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The Book Lover’s Guide to London

London is a passionate reader’s dream. It sports over 2000 years of history and has been the home and muse of hundreds of notable authors. People don’t just write in London, they write ABOUT London. It’s not just a setting, it’s a character.

I am definitely one of those bibliophiles. I studied London in Literature during my term in London back in college, than I specifically came back to the city after graduation to live, work and well, read. I’m not alone though, literary tourism is actually quite popular, and London is one of the best cities for it. It’s an alternative way to explore a city, a new way of looking at things, and a peak at times past (and times that never were of course).

So here’s your primer for discovering London on and off the page:

Read: Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens by JM Barrie

Visit: Peter Pan statue, Kensington Gardens

He may have spent his days in Never Neverland but Peter Pan spent his early childhood in Kensington Gardens (I was going to say grew up in, but that’s not quite accurate is it?). You can visit his old stomping grounds, which are beautiful and peaceful. Be sure to pay your respects in person to the boy who wouldn’t grow up.

Read: Great Expectations, Bleak House, A Tale of Two Cities, honestly just about anything by Charles Dickens

Visit: The City of London

Dickens may in fact be London’s greatest author. His novels provide a rich detailed picture of foggy Victorian London (the fog was actually very dirty smog). It’s a peak behind the curtain at a different London. You can still see pieces of that era today in the old City of London. Now the financial district

Here you will find famous sites like Lincoln’s Inn, the Old Curiosity Shop and Temple Church, all which figure prominently in Dickens’ novels. You can also visit Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, a pub dating back to 1667, which Dickens used to frequent.

Read: Mrs. Dalloway or The London Scene by Virginia Woolf

Visit: Bloomsbury

Virginia Woolf wrote extensively about London, in fact you can retrace Mrs. Dalloway’s footsteps through Westminster for yourself if you are so inclined. Otherwise, pay a visit to the Bloomsbury neighborhood around Russel Square- it was once home to the Bloomsbury group- a key group of early twentieth century writers including Woolf, EM Forster and others. It’s a leafy area near the British Museum, some of the most prestigious universities and nicest hotels in London.

Read: The Waste Land by TS Eliot

Visit: The South Bank of the Thames

The wasteland is not an easy read in fact it’s pretty hard to parse. Even so, it’s one of my very favorite pieces of literature. I read it at least once a year and always get something out of it. I even named my cat after TS Eliot.

There’s a lot of gritty post war imagery of the “Unreal City” called London in the poem but one scene that keeps repeating is that of the River Thames flowing ghostlike through the city. In real life though the Thames is bright and lively, and a walk along the south bank, past the Tate Modern, Shakespeare’s Globe and more, might restore your will to live after reading this depressing poem.

I could go on and on but you get the idea. London is full of alternate histories and fantasies. Once you’ve hit up all the usual sights like the London Eye, Parliament and Wesminster Abbey, there is so much more waiting to be explored.

 

This post was written by me, brought to you by Radisson Hotels.

9 Responses to The Book Lover’s Guide to London

  1. Caroline in the City March 15, 2012 at 10:33 AM #

    Great post. I love London almost as much as I love books.

  2. Mahala Church March 15, 2012 at 12:49 PM #

    My dream trip.

  3. Kae Lani | A Travel Broad March 15, 2012 at 3:37 PM #

    These are some inspiring locations!

  4. alexis March 15, 2012 at 5:43 PM #

    I recently decided to read books that inspire travel! I just wrote a review on Eat, Pray, Love, and I opened up On the Road by Jack Kerouac a couple of days ago. Now, I have more to add to my list! Probably a Tale of Two Cities next. Thanks so much!

  5. Jenny March 20, 2012 at 7:09 AM #

    Ever since I moved to London a few months ago, I have been trying to catch up on all of my literary London books! Thanks for the great suggestions for books to read and places to visit!

    • Steph March 21, 2012 at 9:21 PM #

      Oh you lucky girl! The list of books about London is pretty much endless. Email me if ou want more suggestions

  6. Emma October 23, 2013 at 12:07 PM #

    Love this – there are SO many places!

  7. Kate June 1, 2014 at 4:43 AM #

    London and books – my two favourite things. 🙂

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