What Are The Best Books About London?

By M@ Last edited 90 months ago

Last Updated 01 November 2016

What Are The Best Books About London?

In 2015, we asked you to nominate your favourite non-fiction books about the capital. You suggested over 80 books, from trivia guides to studious histories. Here's where the votes went:

The top 10

1. London: The Biography, Peter Ackroyd (40 nominations). The clear winner, Ackroyd's 2001 magnum opus remains the standard by which all modern London histories are judged.

2. Londoners, Craig Taylor (23 nominations). Our 2012 book of the year was also enjoyed by many others. Taylor interviews over 70 Londoners from many walks of life. The result is a carnival of viewpoints about the city. Londonist review

3. In Search of London, HV Morton (10 nominations). Morton's 1951 London travelogue offers a fascinating insight into the bomb-strewn city immediately after the Second World War. Dazzling, journalistic writing has ensured the books longevity.

4. Nairn's London, Ian Nairn (9 nominations). Architectural critic Ian Nairn wrote with erudition and a shed-load of opinion, making this 1966 classic both enlightening and hilarious. Re-issued for a new generation. Londonist review

=5. Necropolis: London and its Dead, Catharine Arnold (8 nominations). Any book by Arnold is bound to be be compelling, but this one's a RIP-roaring read.

=5. London Under, Peter Ackroyd (8 nominations). A second entry for Ackroyd sees the author (or his researchers) explore the tunnels beneath London. Londonist review

=7. Samuel Pepys's Diary, Samuel Pepys (6 nominations). London's most famous diarist remains popular, 350 years after he scribbled it down in shorthand.

=7. The London Encyclopaedia, Ben Weinreb, Christopher Hibbert et al. (6 nominations). It's not without its errors, but this mighty tome remains an authority on all things London. Now in its third edition.

9. Do Not Pass Go: From the Old Kent Road to Mayfair, Tim Moore (5 nominations). Moore takes the Monopoly board as the inspiration for his witty exploration of the capital.

=10. Georgian London, Lucy Inglis (4). Her name rhymes with 'jingles', and so her prose sings, in this entertaining account of London's most gregarious of eras. Londonist review

=10. Walk the Lines, Mark Mason (4 nominations). Trivia fan and Londonist video star Mark Mason walks the length of every tube line, with eyes wide open. Londonist review

=10. London in the 19th Century, Jerry White (4 nominations). Most people who voted for this one were actually nominating White's full trilogy, which covers the 18th, 19th and 20th century. We've read them all, and the word 'masterful' might have been invented for this impeccably researched project.

The top 10 is an interesting mix of old classics and modern masterpieces. We're surprised to see no Iain Sinclair or Roy Porter in the list, but we're pleased that some recent books like Craig Taylor's Londoners and Lucy Inglis's Georgian London figure so highly.

Other nominations

The Architecture of Wren, Kerry Downes
Bedlam: London and its Mad, Catharine Arnold
The Blackest Streets: The Life and Death of a Victorian Slum, Sarah Wise
The Building of London: From the Conquest to the Great Fire, John Schofield
Charmes de Londres, Jacques Prévert
City of Sin: London and its Vices, Catharine Arnold
Cross River Traffic: A History of London's Bridges, Chris Roberts
A Curious Guide to London
, Simon Leyland (2)
Derelict London, Paul Talling (3)
Diamond Street: The Hidden World of Hatton Garden, Rachel Lichtenstein
Do Not Alight Here: Walking London's Lost Underground and Railway Stations, Ben Pedroche (Londonist review)
Down and Out in Paris and London, George Orwell (3)
Ernö Goldfinger: The Life of an Architect, Nigel Warburton (2)
From the Slopes of Olympus to the Banks of the Lea, Matt Haynes and Jude Rogers (Eds) (Londonist review)
The Gentle Author's London Album, The Gentle Author (Londonist review)
Greater London: The Story of the Suburbs, Nick Barratt
Great Houses of London, James Stourton (Londonist review)
The Groundwater Diaries, Tim Bradford
Guide to the Architecture of London, Edward Jones and Christopher Woodward
The History of Clerkenwell, William Pinks
The House by the Thames, and the People who Lived There, Gillian Tindall
The Italian Boy: Murder and Grave-Robbery in 1830s London, Sarah Wise (3)
Lights Out for the Territory, Iain Sinclair
London: A History in Maps, Peter Barber
London and the Reformation, Susan Brigden
London at War, Philip Ziegler
London Cemeteries, Hugh Meller (2)
Londoners Through A Lens, Time Out Books
The London Hanged, Peter Linebaugh
Londonistan, Melanie Philips
The London Nobody Knows, Geoffrey Fletcher (2)
The London Rich, Peter Thorold
The London Scene, Virginia Woolf
London's Docklands: A History of the Lost Quarter, Fiona Rule
London's Secret Places, David Hampshire and Graeme Chesters
London's Hidden Walks, Stephen Millar
London's Labyrinth, Fiona Rule (2)
London's Lost Rivers: A Walker's Guide, Tom Bolton (Londonist review)
London (Then & Now), Diane Burstein
London Through a Lens, Time Out Books
London Triumphant, Sydney R Jones
London Underground Guide 2015, Jason Cross
The Longest Night: Voices From the Blitz, Gavin Mortimer
Lost London: 1870-1945, Philip Davies
The Lost Rivers of London, Nicholas Barton
Mrs P's Journey: The Remarkable Story of the Woman Who Created the A-Z Map, Sarah Hartley (2)
The People of the Abyss, Jack London
A People's History of London, John Rees and Lyndsey Germany
Permanent Londoners, Judi Culbertson (2)
Public Sculpture of the City of London, Philip Ward-Jackson
Quiet London, Siobhan Wall (Londonist review)
Rebel Footprints: A Guide to Uncovering London's Radical History, David Rosenberg
Restoration London, Liza Picard
Scarp, Nick Papadimitriou (Londonist review)
The Seven Curses of London, James Greenwood
Silvertown: An East End Family Memoir, Melanie McGrath
The Spell of London, HV Morton
The Subterranean Railway, Christian Wolmar (2)
A Survey of London (1603), John Stow
Tales From the Terrific Register, Cate Ludlow (Ed)
Tales From the Two Puddings, Eddie Johnson
Terence Conran on London, Terence Conran
Thames: Sacred River, Peter Ackroyd
Thames Triumphant, Sydney R Jones
This Other London: Adventures in the Overlooked City, John Rogers (Londonist review)
Tired of London, Tired of Life, Tom Jones (Londonist review)
The Romance of Soho, E Beresford Chancellor
Underground London, Stephen Smith (3)
The Victorian City: Everyday Life in Dickens' London, Judith Flanders