5 Books to Read about England
Before you head to the erstwhile imperial capital of the world, you might want to learn something about its history, its landscapes, its battles, and its people. To help you on your journey, I have selected five books to check out from the library or buy from Better World Books. These titles offer a glimpse into the world that is and has been England, and they can guide you as you take your first steps in planning your trip, or once your feet are firmly planted on English soil – or pavement.
1.) Perhaps the best text to hear the voices of the people of England’s capital is Londoners by the Canadian Craig Taylor. The researcher has transcribed interviews with hundreds of residents and passers-through who tell their stories, which become the stories of the city as well as of a single life. After sitting down in cafés and shops with students, actors, bankers, street cleaners, and even the woman whose voice you’ll hear on the Underground, Taylor presents a read that is more like a movie, a slice of life in London.
2.) Bill Bryson has long been one of my favorite authors, mostly for his ability to make the mundane so much more vivid and comical than it might appear at first glance. His book Notes from a Small Island recounts trips he took around Great Britain in the 1970s and 80s. Although the scenes he visited have surely changed, this text gives the reader insight into what an innocent foreigner like yourself might have encountered in another era.
3.) For fun and quirky facts about England, it is worth checking out I Never Knew That About England by Christopher Winn. This book combines interesting tidbits with stories that reveal a side of the country you might not have expected. At times varyingly funny or fascinating, Winn has brought together enough knowledge to keep you busy for a while.
4.) While many books about British landscapes certainly exist, one that I would recommend is Mark Denton’s England: The Panoramas. With glossy photographs of beautiful locations both famous and unknown, this book will light your way for wandering the country in search of natural magnificence. Since the pictures are panoramic rather than conventional, you can get a fuller sense of the views offered in this book.
5.) Combining history with images, The Most Beautiful Villages of England by James Bentley and Hugh Palmer delivers on its promise. The information provided in this book is useful to any traveler who wants to know what has happened on the ground he or she walks today. Many English villages have a rich story that will illuminate the location’s geography and architecture in new ways.
So there it is. You could read a hundred more books on the topic of England and never learn all there is to know. For this reason, I suggest starting with these five, to get a taste and to see what direction you might want to go in. What other books would you recommend for a visitor to England?
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