I’ve been to quite a few different countries in the few years I’ve been traveling, but one sticks out to me more than the others: England. I firmly believe that there are places that you will visit out there in the world that will feel like home, even if you’ve never been there before, and England is that place for me.
Visiting England is like one big pop-culture filled vacation. The music, the films, the fashion, the museums, and the literature. And to top that all off the history. There is so much history tucked into every windy street, or dirt back road that you find yourself traversing.
England is a magical place and if you’re sold on my sales pitch, here are 10 books I think you should read while gearing up for your own trip across the pond. You won’t find any travel books on this list, and that’s because I don’t think I’ve ever read one myself. But that being said, these books capture some of what England has to offer, and they’ll give you a mad case of wanderlust. You’re welcome. In no particular order I give you, my picks…
1. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
This may be a fantasy novel, but it includes a ton of London’s landmarks and tube stations as it’s playground. If you’re not creeped out by dark stories filled with delightfully twisted characters, this should be on your list. London Above shows itself as actual London, while London Below creates a whole new world in London’s famous tube stations. Read it before you go, and then live in the character’s footsteps as you wander around London yourself.
2. Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco
I don’t know about you, but I’ve always had a fascination with the Jack the Ripper killings. If you’re like me, then pick up Stalking Jack the Ripper before heading out on your own Jack the Ripper tour in London. It features a female protagonist who breaks tradition and performs autopsies with her Uncle. There’s also a slow burn romance, and a whole lot of blood. What more could you want?
3. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
This tragic romance has a lot of buzz around it, and a film adaptation that was actually really good. If you’re asking me, anyway. It may take place in a sleepy English town, and it might take a quick trip to Switzerland (we don’t talk about that) but it’s such a good representation of English people that it had to go on the list. The characters are the reason that I adore this book so much.
4. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Of course this list would have a classic on it, and Jane Eyre is my pick. It’s got the dark, brooding feeling going for it, as well as the tragic storyline that turns redemptive. It’s a beautiful love story, but aside from that, it explores Northern England and the Moors. Plus, Jane is wonderful.
5. Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen
One of the oldest legends to come out of England is that of Robin Hood and His Merry Men. Chances are, you grew up watching the Disney film, where he’s portrayed as a fox. Robin Hood has been with us for years, and Scarlet expands on his legend, from the point of view of Will Scarlet, who’s actually a girl in disguise. Make sure you don’t miss out on Lady Thief and Lion Heart, which complete the trilogy.
6. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
This dark twisty mystery is the perfect winter read. On top of that, it’ll make you want to hole up in some dark little inn in England. If you’re a mystery buff, this one is for you. It’s also filled with a ton of books. It’s one of those reader’s reads. And it’s also filled with a dying woman’s childhood secrets. (Cue the ‘Ooohs’).
7. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
History fans, here’s your book. This one takes place during WWII, and it’ll rip your heartstrings out, and make you curl up in a ball. Yes, it’ll leave you feeling all the feels. It’s a friendship story following two British girls (one an interrogator, and one a pilot), and what happens when their British spy plane crash lands in Nazi-occupied France. It’s such a compelling story, and it doesn’t pull any punches. If you appreciate historical details, planes, and friendship stories read Code Name Verity.
8. My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows
This book is ridiculous. It kind of tells the story of Lady Jane Grey, kind of. I mean she’s in it, but this “historical” account is so twisted that nothing goes the way the history books would have you believe that they did. Oh, and some of the main characters can turn into animals, so instead of the political problems coming from religion, here, they actually happen because some people can magically transform into animals. If you like the history of English Kings and Queens, but don’t take yourself too seriously, My Lady Jane should totally be your plane read.
9. The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason
It’s not a trip to England if you don’t dip into Sherlock culture. Instead of going the way of the original Sherlock stories, I give you The Clockwork Scarab. It’s actually the first novel in a trilogy, in which Bram Stoker‘s sister, Evaline, teams up with Sherlock Holmes‘ niece, Mina. Both ladies are feisty, and just like their famous family relations, they’re really good at solving crimes.
10. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
Or, if you want to be British, you’d call it Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Actually, maybe you should pick up an English copy while you’re in England? If you don’t know the story of England’s most famous boy wizard, you’re missing out. Sure, this is a fantastical fantasy, but it’s also rooted in British culture. It gives you a look into, not only magic, but also what it’s like to live in a boarding school, and the series will keep you busy for awhile.
What other British inspired reads would you add to this list? Have you booked your trip to England yet?
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