London Bookshelf

After our week in Paris, we hopped on the Eurostar train to chunnel over to London.  (Easier, cheaper, faster and a whole lot more relaxing than dealing with airports).  We are excited about returning to some favorite spots, discovering new places, and spending time with friends at my alma mater's study abroad program.

In addition to reading books about Paris and watching movies set in the City of Light, I also browsed a few of my favorite London books before we left.  Several of these are quite worn, and book lovers will understand when I say a few are like old friends.  I have been an Anglophile since the Royal Wedding (not Kate and William.  The previous one), so a few of these have been on my shelf for awhile.


There is no Jane Austen here.  Zero.  Nada.  I may lose my Anglophile card,  but I have never been able to get into these books.  I respect those who do - even my dad has read "Pride and Prejudice" - but they just don't speak to me. Here are a few that do:

"The Anglo Files" - Sarah Lyall

This best-seller by a longtime London-based correspondent for the New York Times humorously explores what she refers to as the eccentricities of the British people - including her own husband.

"Notes From a Small Island" - Bill Bryson

Same theme as above.  Could not stop laughing.  

"Watching the English" - Kate Fox

A more academic version of the first two books - and just as entertaining. 

"Imagined London" - Anna Quindlen

Subtitled "A Tour of the World's Greatest Fictional City," this and the next few books should help restore my Anglophile credentials.  You probably know Quindlen from her best-selling novels, but her enchanting story of visiting England for the first time will draw you in from page one.  Many of us form our vision of England through the prism of English literature (which in my case, was supplemented by reading about the Royal Family).  I first visited London while doing study abroad in college, and completely relate to Quindlen's search for the city she had read about all of her life.  

"84, Charing Cross Road" - Helene Hanff

This classic about post-war correspondence between a Manhattan writer and a London bookseller also inspired a movie.  If you like reading books about books, you will love it.

"The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street" - Helene Hanff

Again - the story of a writer finally realizing her dream of visiting London.  (Did Jane Austen write a book about visiting London for the first time?  If so - count me in).

"The London Scene" - Virginia Woolf

Great writers make you feel you are right there, in the midst of the story instead of reading it on a page.  This short collection of essays about London life, originally written for the British edition of Good Housekeeping, will do just that.

"Mrs. Dalloway" - Virginia Woolf

Vivid portrayals of post-World War One London.

"London: A Biography" - Peter Ackroyd

Widely viewed as the definitive book about London, this is much more scholarly than the others.  It looks nice on the bookshelf, but I confess I have never actually finished it.  I just peruse various chapters from time to time and aspire to actually finish it one day.

Chime in and tell me what else I should read - and feel free to set me straight about Jane Austen.