Blanche’s Book Club: Books set in London.

Since scheduling this trip, I knew I wanted to read at least one book based in London beforehand. So, I started doing some digging and came up with a list of options. Of course, I’ll just have to fold most of the into my TBR list, because you don’t have to be headed to London to read about it!

“Londoners” by Craig Taylor

This book sounded so different and raw, I definitely want to read it at some point. Here is the book’s description:

In Londoners, acclaimed journalist Craig Taylor paints readers an epic portrait of today’s London that is as rich and lively as the city itself. In the style of Studs Terkel (Working, Hard Times, The Good War) and Dave Isay (Listening Is an Act of Love), Londoners offers up the stories, the gripes, the memories, and the dreams of those in the great and vibrant British metropolis who “love it, hate it, live it, left it, and long for it,” from a West End rickshaw driver to a Soldier of the Guard at Buckingham Palace to a recovering heroin addict seeing Big Ben for the very first time. Published just in time for the 2012 London Olympic Games, Londoners is a glorious literary celebration of one of the world’s truly great cities.

“Absolute Beginners” by Colin MacInnes

I don’t think I’ve ever read anything in this era and this one just sounded so cool. Here’s the scoop

London, 1958—Soho, Notting Hill… a world of smoky jazz clubs, coffee bars and hip hang-outs in the center of London’s emerging youth culture. The young and restless—the Absolute Beginners—were creating a world as different as they dared from the traditional image of England’s green and pleasant land. Follow our young photographer as he records the moments of a young teenager’s life in the capital—sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, the era of the first race riots and the lead-up to the swinging sixties. 

A twentieth-century cult classic, Absolute Beginners remains the style bible for anyone interested in Mod culture and paints a vivid picture of a changing society with insight and sensitivity.

“84, Charing Cross Road” by Helene Hanff

I saw this one on Instagram as a recommendation for someone looking for books about New York City. The person recommended it said it was half/half NYC and London.

This charming classic, first published in 1970, brings together twenty years of correspondence between Helene Hanff, a freelance writer living in New York City, and a used-book dealer in London. Through the years, though never meeting and separated both geographically and culturally, they share a winsome, sentimental friendship based on their common love for books. Their relationship, captured so acutely in these letters, is one that will grab your heart and not let go.

“A Week in December” by Sebastian Faulks

I love the idea of connecting with strangers because of your daily interactions and while maybe this book should be read in December, it sounds so good!

London, the week before Christmas, 2007. Over seven days we follow the lives of seven major characters: 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 too much time to speculate; a student who has been led astray by Islamist theory; a hack book-reviewer; a schoolboy hooked on skunk and reality TV; and a Tube train driver whose Circle Line train joins these and countless other lives together in a daily loop.

With daring skill, the novel pieces together the complex patterns and crossings of modern urban life. Greed, the dehumanising effects of the electronic age and the fragmentation of society are some of the themes dealt with in this savagely humorous book. The writing on the wall appears in letters ten feet high, but the characters refuse to see it — and party on as though tomorrow is a dream.

Sebastian Faulks probes not only the self-deceptions of this intensely realised group of people, but their hopes and loves as well. As the novel moves to its gripping climax, they are forced, one by one, to confront the true nature of the world they inhabit.

“Career of Evil” by Robert Galbraith

This is the third book in the Cormoran Strike series. I’ve read all of them, but I can’t have a London book list without including them! Read my full review ofCareer of Evil” and here’s the book’s description:

When a mysterious package is delivered to Robin Ellacott, she is horrified to discover that it contains a woman’s severed leg. Her boss, private detective Cormoran Strike, is less surprised but no less alarmed. There are four people from his past who he thinks could be responsible—and Strike knows that any one of them is capable of sustained and unspeakable brutality.

With the police focusing on one of the suspects, Strike and Robin delve into the dark and twisted worlds of the other three men. But as more horrendous acts occur, time is running out for the two of them…

“Chasing Charlie” by Linda McLaughlin

I’m a sucker for a good rom-com and this one sounded so fun!

When unlucky-in-love Sam bumps into her first boyfriend, the charming but roguish Charlie, she falls for him all over again. Even though he broke her heart, she’s determined to win him back—even if she has to chase him all over London. Sam’s friends have their doubts about whether cheating Charlie is really the man for her, but they have their own problems to deal with. Uptight Mara is struggling to trust anyone after a bad break-up; sexy corporate go-getter Claudia has her self-confidence rocked after a health scare; and sensitive, intelligent Ed has been secretly in love with Sam for years. As Sam chases her lost love like a woman possessed, getting into ever more outlandish situations, she wonders just how far she’ll go to win Charlie back. Or will she finally see what’s right under her nose?

“Confessions of a Shopaholic” by Sophie Kinsella

I read this book a long time ago, but I remember loving it, so I had to add it to my list!

Becky Bloomwood has a fabulous flat in London’s trendiest neighborhood, a troupe of glamorous socialite friends, and a closet brimming with the season’s must-haves. The only trouble is, she can’t actually afford it—not any of it. Her job writing at Successful Saving magazine not only bores her to tears, it doesn’t pay much at all. And lately Becky’s been chased by dismal letters from the bank—letters with large red sums she can’t bear to read. She tries cutting back. But none of her efforts succeeds. Her only consolation is to buy herself something . . . just a little something.

Finally a story arises that Becky actually cares about, and her front-page article catalyzes a chain of events that will transform her life—and the lives of those around her—forever.

“London Belongs to Us” by Sarra Manning

You guys know I can’t pass up a YA novel, so when I saw this one, I melted a little. Definitely going to read it!

Seventeen-year-old Sunny’s always been a little bit of a pushover. But when she’s sent a picture of her boyfriend kissing another girl, she knows she’s got to act. What follows is a mad, 12-hour dash around London–starting at 8 pm in Crystal Palace (so far away from civilization you can’t even get the Tube there) then sweeping through Camden, Shoreditch, Soho, Kensington, Notting Hill . . . and ending up at 8 am in Alexandra Palace. Along the way Sunny meets a whole host of characters she never dreamed she’d have anything in common with–least of all the devilishly handsome (and somewhat vain) French “twins” (they’re really cousins) Jean Luc and Vic. But as this love-letter to London shows, a city is only a sum of its parts, and really it’s the people living there who make up its life and soul. And, as Sunny discovers, everyone–from friends, apparent-enemies, famous bands, and even rickshaw drivers–is willing to help a girl on a mission to get her romantic retribution.

“Oliver Twist” by Charles Dickens

There are so many classics that I haven’t read, including anything by Charles Dickens. Or if I did, I do not remember 😉

The story of Oliver Twist – orphaned, and set upon by evil and adversity from his first breath – shocked readers when it was published. After running away from the workhouse and pompous beadle Mr Bumble, Oliver finds himself lured into a den of thieves peopled by vivid and memorable characters – the Artful Dodger, vicious burglar Bill Sikes, his dog Bull’s Eye, and prostitute Nancy, all watched over by cunning master-thief Fagin. Combining elements of Gothic Romance, the Newgate Novel and popular melodrama, Dickens created an entirely new kind of fiction, scathing in its indictment of a cruel society, and pervaded by an unforgettable sense of threat and mystery.

“The Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins

I read this book and saw the movie, both were phenomenal, creepy and shocking. A must read!

EVERY DAY THE SAME

Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning and night. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. Jess and Jason, she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

UNTIL TODAY

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel goes to the police. But is she really as unreliable as they say? Soon she is deeply entangled not only in the investigation but in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

“The Name of the Star” by Maureen Johnson

This one sounds scary, but good…

Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London to start a new life at boarding school just as a series of brutal murders mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper killing spree of more than a century ago has broken out across the city. The police are left with few leads and no witnesses. Except one. Rory spotted the man believed to be the prime suspect. But she is the only one who saw him – the only one who can see him. And now Rory has become his next target…unless she can tap her previously unknown abilities to turn the tables.

“Tunnel Vision” by Keith Lowe

This is the one I’ll probably read first, just because it sounds so different and sort of funny.

Andy’s obsession with the London Underground is interfering with his life. On the eve of his wedding, he makes a drunken bet that challenges him to travel through every single Tube station in just one day. Only by completing the entire map will Andy retrieve the Eurostar tickets he needs to get to his wedding in Paris. At 1 AM, Andy’s fiancée, Rachel, will be on the Eurostar, with or without him. 

Not just an unpredictable story about one man’s peculiar passion, Keith Lowe’s exceptional debut draws us effortlessly along on a deeply personal journey through chaos, commitment, and love.

… Ta-da! I know there’s tons of other books out there based in London, so if you know of one, please let me know!

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