Trying to compile a reading-list for and about London is no easy task. Even if you limit yourself to one particular century alone, you’ll drown in books, short stories, and poetry. Naturally, no list is complete or the one true list. I’ve compiled two short lists, one based on books and short stories I’ve read and recommend and the other is a list I haven’t read yet, but plan on doing so.
Of course, no London reading list is complete without Charles Dickens. However, my personal favourite is not one of his more popular books such as Great Expectations or Oliver Twist. Instead, I’d recommend everyone to pick up Sketches by Boz. Published as a book in 1836, Sketches by Boz is a collection of Dickens’s earliest short stories with illustrations by George Cruikshank. Dickens once said about Sketches by Boz the following: “They comprise my first attempts at authorship. I am conscious of their often being extremely crude and ill-considered, and bearing obvious marks of haste and inexperience”. Sketches by Boz provides a fascinating glimpse into life in early Victorian London. Some pieces are called ‘Scenes’, written is such a way as if Dickens, in the guise of Boz, is your personal tour-guide through an aspect of London long lost.
When reading Sketches by Boz, one short story one stumbles upon is ‘The Drunkards Death’, a story about the life and death of, as the name implies, a drunkard. This brings me to my second recommendation. A short story by Edgar Allan Poe called ‘The man of the crowd’ is another fascinating piece about London. When reading both short stories, one notices some similarities. In fact, it is widely believed that Poe was inspired by Dickens’ ‘Drunkard’s Death’ and Sketches by Boz as a whole.
When I was looking for books for London, there were several recurring authors and books that everyone seemed to recommend so, in order to prevent my to-read list from reaching the size of London, I’ve picked just three.
Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch
One of the books everyone seemed to recommend me to read was Rivers of London, an urban fantasy novel. According to my friends and online recommendation, the book seems to be highly entertaining, so it will end up on my immediate t-read list.
King Rat by China Mieville
Another highly recommended urban fantasy novel is King Rat by China Mieville. By now it is no secret that I love Mieville’s works. So any excuse to read another of his books is more than welcome! I plan on reading King Rat immediately after my trip to London.
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
The book I’ve chose to take with me to London and read throughout my journey is Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. I have to admit at this point that I haven’t read any of Gaiman’s books so far. I somehow never found the time so that’s why I’ve decided to read Gaiman’s book even though Mieville is one of my absolute favourites!
Is there a ‘must read’ I’ve overlooked? Have you read any of those texts I’ve mentioned? Leave a comment down below!