Sometimes I can’t believe it’s been almost 10 years since I first moved to London. I came here for work and instantly fell in love with the city. While I have recently moved to Watford on the outskirts of London, the city will always hold a special place in my heart.
London seems to be one of those cities you either love or hate. I know plenty of people who avoid the city at all costs but for those of us who adore London, just a simple mention can bring a smile to our face bringing with it wonderful memories.
If you’re like me and can’t get enough of British Capital, here are 35 books set in London that will transport you back to your happy place. From romance, to thrillers, to classics, to comedies. There is something on this list for everyone wanting to mentally transport to London.
- 1 35 Books Set in London
- 1.1 Oliver Twist
- 1.2 About A Boy
- 1.3 I Heart London
- 1.4 Her Fearful Symmetry
- 1.5 Bridget Jones Diary
- 1.6 Brixton Rock
- 1.7 How To Not Fall in Love, Actually
- 1.8 Mary Poppins
- 1.9 The Silent Patient
- 1.10 London Belongs To Us
- 1.11 My Loverman
- 1.12 A Parcel for Anna Browne
- 1.13 Sherlock Holmes
- 1.14 Adrift in Soho
- 1.15 The 24 Hour Cafe
- 1.16 London Fields
- 1.17 Here’s Looking At You
- 1.18 A Bear Called Paddington
- 1.19 Machines Like Me
- 1.20 Brick Lane
- 1.21 The Girl on the Train
- 1.22 Meet Me in London
- 1.23 Curtain Call
- 1.24 Second Class Citizen
- 1.25 Rivers of London
- 1.26 A Week in December
- 1.27 Mrs Dalloway
- 1.28 The London Eye Mystery
- 1.29 Small Island
- 1.30 Tunnel Vision
- 1.31 The Name of the Star
- 1.32 Londoners: The Days and Nights of London Now
- 1.33 Single in the City
- 1.34 The Swimming Pool Library
- 1.35 I Never Knew That About London
- 2 More Travel Books
35 Books Set in London
By Charles Dickens
Starting the list with a classic, Oliver Twist is the story of an orphan boy who runs away from the orphanage and meets the Artful Dodger and Fagin. Oliver is taught the art of pickpocketing as the pair run around the dirty back streets of London. But is Oliver too good for this dark and dangerous world?
About A Boy
By Nick Hornby
Made famous by the Film starring Hugh Grant, About A Boy is a comic and heartwarming best seller. Will is a cool thirty-six year old who is single, child-free and goes to the right clubs. He started going to single parent groups as a way to meet women looking for a nice guy. That’s how Will meets Marcus, the oldest twelve-year-old on the planet. Marcus listens to Mozart and looks after his mum. Once they meet, Marcus latches on to Will and won’t let go. Can Will teach Marcus how to be cool and can Marcus help Will grow up and act his age?
I Heart London
By Lindsey Kelk
Angela Clark had fallen in love with her new life in New York but then she’s summoned home to London and risks losing her shiny new life to the never-ending English rain. London has her ex boyfriend who she ran to New York to get away from, her best friend with her terrifying new baby and her mother who still talks to her as though she’s fifteen. Now with a wedding about to happen everyone remembers how well Angela behaved at the last one. Can the arrival of boyfriend Alex save Angela from a re-run of her old self?
Her Fearful Symmetry
By Audrey Niffenegger
When Elspeth Noblin passes away she leaves her beautiful flat overlooking Highgate Cemetery to her twin nieces Julia and Valentina Poole. The only condition is their mother is never allowed to cross the threshold. But the twins didn’t even know their aunt existed until the letter from the solicitor reached them in America. Hoping they can finally live their own separate lives in London they accept not knowing they’ve been summoned into a tangle of fraying lives. The twins slowly start to unravel the secrets of their aunt, who doesn’t seem ready to leave her flat, even after death. This is an incredible ghost story about love, loss and identity.
Bridget Jones Diary
By Helen Fielding
Made popular by the film starring Renée Zellweger, Bridget Jones Diary is the hilarious story of chain smoking, overweight, thirty-something Bridget. Documenting her struggles in her diary, readers are left in stitches as Bridget tries to keep her love life in order as she tries to weigh up the eternal question, Daniel Cleaver or Mark Darcy?
By Alex Wheatle
Set during the time of the Brixton race riots in the 1980s, Brick Rock tells a story of overcoming obstacles from a teen’s perspective. Brenton Brown is a mixed-race 16 year old who has lived in a children’s home his entire life and is haunted by the absence of his mother. However, when he finally meets his mother he falls dangerously in love with his half-sister. And then killer Terry Flynn also scars Benton’s life, leaving him wanting revenge. Through everything, the teenager is determined to pursue education and recognise his true self even with all the chaos around him.
How To Not Fall in Love, Actually
By Catherine Bennetto
Emma has a job in television which is not as glamorous and exciting as it sounds. She’s managed to climb her way up to 2nd Assistant Director although she’s not feeling respected. But then life takes a dramatic turn when Emma discovers she’s accidentally pregnant at the same time she is sacked from her job. Now with a baby on the way Emma needs to learn to be the sort of person who can look after herself so she can become responsible for another life too.
By P.L Travers
This much loved Disney film was based on the incredible book series by P.L Travers. If you loved the film you’re sure to enjoy the book. Mary Poppins is the charming story of a magical nanny who turns the lives of the Bank’s children upside down.
The Silent Patient
By Alex Michaelides
The Silent Patient is a gripping must read thriller that’s soon to be a major film. Alicia Berenson lived a seemingly perfect life until six years ago when she shot her husband in the head five times. Since that day she hasn’t spoken a single word and now it’s time to find out why.
London Belongs To Us
By Sarra Manning
Seventeen year old Sunny has always been a little bit of a pushover, however, after being sent a picture of her boyfriend kissing another girl she knows she has to act. What follows is a crazy twelve hour dash around London, starting at 8pm in Crystal Palace then sweeping through Camden, Shoreditch, Soho, Kensington, Notting Hill before ending in Alexandra Palace at 8am. Along the way Sunny meets a whole host of characters she never would have thought she’d have anything in common with. She soon discovers everyone from friends to enemies to famous bands are willing to help a girl on a mission to get romantic retribution.
By Bernardine Evaristo
Barrington Jedidiah Walker is seventy-four and leads a double life. Born and bred in Antigua, he’s lived in Hackney since the sixties. A flamboyant, wise-cracking local character with a dapper taste in retro suites, Barrington is a husband, father and grandfather. But he is also secretly homosexual and lovers with his great childhood friend, Morris. His deeply religious wife Carmel thinks he sleeps with other women. When their marriage goes into meltdown, Barrington wants to divorce Carmel and live with Morris. But after a lifetime of fear and deception will he manage to break away?
A Parcel for Anna Browne
By Miranda Dickinson
Anna Browne is just an ordinary woman living an ordinary life as a receptionist in bustling London. It isn’t exactly her dream but she still has everything she wants. Someone else however, thinks Anna deserves more. When she receives a parcel addressed to her, she has no idea who sent it but inside is a beautiful gift. So quickly receives more deliveries, each one bringing Anna further out of the shadows and into the woman she was destined to be, growing in confidence each day. But who is sending these mysterious gifts and why?
By Arthur Conan Doyle
Technically not just one book, but if you’re looking for books set in London and you love classic detective books, you really shouldn’t miss out on the Sherlock Holmes series. Starting with The Study in Scarlet you’ll be introduced to the eccentric genius Sherlock Holmes and his trusty partner Dr John Watson.
Adrift in Soho
By Colin Wilson
It’s the mid-50s and Harry Preston says goodbye to his former life and comes to London looking for adventure but soon finds himself in a slightly seedy world. As Colin progresses through the ranks of would-be artists and deluded romantics of Soho and Notting Hill, he begins to make sense of the world and his role in it.
The 24 Hour Cafe
By Libby Page
Welcome to the cafe that never sleeps. Open day and night, Stella’s Cafe is a place for the lonely and lost. The morning people and the night owls. It’s a place where everyone is welcome and where life can wait at the door. Hannah and Mona are best friends and dreamers who work at the cafe. They love the different people and the small kindness exchanged but is it time for them to step outside and make their own way in life?
By Martin Amis
Samson Young is a writer who is staring death in the face, and not only his own. Samson’s dash to a decaying, degenerate London has brought him through the doors of the Black Cross pub. He learns about a murder story just waiting to be narrated. Nicola Six was tragically murdered on her 35th birthday and around her are the disreputable men who might yet turn out to be her killer. All Samson has to do is write Nicola’s story as it happens and savour this last gift that has been granted to him.
Here’s Looking At You
By Mhairi McFarlane
Anna Alessi is a history expert with an occasionally filthy mouth that is seeking a nice man for intelligent conversation. Despite the oddballs that keep turning up on her dates, Anna couldn’t be happier. Happy with a job she loves, life has turned out better than she could have dreamt. Although things weren’t always this way and she would rather forget her years spent as the ‘Italian Galleon’ of an East London comprehensive. So when James Fraser walks back into her life, her world is turned upside down. Grown up, James now seems polite and mature. Can people change? Why does Anna feel like she’d be a fool to trust him?
A Bear Called Paddington
By Michael Bond
Known around the world and loved by adults and children alike, Paddington Bear celebrated his 60th birthday in 2018. Paddington Bear had travelled all the way from Peru when the Brown family first met him on Paddington station with just a suitcase and jar of marmalade. Since then their lives have never been quite the same again.
Machines Like Me
By Ian McEwan
Charlie has been drifting through life and dodging full time employment. He is in love with Miranda, a bright student with a terrible secret. When Charlie comes into money, he buys Adam, one of the first batch of synthetic humans. With Miranda’s help he co-designs Adam’s personality. The near perfect Adam is beautiful, strong and clever and soon a love triangle forms which leads Charlie, Miranda and Adam to a profound moral dilemma. Can you design the perfect partner? What makes us human?
By Monica Ali
Still in her teenage years, Nazneen finds herself in an arranged marriage with a disappointed older man. Away from her Bangladeshi village, her home is now a cramped flat in London’s East End. Nazneen doesn’t know a word of English and so is forced to depend on her husband. Confined in her tiny flat, she sews furiously for a living until the radical Karim unexpectedly steps into her life. On a background of racial conflict and tension, they embark on a love affair that forces Nazneen to finally take control of her fate.
The Girl on the Train
By Paula Hawkins
While many know The Girl on the Train because of the film set in New York, the book was actually set in and around London. Rachel catches the same commuter train to London every morning. She knows it will stop at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens. After a while Rachel starts to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses. She called them ‘Jess’ and ‘Jason’ and imagines that they have the perfect life she could only dream of. But then one day she sees something shocking and now everything has changed.
Meet Me in London
By Georgia Toffolo
Victoria Scott spends her days working in a bar in Chelsea and her evenings designing vintage clothes. An aspiring clothes designer, she dreams of one day opening her own boutique but this dreams come under threat with a new department store opening at the end of her road. She is in need of a Christmas miracle.
Oliver Russell is also not feeling festive. His family’s new London department store is opening behind schedule and his well meaning mother is pressing him to introduce his new girlfriend to her. A girlfriend who doesn’t actually exist.
When Oliver meets Victoria he offers a proposition. If she pretends to be his girlfriend at the opening of his store, he will provide an opportunity for Victoria to showcase her designs. But what starts as a business arrangement soon comes something more tempting. Will they follow their hearts and find what neither of them knew they were looking for…
By Anthony Quinn
It’s a sultry summer afternoon in 1936 and a young woman is witness to an attempted murder in a London hotel room. Nina is a West End actress and faces a dilemma. She should never have been at the hotel in the first place and certainly not with a married man. But once it becomes apparent that she has seen the face of the man the newspapers have dubbed ‘the Tie-Pin Killer’ she realises that unless she speaks up, more women will die.
Second Class Citizen
By Buchi Emecheta
Adah, a woman from the Ibo tribe, moved to England to live with her Nigerian student husband. However, she soons discovers that life for a young Nigerian woman living in London in the 1960s is grim. Rejected by British society and thwarted by her husband who expects her to be subservient to him, she is forced to face up to life as a second class citizen.
Rivers of London
By Ben Aaronvitch
Until recently, Peter Grant was a probationary constable in the Metropolitan Police Service. His only concerns in life were how to avoid a transfer to the Case Progression Unit and finding a way to climb into the panties of WPC Leslie May. Then one night while in pursuance of a murder inquriry, Peter tried to take a witness statement from someone who was dead but disturbingly voluabke. This brought him to the attention of Inspector Nightingale, the last wizard in England. Now Peter is a Detective Constable and trainee wizard. Peter’s life has become somewhat different with nests of vampires in Purley to digging up graves in Covent Garden.
A Week in December
By Sebastian Faulks
A Week in December is set in London a week before Christmas tracking the lives of seven characters, piecing together the complex patterns and crossings of modern urban life. There’s a hedge fund manager trying to bring off the biggest trade of his career; a professional footballer recently arrived from Poland; a young lawyer with little work and much time to speculate; a student who has been led astray by Islamist theory; a hack book-reviewer; a school boy hooked on skunk and reality TV; and a Tube drive whose Circle Line train joins this lives together on a daily loop. One by one, the group is forced to confront the true nature of the world they inhabit.
By Virginia Wolf
Another classic book that just had to make the list. Mrs Dalloway is set on a single day in London in 1923. Clarissa Dalloway is preoccupied with the last-minute details of a party she is throwing that evening. As she gets her house ready she is flooded with memories and starts to re-examine the choices she has made over the course of her life.
The London Eye Mystery
By Siobhan Dowd
At 11:32am Ted and his sister Kat watch their cousin Salim get on board the London Eye. The pod rises from the ground, high above the city. Then at 12:02 the pod lands and the doors open. Everyone exists apart from Salim. Ted’s theory is he spontaneously combusted. Aunt Gloria worries he has been kidnapped. But is he even still alive? Even the polic are baffled by the situation so it’s up to Ted, whose brain runs on its own unique operating system, to solve the mystery and find Salim.
By Andrea Levy
Small Island is set in 1948 when England is recovering from a war. But in London at 21 Nevern Street, the conflict has only just begun. Queenie Bligh’s neighbours do not approve when she agrees to take in Jamaican lodgers. But Queenie has no idea when or even if her husband will return so what else can she do? Gilbert Joseph was one of several thousand Jamaican men who joined the RAF to fight against Hitler. Returning to England as a civilian he finds himself treated very differently. It’s desperation that makes him remember a wartime friendship with Queenie and knock at her door.
By Keith Lowe
Andy has always been interested in the London Underground and until recently it had been relatively harmless. Rachel, his long suffering fiancée, has learnt to put up with it. But on the eve of their wedding, in a fit of last minute nerves, Andy makes a drunken bet which threatens to ruin everything. His task is to travel to every tube station on the system in a single day. As part of the challenge his passport, honeymoon tickets and credit cards have been hidden in various places along the way. Andy has just 20 hours to find them all and complete his journey or the wedding is off.
The Name of the Star
By Maureen Johnson
A thrilling ghost-hunting mystery as modern-day London is plagued by a sudden outbreak in brutal murders that mimic the horrific crimes of Jack the Ripper. Sixteen-year-old American girl Rory has just arrived at a boarding in London when a Jack the Ripper copycat begins terrorizing the city. The police are stumped with few leads and no witnesses. Except one. In an unknown city with few friends to turn to, Rory makes a chilling discover…
Londoners: The Days and Nights of London Now
By Craig Taylor
Craig Taylor is an acclaimed journalist, playwright and writer who spent five years exploring the city and listening to its residents. From the woman whose voice announces the stations on the London Underground to the man who plants the trees along Oxford Street, to a Pakistani currency trader to a Guardsman at Buckingham Palace. Together these voices and many more paint a vivid, epic and wholly fresh portrait of Twenty-First Century London.
Single in the City
By Michele Gorman
Single in the City is a hilariously cringey, feel-good romantic comedy. Hannah is a 26-year-old American who lands in London with all her worldly possessions. But she’s up to her eyeballs in culture shock before her jet lag has even worn off. Plus, she’s got no job, no friends and no idea how she’s supposed to build the life she has been dreaming of. Suddenly she realises buying a one-way ticket might have been a little rash. Armed with little more than her enthusiasm, she charges head on into the city, baffling the locals in her pursuit of a new life.
The Swimming Pool Library
By Alan Hollinghurst
William Beckwith his young, gay and spends his time, and trust fun, idly cruising London for erotic encounters. When he saves the life of an elderly man an unlikely job opportunity presents itself. The man, Lord Nantwich, is seeking a biographer. Will agress to take a look at Nantwich’s diaries but in the story he unravels a tragedy of twentieth-century gay repression.
I Never Knew That About London
By Christopher Winn
Bestselling author Christopher Winn takes us on a captivating journey around London to discover the unknown tales of our capital’s history. Unearthing the hidden gems of legends, firsts, inventions, adventures and birthplaces that shape the city’s compelling and turbulent past. Visit the house where Hendel and Jimi Hendrix both lived, discover which church steeple gave us the design of the traditional wedding cake or find out where London’s first nude statue is. Brimming with facts, stories and snippets, this beautifully illustrated book is guaranteed to inform and amuse in equal measure.
There you have it, 35 incredible books set in London to help inspire your next trip. Which will you read first? Any books not on the list that you love? Let me know in the comments below
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