What's The Best Book About London?

By M@ Last edited 31 months ago
What's The Best Book About London?
A few classics from our own book shelves.

Update: the votes are now in. See here for the results.

Do you have a favourite non-fiction book about London? Perhaps it's a history. Maybe its a big, coffee-table photo book. How about a decades-old guide to London pubs? Perhaps you rate one of those 'secret London' books that tell you about the hidden corners of the capital. Biography, children's book, poetry collection, or even the A-Z.

Whatever it is, we'd like to know. If you know a book, or books, that every Londoner should read, nominate them below or tweet #bestlondonbooks. We're looking for non-fiction here — we'll tackle novels in a separate poll.

We ran with a similar question half a decade ago, so it will be interesting to see how the results have changed.

See also: our regular reviews of new London books.

Last Updated 14 September 2015

dianne tanner

Any of the London series by Catharine Arnold, Necropolis, Bedlam and City of Sin. Such fascinating reads, easy to read and entertaining as well (despite sometimes "dark" subject matter) A+++ have read several times will read again


I think the Peter Ackroyd book is hard to beat. A wonderful read, and going round a second time is just as pleasing.


Ian Nairn's "Nairn's London" Highly opinionated book about architecture and design in London - written in the mid-1960s - but still a great read. Reprinted last year.

Adam MacLean

Craig Taylor's "Londoners"; such fantastic storytelling. Digging deep into the hearts of the people, which is, digging deep into the heart of London.


Peter Ackroyd's "London" has to be the best. "The London Encyclopedia" is wonderful to dip into particularly if you have previously wandered into a less familiar street/place, or chanced upon a building /architectural feature and want to read about it later. Diane Burstein's "London Then and Now" is nice to browse through - better still, try and get on one of her walks!

Jonathan Wadman

I nominate Nick Barratt, 'Greater London' (RH, 2012), which tells the unjustly neglected history of suburbia, and H. V. Morton, 'In Search of London' (Methuen, 1951, reissued 2006), as its modernity is already our history.


Very old one, but the quality of the prose coupled with the access it gives to a vanished London means my choice is H.V. Morton's The Spell of London (1926).

Donna Morley

Ben Pedroche's "Do not Alight Here" - a book touring London"s lost underground/ rail network. Purely for the ground it covers and making you realise some of the buildings you walk past each day were once stations tunnels or tracks.

John Robinson

Peter Akroyd's London !

jenny adams

I love " Silvertown" a non fiction story across three generations in the area that is now City airport formerly Silvertown. Fascinating history ranging from the catalyst for the Victorian Internet to the 1960s. story interspersed by history - love it!

Peter Mitchell

I have to join the Peter Ackroyd club; I refer to it constantly. I have a number of books that focus on Victorian London; I think my favourite is "The Seven Curses of London" by James Greenwood.Sadly I haven't been able to find the other books in your photo here in Canada. (What's the book to the left of "London Perceived"?

Toby Gilham

Peter Ackroyd's London, a Biography is a brilliant read, but as a reference book, The Encyclopedia of London is the one for me

Toby Gilham

For a fabulously descriptive view of 1830s London try The Italian Boy by Sarah Wise, about the London Burkers (bodysnatchers)


I would cheat and cram all three books of Jerry White's London in 18th, 19th and 20th Centuries into one massive volume. Incredibly informative, insightful and an absolute joy to read.

Anton A. Panchenkov

Lost London in two parts. London's hidden walks

Anton A. Panchenkov

The Architecture of Wren. London's Secret Places


In Search of London by H.V. Morton - an immediate post-war perspective.

Sandra Houston

Peter Ackroyd's London The Biography.

Hadley Stirrup

I also love Ackroyd and found Jerry White`s "London in the Nineteenth Century" fascinating. One I would add is a collection of incredibly atmospheric old photos: "Lost London 1870-1945". That is a very special, moving book. I would also recommend "London Through a Lens" and "Londoners Through a Lens" (both Time Out Guides)- both full of gems.


I love "The Building of London : from the Conquest to the Great Fire" by John Schofield. It uncovers the history of London one archaeological layer at a time.


The Encyclopedia of London - does any other great city have such a book that tells you just about everything about anything? (Okay, someone's probably found a street it doesn't know, but it's never let me down). I also have a soft spot for Morton's In Search of London, as I still have the first edition my father bought - and he never went to London in his life, he just enjoyed the stories. Did you know that when Cleopatra's Needle was erected, someone stuck a sign on it saying "This monument, as some supposes, was looked on in old days by Moses. It passed in time to Greeks and Turks and was put up here by the Board of Works"?

David Fathers

Sydney R Jones’ ‘London Triumphant’ and ‘Thames Triumphant’; offer splendid written and drawn views of pre-war London and the Thames. Published in 1942 and 1943 respectively, as a pieces of propaganda, Jones, as both writer and illustrator, explores London and the Thames. Such was the reputation of Limehouse that he and a colleague venture there armed with a WW1 service revolver and a cosh (they even discussed carrying a blunderbuss too!). Quite unnecessary, as he would later discover. Second hand copies of the books are still available online.