The most recommended books about London

Who picked these books? Meet our 763 experts.

763 authors created a book list connected to London, and here are their favorite London books.
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Book cover of The Birthday Reunion

Claire Cooper Author Of The Elevator

From my list on locked room thrillers to get your heart pounding.

Who am I?

There’s nothing I love more than a good thriller, especially one with a locked room setting. I’m fascinated by how people react to psychological pressure, and what it would take for any of us to behave in extreme ways. With The Elevator, I wanted to push that locked room scenario to its limits: two characters, trapped together in a tiny space. This might also be the book that’s been gestating inside me for longest – my mum was trapped in a lift when she was pregnant with me! I hope some of the books on this list appeal to you, and that you enjoy them as much as I did.

Claire's book list on locked room thrillers to get your heart pounding

Claire Cooper Why did Claire love this book?

The Birthday Reunion combines the classic elements of a locked room thriller with a look at the dynamics of female friendships, a topic I always find fascinating.

It’s set on an exotic and remote tropical island, with some glamorous characters. I read it on a couple of typically grey days in London, and could almost feel the sunshine. It proves locked room thrillers don’t always have to be set on dark and stormy nights!

By Claire Seeber,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

‘I was utterly gripped’ ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
‘Definitely one of the best books this year’ ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
‘Had me glued to my Kindle!’ ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
‘Six stars!... I absolutely adored this book!’ ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Four friends. One dream getaway. But who will make it out alive?

When the gold-rimmed invitations arrive through the doors of best friends Simone, Hannah and Vicky they’re instantly taken aback. Their ex-friend Jodie is inviting them to a lavish Mediterranean villa to celebrate her birthday. They haven’t spoken in years since she betrayed them in the worst way. So how did they make the guestlist?

They all have their reasons…

Book cover of The Materials and Techniques of Medieval Painting

Joyce DiPastena Author Of Illuminations of the Heart

From my list on medieval illumination.

Who am I?

I’ve been in love with the Middle Ages ever since my mother handed me a copy of The Conquering Family, by Thomas B. Costain, when I was in the 7th grade. Eventually, I went on to earn a degree in history from the University of Arizona. In addition to the many colorful characters who impacted the medieval world, I became entranced with the art of the time period, particularly manuscript paintings. Their beauty, reverence, whimsy, even their occasional naughtiness, are, to me, simply enchanting! It was impossible not to share my love of this artform in at least one of my novels. Below are some of the books that helped me on my writing journey.

Joyce's book list on medieval illumination

Joyce DiPastena Why did Joyce love this book?

It’s hard to express the depths of my excitement when I discovered this book. This title allowed me to take research for my novel’s heroine to a whole new level. Should she use parchment or vellum, what was the difference, and when should she use one over the other? (Did you know the most sumptuous parchments were died purple? I didn’t until I read this book!) What was the difference between natural and artificial pigments as understood by medieval artists? And how did they create all those brilliant reds, blues, greens, yellows, purples, and more in their paintings? How did they make paint out of gold or apply gold leaf to their art? All these details and much, much more are laid out here. Everything a medieval artist, in life or in fiction, could possibly need to know! (This book also touches on other forms of medieval painting, like painting…

By Daniel V. Thompson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Medieval painters built up a tremendous range of technical resources for obtaining brilliance and permanence. In this volume, an internationally known authority on medieval paint technology describes these often jealously guarded recipes, lists of materials, and processes. Based upon years of study of medieval manuscripts and enlarged by laboratory analysis of medieval paintings, this book discusses carriers and grounds, binding media, pigments, coloring materials, and metals used in painting.
It describes the surfaces that the medieval artist painted upon, detailing their preparation. It analyzes binding media, discussing relative merits of glair versus gums, oil glazes, and other matters. It tells…

Book cover of The Secret History of Georgian London

Susan Stokes-Chapman Author Of Pandora

From my list on researching the Georgian era.

Who am I?

Ever since watching the BBC adaptation of Pride & Prejudice, I’ve been fascinated by the Georgian era. At university I always chose modules that connected with the period, which typically focused on the works of Keats, Byron and Shelley. One module introduced me to the essayist William Hazlitt, and my first novel Infelice drew on his illicit love affair with serving girl Sarah Walker. My début Pandora is vastly different, but both novels required a plethora of research. The books I’ve chosen all helped me bring my writing to life, and I hope aspiring novelists with a passion for the Georgians will find these as useful as I have.

Susan's book list on researching the Georgian era

Susan Stokes-Chapman Why did Susan love this book?

On the other side of the coin, there is this behemoth of a book. I’d be lying if I said that its sheer size and tightly-packed text weren’t slightly off-putting, but I consider Cruickshank’s formidable work a must-have for any novelist writing in the Georgian era. Impeccably researched and showing a wide range of social history from the lives of ordinary layman to the wealthy and powerful, it's a truly fantastic resource, and if you’re looking to familiarise yourself with the 'dirty underbelly' of eighteenth-century London (a whole world away from shiny Bridgerton-esque ballrooms and stately homes) then this is absolutely the book for you.

By Dan Cruickshank,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Georgian London evokes images of elegant buildings and fine art, but it was also a city where prostitution was rife, houses of ill repute widespread, and many tens of thousands of people dependent in some way or other on the wages of sin. The sex industry was, in fact, a very powerful force indeed, and in The Secret History of Georgian London, Dan Cruickshank compellingly shows how it came to affect almost every aspect of life and culture in the capital.

Examining the nature of the sex trade, he offers a tantalising insight into the impact of prostitution to give…

Book cover of The Vizard Mask

Frances Quinn Author Of That Bonesetter Woman

From my list on quirky heroines.

Who am I?

I'm a shameless people-watcher. There's nothing I like better than sitting in a cafe, or an airport, or on a bus, and observing the people I see (and yes, I admit, eavesdropping on their conversations). What are they wearing and what does it say about them? Who are they with, and what's their relationship? What are they saying to each other - and what are they not saying? So it's not surprising the most important element of a book for me is the characters, and my favourite characters are women who are a little bit different, who don't fit the mould - because you just never know what they'll do.

Frances' book list on quirky heroines

Frances Quinn Why did Frances love this book?

I love Diana Norman’s historical novels and she inspires the way I write mine.

Her books are packed with historical atmosphere but they're never stodgy, the characters are full of life and there's always a dash of humour. This one, set in 17th-century London, is my favourite.

The heroine, Penitence Hurd, is a young Puritan girl who comes to London just as the Great Plague is about to strike, and finds herself - to her horror - living alongside the working girls in a brothel. She’s such an engaging character, stiff and prim at the beginning but as she bonds with the other women when they're shut in during the plague, she begins to change.

By Diana Norman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Vizard Mask by Diana Norman. 1995 paperback published by Penguin Books,

Book cover of The Big Smoke: A History of Air Pollution in London since Medieval Times

Chris Woodford Author Of Breathless: Why Air Pollution Matters - and How it Affects You

From my list on air pollution and what we can do about it.

Who am I?

When I was growing up, our neighbours used to have weekly garden bonfires that filled our house with choking smoke. Around this time, I did a school project on air pollution that opened my eyes to the horrors of breathing toxic air. All this must have made an impact because, 40-odd years later, after taking a science degree and working for a decade as an environmental campaigner, I decided to write an eye-opening, easy-to-read book about why air pollution still kills millions of people each year—and what we can do to put that right.

Chris' book list on air pollution and what we can do about it

Chris Woodford Why did Chris love this book?

Most of us think air pollution's a relatively recent problem that started back in the Industrial Revolution, but as Peter Brimblecombe demonstrates in this wonderfully readable book, it's a much older problem with deeper roots, linked to broader trends in how humans have used and abused the planet. I generally hate history, but I loved this book: it's superbly scholarly but also riveting and well-written, and tiny telling details make what could have been a very dull subject really fascinating. It was originally published in 1987, so it doesn't cover recent history, but it's still worth reading nevertheless.

By Peter Brimblecombe,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

First published in 1987, Peter Brimblecombe's book provides an engaging historical account of air pollution in London, offering a fascinating insight into the development of air pollution controls against a changing social and economic background. He examines domestic and industrial pollution and their effects on fashions, furnishings, buildings and human health. The book ends with an intriguing analysis of the dangers arising from contemporary pollutants and a glimpse of what the future may hold for London.

Book cover of All Clear

Tristan Palmgren Author Of Quietus

From my list on science fiction books about the past.

Who am I?

I’m a Virginia-based science fiction and fantasy writer who’s lived variously-enriching lives as a coroner’s assistant, customer service manager, university lecturer, secretary, factory technician, and clerk. I’ve bounced all around the Midwest, from Minnesota to Ohio to Colorado to Missouri and now out on the East Coast.

Tristan's book list on science fiction books about the past

Tristan Palmgren Why did Tristan love this book?

It’s too easy, in time travel fantasies, to imagine that you would feel a step above the people around you... that you alone know what’s coming, and just, in general, have your advanced-future-person perspective on the world. That’s not how history should feel. The All Clear series’s time-traveling historians arrive to observe the London Blitz and have that comforting certainty ripped out from underneath them. They’re left lost, alone, and isolated in a well-painted portrait of a world on the edge of collapse.

By Connie Willis,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Award-winning author Connie Willis returns with a stunning, enormously entertaining novel of time travel, war, and the deeds - great and small - of ordinary people who shape history.

Book cover of The Man Between

Ephraim Author Of Requiem for Betrayal

From Ephraim's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Researcher Adventurer Writer Reader

Ephraim's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Ephraim Why did Ephraim love this book?

It is so realistic. How could a nerd novelist get sucked into a life-or-death spy intrigue?

All the characters are so believable in such an unbelievable story. You can almost see yourself in the protagonist’s shoes. There is tension and suspense even when there is nothing more than a writer’s conference going on.

I was turning those pages so fast to find out what was next. I am going to read it again to see if I missed anything.

By Charles Cumming,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'Recommended. I read it one breathless sitting' Ian Rankin

A gripping new standalone spy thriller, recalling the classic film Casablanca, from the winner of the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger for Best Thriller of the Year and 'the master of the modern spy thriller' (Mail on Sunday).

Successful novelist Kit Carradine has grown restless. So when British Intelligence invites him to enter the secret world of espionage, he willingly takes a leap into the unknown.

Kit finds himself in Morocco on the trail of Lara Bartok - a leading figure in Resurrection, a revolutionary…

Book cover of Sweet Caress

Jane Davis Author Of I Stopped Time

From my list on pioneering and trailblazing photographers.

Who am I?

Photography has been a passion throughout my life. I remember so clearly my first experience of the dark room: the dim red light, the chemical smell of the developing solution, and a ghost-like image gradually coming into focus. In my novel I Stopped Time I wanted to pay tribute to the pioneers of photography, but would I be able to bring that same depth of clarity to the written word? It was an incredibly proud moment when one reviewer wrote, "This book voiced everything I’ve held inside of me as a photographer."

Jane's book list on pioneering and trailblazing photographers

Jane Davis Why did Jane love this book?

I loved the ambitious concept behind William Boyd’s novel. Take seventy-five ‘found photos’ and construct a life around them.

At the age of seventy, Amory Clay is reflecting on her long photographic career, which took her from London, where she photographed the smart set, to Berlin where she captured its nightlife. Like Lee Miller, Amory Clay transitioned from New York fashion shoots to photojournalism, reporting on war-torn Normandy, and, much later, in the Vietnam war. Now, she’s about to embark on a personal mission—to track down her daughter, Blythe.

Boyd seamlessly weaves fact with fiction. This was one of those books that had me Googling the names of characters, thinking that there must be two photographers I had overlooked, only to conclude that they were fictional. (I shan’t give the game away and tell you which!)

By William Boyd,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

THE TOP TEN SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER Amory Clay's first memory is of her father doing a handstand - but it is his absences that she chiefly remembers. Her Uncle Greville, a photographer, gives her both the affection she needs and a camera, which unleashes a passion that irrevocably shapes her future. She begins an apprenticeship with him in London, photographing socialites for magazines. But Amory is hungry for more and her search for life, love and artistic expression will take her to the demi-monde of 1920s Berlin, New York in the 1930s, the Blackshirt riots in London, and France during…

Book cover of The Diary of Isabella M Smugge

Vince Rockston Author Of Aquila: Can Silvanus Escape That God?

From Vince's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Investigator Nature lover Christian Perfectionist

Vince's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Vince Rockston Why did Vince love this book?

The book is entertaining and very readable, and the theme is highly topical. The characters – somewhat exaggerated – come over quite convincingly.

The story is about Isabella, financed by her hedge-fund banker husband, and her social media postings. Isabella keeps fit, outsources the maintenance of her house, garden, and children, and revels in her success as an influencer. When her children cause problems at school, and other mothers ostracise her, Isabella realises she has no real friends. New problems arise, and childhood scars surface. 

I am keen to find out how Isabella copes in the next books.

By Ruth Leigh,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Meet Isabella Smugge as in Br-uge-s, naturally! Instagram influencer, consummate show-off and endearingly self-unaware. With a palatial home, charming husband and three well-mannered children, she is living the Country Life dream. Newly arrived in the country, Isabella is ready to bring a dash of London glamour to the school gate and gain a whole new set of followers though getting past the instant coffee, terrible hair and own-brand sausage rolls may be a challenge! But as her Latvian au pair's behaviour becomes increasingly bizarre and a national gossip columnist nurses a grudge, Isabella finds herself in need of true friends…

Book cover of Asunder

Christine Lai Author Of Landscapes

From my list on art and the ways of seeing.

Who am I?

In Six Memos for the Next Millennium, Italo Calvino writes that “we can distinguish between two types of imaginative processes, one that begins with words and ends with the visual image, and another that begins with the visual image and ends with its verbal expression.” All of my writing projects begin with the visual image. It is difficult for me to verbalize what precisely about art that captivates me. But when I stand in front of certain artworks, I feel a magnetic pull, and something in the piece—the brushstrokes, the colors, the materiality—compels me to write something in response to it.

Christine's book list on art and the ways of seeing

Christine Lai Why did Christine love this book?

Told from the perspective of a museum guard in London, Asunder is one of the most brilliant novels that engages with art.

The protagonist works in the National Gallery by day, and in the evening, she builds miniature dioramas. She also reflects on the destruction of a famous painting, goes on trips with friends, and eventually has a transformative encounter in a dilapidated castle. Asunder explores the meaning of art, decay, and preservation.

By Chloe Aridjis,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Marie's job as a guard at the National Gallery in London offers her the life she always wanted, one of invisibility and quiet contemplation. But amid the hushed corridors of the Gallery surge currents of history and violence, paintings whose power belies their own fragility. There also lingers the legacy of her great-grandfather Ted, the museum guard who slipped and fell moments before reaching the suffragette Mary Richardson as she took a blade to one of the gallery's masterpieces on the eve of the First World War.

After nine years there, Marie begins to feel the tug of restlessness. A…