The best books about London 📚

Browse the best books on London as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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Book cover of Street Haunting: A London Adventure

Street Haunting: A London Adventure

By Virginia Woolf

Why this book?

Written in 1927 it is one of the most entertaining accounts you will ever read of a typical day in London. Using the excuse of needing to buy a pencil, Woolf meanders through London taking in all the day-to-day activities of the populace. Admiring and also sometimes disapprovingly, she comments on the ordinary lives of every kind of Londoner from the sales girls at the haberdashery to the costermongers in the street.

From the list:

The best books about London for the curious

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Book cover of Turtle Diary

Turtle Diary

By Russell Hoban

Why this book?

Turtle Diary is one of my all-time favorite books. The intimate tone pulls the reader in immediately. Hoban alternates point of view between William and Neera, two lonely Londoners who accomplish a heroic feat and manage to rescue themselves in the process. The writing is spare and beautiful, peppered with delightful asides and observations: “She had a theatre programme in her hand, fresh air and perfume had come in with her. Her blonde hair and leopardskin coat looked as if they’d go out even if she stayed at home.”
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The best books on the ways that animals redeem us

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Book cover of A Darker Shade of Magic

A Darker Shade of Magic

By V.E. Schwab

Why this book?

A Darker Shade of Magic by the ever-popular V.E. Schwab is the first in the Shades of Magic trilogy. Schwab always writes well, and this book is no exception. The premise is that there are four versions of London, which are color-coded so we can keep them straight (Red London, Grey London, etc.). The world building is solid and the storytelling is fluid. There isn’t much romance, which probably pleases some people. I generally enjoy having a romance subplot, but don’t think people who share my opinion will be disappointed.

From the list:

The best books with parallel worlds

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Book cover of Rivers of London

Rivers of London

By Ben Aaronovitch

Why this book?

Set in London this humorous series of books follows the magical adventures of PC Peter Grant as he discovers magic is real. And he can do it. This isn’t necessarily laugh-out-loud humour but it’s the type of cleverness that will have you smirking and appreciating the twist on the norm to create the fantastical. If you know London at all, you will find yourself nodding along as you recall the places Grant takes you and it will definitely have you thinking differently about rivers. 

From the list:

The best humorous fantasy that isn’t Pratchett

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Book cover of A Curious Beginning

A Curious Beginning

By Deanna Raybourn

Why this book?

In my opinion, this is a wonderful example of the Lady Detective genre. I found the chemistry between the main character, and her male partner, to be both charming and engaging. Moreover, the world building was excellent, and the author does a great job of presenting the mystery itself while leaving me wanting more once it was solved. It was from books like this, and the classic TV show, The Avengers, that my own series had its genesis.

From the list:

The best spy/detective books with strong female characters

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Book cover of The Subterranean Railway: How the London Underground Was Built and How It Changed the City Forever

The Subterranean Railway: How the London Underground Was Built and How It Changed the City Forever

By Christian Wolmar

Why this book?

With a razor sharp eye Wolmar (author of many other excellent books on railway history) concentrates his focus on the machinations of the establishment of the world's first railway built under the ground. Overcoming the travails of unbuilt fantasy concepts, the Victorians fear of the dark, finances and the problems of running steam trains in tunnels, London's City Solicitor Charles Pearson, managed to get the first route, the Metropolitan Railway, built and opened by January 1863. Wolmar unpicks the struggles to expand the line, private capitals, a rush to build more lines and the eventual nationalisation of the system in…

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The best books about subways and urban trains

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