not approve of her choice of tenants, and neither would her husband, were he there. Through the stories of these people, Small Island explores a point in England's past when the country began to change.


Book cover of Mother's Century: A Survivor, Her People and Her Times

Irene Wittig Author Of All That Lingers

From my list on hard times and resilience in the World War II era.

Why am I passionate about this?

World War II has been the background of my life. My Viennese family fled the Nazi regime. My childhood was peopled with Holocaust survivors and other people displaced by war. My uncle was a refugee and was trained as a Ritchie Boy and sent to war. I have been inspired by how people can survive traumatic times and come out stronger and kinder.

Irene's book list on hard times and resilience in the World War II era

Irene Wittig Why did Irene love this book?

This biography of the author’s mother and role model is as much a portrait of an intelligent, cultured, resilient woman as it is a well-researched history of the hundred-and-one years she lived through. Born into a middle-class Jewish family in Vienna she lived through World War I, post-war depression, antisemitism, and the violent rise of Nazism. With courage and determination she found a way to escape the worst horrors of the Holocaust (although many in her family did not) and faced the challenges of building a new life in a new culture.

By Richard L. Hermann,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mother's Century as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Mother’s Century: A Survivor, Her People and Her Times is the “bio-history” of Margarete Sobel Hermann, the author’s mother and role model, who lived 101 tumultuous and productive years. Her life spanned 95 percent of the twentieth century, during which she and her family experienced much of the good, the bad and the exceptionally ugly that marked that most violent of eras. Born into a middle-class Jewish family in Imperial Vienna, she survived the First World War, famine and starvation, runaway inflation, political turmoil that makes what we are undergoing today pale in comparison, discrimination, street violence, the Great Depression,…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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