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26 Books To Read Before You Move To London

Or after, if you're already there.

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2. Brick Lane by Monica Ali

Monica Ali's Booker shortlisted debut takes its name and setting from the street at the centre of East London's Bangladeshi community, as 18-year old Nazneen moves to London from Bangladesh to marry an older man.

Recommended for: The culturally curious.


3. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

When young businessman Richard Mayhew saves the life of a girl named Door, he finds himself catapulted into the subterranean world of London Below, a city under the city, filled with fantastical creatures and places at once familiar and yet utterly bizarre.

Recommended for: Daydreamers.

Experimental in form, the story follows a young Chinese girl sent from her rural home to London to study English. She renames herself "Z", and meets an English boyfriend – a 44-year-old bisexual vegetarian who lives in Hackney. The language barrier, as it turns out, is the least of their problems.

Recommended for: International students.

5. Love, Nina by Nina Stibbe

Nina Stibbe moved to London in 1982, hired as a nanny to the sons of London Review of Books editor Mary-Kay Wilmers and her ex-husband, director Stephan Frears. Cue candid encounters with some of London's literary elite, as neighbours such as Alan Bennett popped round for dinner.

Recommended for: Budding writers, nannies.


7. The Night Watch by Sarah Waters

On the eve of his wedding, Andy makes a drunken bet that he can travel through every single Tube station in a single day. Fail the bet and he won't be able to collect the Eurostar tickets he needs to get to his wedding in Paris.

Recommended for: Train enthusiasts.

10. Babycakes by Armistead Maupin

Predominantly set in San Francisco as part of Maupin's Tales of the City series, Babycakes contains a London sojourn featuring depictions of the 1980's gay scene through the eyes of American Michael Tolliver.

Recommended for: Anglophiles.


12. Londoners by Craig Taylor

Taylor interviewed 80 Londoners to paint an oral portrait of the city as told by those who live and work here – from the tube train announcer to the Buckingham Palace guard.

Recommended for: The incurably curious.

14. Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

Probationary Police Constable Peter Grant is a bit useless at his job, until he discovers a supernatural London hidden amidst the regular one, filled with ghosts, witches, and vampires, and finds himself assigned to the branch of the Met that polices them.

Recommended for: Supernatural fans.


18. Absolute Beginners by Colin MacInnes

A young photographer traverses the world of West London cool; rock and roll music, Italian motor scooters, coffee bars and sharp clothes – what would come to be known as Mod culture.

Recommended for: Fans of the swinging 60s.


A Nigerian woman moves to the UK in search of a better life for herself and her children, only to be faced by the grim realities of 1960's London.

Recommended for: Young parents who think they've got it tough.

20. King Rat by China Miéville

After the death of his father, Saul Garamond meets the mysterious King Rat, who takes Saul under his wing and pulls him into a centuries old war with the dangerous Piper.

Recommended for: Fans of grown up fairy tales.

22. Saturday by Ian McEwan

Much like Mrs. Dalloway, Saturday takes place over the course of a single day, as the neurosurgeon narrator prepares for a dinner party, navigating post-9/11 terrorism paranoia and pondering the assumed safety of the middle class life he has built.

Recommended for: Existentialists.


23. City of the Mind by Penelope Lively

Divorced architect Matthew Halland sees London past and present all at once, as streets and buildings peel back layers and facades before him, offering up both the history of the city and a fresh perspective on his future.

Recommended for: Architecture buffs.

25. The Road Home by Rose Tremain

Widowed and with a daughter to provide for, Lev arrives in London from Eastern Europe seeking opportunity, only to find himself sleeping rough in Earl's Court. Eventually finding work and a girlfriend in affluent Muswell Hill, Lev begins to appreciate the strange customs of his adopted new home.

Recommended for: Outsiders.


See also: From Hell by Alan Moore, How the Dead Live by Will Self, Soho by Keith Waterhouse, Bridget Jones' Diary by Helen Fielding, Ordinary Thunderstorms by William Boyd, Adrift in Soho by Colin Wilson, 20,000 Streets Under the Sky by Patrick Hamilton, and A Severed Head by Iris Murdoch.

This list is not exhaustive, if your favourite London-set book isn't mentioned, add it below so others can find it: