Books I'm Reading Before Going to England

It is a truth almost universally acknowledged that the person planning a trip turns into a tyrant within twenty-four hours. Ok, perhaps tyrant is an overstatement, but I definitely went overboard with a twenty-six page (and counting!) itinerary. Part of the itinerary included reading recommendations and they are growing every single day. So far, the books I've read (that are not travel guides - I've probably gone through three so far) are:

A Curious Guide to London by Simon Leyland: This is not your ordinary travel guide. This book is basically a collection of London lore, organised by geography. If this wasn't a library book, I would bring it with me and open it as I try to rush my family around London (my mom's comment on the itinerary was "isn't there any time to relax?" The answer was "no, there is far too much to see")

Sorry! The English and their Manners by Henry Hitchings: This doesn't really help plan a trip but it was interesting to read about how manners in England developed. Because the author dives deep into history, the book also touched about manners in other countries, although the focus is clearly on England.

Drood by Dan Simmons: One of the places that I'm planning to visit is the Charles Dickens Museum, and so I was like "hey, a book on Charles Dickens". This really, really long book is fiction (although the blurb says it's "based on actual biographical events") but it stars Wilkie Collins and Charles Dickens and is full of references to the literature of that time. It's not really a light read, but it's an absorbing one.

Shakespeare on Toast by Ben Crystal: We're also planning to see Shakespeare's Globe and visit Stratford-upon Avon, so I thought it would be good to read something to refresh my memory of Shakespeare. This book is more about how to read Shakespeare but there is plenty of information about how plays were performed in his time and some history, and I thought it was a pretty good introduction to the Bard himself. After this, I have more confidence to revisit King Lear and Merchant of Venice (which are the two books I once studied).

Persuasion by Jane Austen: Well, I think I've read almost all Jane Austen books (and even own Jane Austen for Dummies, which is actually really interesting) but since I'll be going to Bath, I decided to read one of the Bath books. While the setting doesn't move to Bath until the latter half, it's always a pleasure to read one of her novels. If I had more time, I'd read the rest of her books too.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl: Cadbury World isn't quite Willy Wonka but hey, when I think of "books about chocolate factories", I think of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory". But if you're looking for books about the history of chocolate, Triffic Chocolate by Alan MacDonald is a fun introduction to the world of chocolate and includes facts about the big chocolate brands. For something a bit more serious, I recommend The True History of Chocolate by Sophie D. Coe and Michael D. Coe which starts from the birth of cacao to its present-day status.


Right now, I'm currently reading Mr. Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva. This book is only very loosely based on historical events, but it's a fantastic imagining of how A Christmas Carol could come to be and is putting me in a Christmas mood.

Of course, I still have loads of books to read after I'm done with Mr. Dickens and His Carol. I'm hoping that it doesn't continue to grow (although paradoxically, I welcome any and all reading suggestions) but books that I have borrowed from the library are:

Sketchers of Young Gentlemen and Young Couples by Charles Dickens: While I have a soft spot for David Copperfield, I couldn't find my copy so off to the library I went. Unfortunately, A Christmas Carol was not available (perhaps I should have gone sooner), but this sounds like a humorous read. The back cover says that these sketches were created in response to Sketches of Young Ladies by 'Quiz' and I'm looking forward to being entertained.

Dicken's England by Tony Lynch: I was actually looking for Victorian City by Judith Flanders but it was unavailable. Instead, I found this and I'll probably be reading it after Mr. Dickens and His Carol. It's supposed to be about both actual and fictional locations related to Charles Dickens so I'm hoping that I still remember the stories I read a couple of years ago. 

The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay: I'm actually pretty nervous about reading this because while I love Austen, it doesn't mean that I like reading about books where people are affected by Austen. But the blurb has the magic words "fully believes she lives in Jane Austen's Bath" and since Bath is one of the places we will be going to (I am so excited for the Jane Austen Center), I decided to borrow it.

And this is my England reading list. I probably won't be adding to it, but if I have time, I'd like to read more Austen (starting with Northanger Abbey) and Dickens before I board the plane.

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