If you’re planning a trip to England (or just dreaming of one sometime in the future) and want to do some reading before you go, here are 39 books set in England! I love reading books about the place I’m visiting before I arrive — I always learn something new and see my destination in a new way. I may notice details I wouldn’t have noticed if I hadn’t read about it, or sometimes I learn about a new-to-me attraction I want to add to our itinerary.
This list of books set in England has something for everyone — fiction, non-fiction, children’s books, middle grade, and young adult books. So you are sure to find a pre-travel book for everyone in your family!
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Novels Set in England
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
This genre bending novel follows the life of Ursula Todd, who is born on a snowy night in 1910 and immediately dies. But then she is born again, and makes it a little bit longer until her death. And then longer. She dies in a variety of ways, and although she doesn’t remember her previous lives, she also seems to learn from them. I could not put this book down (but trigger warning for some domestic abuse and sexual assault). For fans of historical fiction and page-turning novels.
Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell
Set in 1580s England, this book follows the family of Shakespeare and the death of his son Hamnet (yes, there’s a reason that makes you think of Hamlet). Although we don’t know how Hamnet died, here O’Farrell imagines it is because of the Black Plague. And although this book does stem from the life of Shakespeare, at its heart it is really about a mother’s love for her children and the grief of losing a child. For fans of literary fiction and historical fiction.
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson
This book was first published in 1938 but is still a delight to readers today. Miss Pettigrew, a middle-age governess, ends up employed by a nightclub singer and her life changes forever over the course of a single day. For fans of fun classics.
Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
Brideshead Revisited is a classic published in 1945, where protagonist Charles Ryder becomes enmeshed in the life of the Flytes, whose home is Brideshead Castle. This book examines privilege, British aristocracy, and homosexuality. For fans of classics.
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
In 1520s England, Henry VIII wants to annul his marriage in order to marry Anne Boleyn, but he is encountering opposition. Thomas Cromwell can help him, but it will come with consequences. This novel is based on real events and is the first in Mantel’s award-winning three book series about Thomas Cromwell. For fans of historical fiction and political drama.
The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry
Set in Essex in the late nineteenth-century, this novel centers around amateur naturalist Cora Seaborne, who becomes enthralled with the mythical Essex Serpent — a sea creature said to have recently returned. A local vicar is also looking into the mystery, although they don’t exactly see eye-to-eye on what is going on. For fans of literary fiction with a bit of mystery.
The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
If you’re a fan of Will and Kate, this is the book for you! This is their story, except reimagined with an American commoner and some amped up drama. The basic elements are there though — a romance that needs to stay hidden, stress about the paparazzi, and a jovial brother. This book is so much fun! For fans of romance and the Royals.
The End We Start From by Megan Hunter
In this short apocalyptic novel, a woman give birth while London is being submerged in flood waters. The story examines new motherhood and endurance as she and her baby search for safety. For fans of apocalyptic novels and literary fiction.
The Sea, the Sea by Iris Murdoch
A twentieth-century classic about Charles Arrowby, a playwright retiring from London to the sea determined to write his memoir. Only this is interrupted by strange events and unexpected visitors. For fans of classics.
Atonement by Ian McEwan
In this widely beloved novel that begins in the years before WWII, thirteen-year-old Briony witnesses something between her sister Cecelia and the son of a servant, Robbie. But she doesn’t understand what she sees, and her misunderstanding leads to consequences for all of them. For fans of literary and historical fiction.
Ordinary People by Diana Evans
Set in South London, two couples who are longtime friends go through the changes and struggles of life, which changes not only how they see themselves, but also their friendships. This novel examines race, gender, and politics, and is for fans of contemporary fiction.
White Teeth by Zadie Smith
Zadie Smith’s first novel explores race and culture in London, as two veterans of WWII are looking for new life with new wives. This novel follows their lives as children are born and their lives move on into a new kind of world. This is for fans of sweeping epic novels and literary fiction.
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
In this novel, Stevens, a butler who has served for years at Darlington Hall, reflects on his service, trying to reassure himself as his world is changing. But his reflection comes with doubts about the nature of the man he has served and his own life. For fans of literary fiction.
About a Boy by Nick Hornby
Will Freeman has a great plan for finding woman — single mothers. And it all goes well until he meets twelve-year-old Marcus, and their relationship changes him in ways he didn’t expect. For fans of contemporary fiction and humorous fiction.
Non-Fiction Books Set in England
H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald
I absolutely love this memoir set in England by Helen Macdonald. In H is for Hawk, Macdonald is trudging through the grief of losing her father while also deciding to train a goshawk — one of the most notoriously difficult raptors there is. This book is a beautiful meditation on grief, but never feels too heavy. For fans of just really really good writing.
Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret by Craig Brown
This experimental biography follows the Queen’s younger sister, Princess Margaret, and her troubled life. The story is told in vignettes, and some of them are fictionalized versions of what her life might have looked like had she taken a different path (no, she was never romantically involved with Picasso). For fans of biographies and royal family drama.
Love, Nina: A Nanny Writes Home by Nina Stibbe
In 1982, Nina Stibbe went to work as a nanny in the London household of Mary-Kay Wilmers, the editor of the London Review of Books. Wilmers’s two sons provide endless entertainment, and Stibbe’s letters recount their adventures and hilarious dinner conversations, all while she is trying to figure out her own place in the world. For fans of stories about every day lives and stories in letters.
The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic and How It Changed Science, Cities and the Modern World by Steven Johnson
This book delves into London’s cholera epidemic of 1854 — how the growth of the city was primed to create the epidemic and how a doctor discovered how to put a stop to it. Exploring both urban growth and medical advances, this book is for fans of narrative non-fiction.
Londoners: The Days and Nights of London Now — As Told by Those Who Love It, Hate It, Live it, Left It, and Long for It by Craig Taylor
Published in 2012, this book about life in London provides perspectives from everyone from taxi drivers to police officers to a squatter to a beekeeper. This book provides a wide view of life in modern day London. For fans of oral histories.
84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
In this beloved book, Helene Hanff compiles the letters back and forth between her and a used-book dealer in London. They become correspondents over 20 years, and bond over their common love for books. For fans of stories told in letters and books about books.
The English and Their History by Robert Tombs
This doorstop of a book will be a delight to any history buff. Covering everything from Anglo-Saxons to present day England, this comprehensive books explores the history of British governments and the way the English people have been shaped by them. For readers who love non-fiction history books.
Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson
When beloved travel writer Bill Bryson decided to turn home to the United States after years of living in England, he decides to take one last farewell tour. Here, he writes about his long time home with irreverence and humor. For fans of humor books and travel memoirs.
Children’s Books Set in England
Beatrix Potter the Complete Tales by Beatrix Potter
No list of books set in England would be complete without Beatrix Potter. These tales of Peter Rabbit, Tom Kitten, Squirrel Nutkin and more delight readers of all ages and are certainly favorites in our house. Recommended ages: 3 and up.
The Queen’s Hat by Steve Antony
When a sudden gust of wind causes the Queen’s hat to go flying, she, along with her guards, must chase it down. Recommended ages: 3-5 years.
This is London by Miroslav Sasek
Tour the landmarks of London in this simple illustrated book. Adults may even be surprised by what they learn! Recommended ages: 4-9 years.
Katie in London by James Mayhew
Visit London with Katie and her brother Jack, as a lion from Trafalgar Square comes to life and gives them a tour of the city. Recommended ages: 4-10 years.
The Queen’s Knickers by Nicholas Allan
This silly book about the different pairs of underwear the Queen wears for different events is sure to have your children giggling. Recommended ages: 5-7 years.
A Walk in London by Salvatore Rubbino
A mother-daughter duo take the reader on a trip through London’s landmarks, from Buckingham Palace to Trafalgar Square to St. Paul’s Cathedral. Recommended ages: 5-7 years.
All Aboard the London Bus by Patricia Toht, Illustrated by Sam Usher
Take a tour of London with poetry! In this book, each London landmark is paired with a poem. Plus there are facts about the landmarks in the back for even more learning. Recommended ages: 5-7 years.
Middle Grade and YA Books Set in England
The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne
Another necessity for books set in England, these beloved tales of Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends have endured for generations. And although they have a life of their own now with shows and movies and bookshelves full of books, it’s always worth returning to the classics. These are recommended for ages 8-12 for independent reading, but make great read-alouds for younger children.
The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
During WWII, ten-year-old Ada escapes to the countryside from London. But she’s escaping from more than just bombs — she’s also escaping her cruel mother. Will she be able to find a new and lasting life in the English countryside? Recommended ages: 8-12 years.
The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd
When Ted and Kat’s cousin gets on the London Eye but then seems to disappear into thin air, they must follow clues across London to figure out what happened to him. But they don’t always get along, and must also overcome their differences to get to the bottom of the case. Recommended ages: 8-12 years.
The Royal Rabbits of London by Santa Montefiore and Simon Sebag Montefiore, Illustrated by Kate Hindley
When quiet rabbit Shylo discovers the Queen of England is in trouble, he must travel to tell the Royal Rabbits of London, a secret society dedicated to protecting the Royal family. But will Shylo be able to convince them of the impending trouble? Recommended ages: 8-12 years.
A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond, Illustrated by Peggy Fortnum
This children’s classic was first published in 1958 and still delights readers today. When the Brown family discovers a bear at Paddington station, they welcome him into their family and antics ensue. Recommended ages: 8-12 years.
Ghost Knight by Cornelia Funke
Knights, ghosts, and boarding school all meet in this story by Cornelia Funke, where 11-year-old Jon and his new friend Ella work to solve a centuries-old murder. For protection, Jon summons the ghost of a late knight. But can they trust him? Recommended ages: 8-12 years.
The Royal Diaries: Elizabeth I, Red Rose of The House of Tudor by Kathryn Lasky
This fictional diary of Elizabeth I focuses on her childhood and the dramas of her life as a 10 year old — the way she regards her father, King Henry VIII, the way her sister Mary conspires against her, and how her governess fears for her safety. A great book to help young readers fall in love with history. Recommended ages: 9-12 years.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
A classic of British literature, this book shares the story of the land of Narnia, the children who find it, the witch trying to control it, and the lion who may save it. Recommended for ages 8 and up, but loved by children and adults alike.
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
Cassandra Mortmain and her family live in a crumbling English castle, and to Cassandra, the best hope for her future is to write her way into it. But when the new landlords and their sons move in it changes the lives of both Cassandra and her sister. Recommended ages: 13-18 years.
Unbecoming by Jenny Downham
Katie’s life is falling apart when her grandmother Mary comes to live with them. Mary is suffering from dementia, and the more Katie spends time with her, the more she begins to understand herself and her family. Recommended ages: 14-18 years.
This is by no means a comprehensive list of books set in England, nor even a complete list of the best ones! We didn’t even include Jane Austen! Or Kate Morton! Or Agatha Christie! But I hope this list gives you a good taste of a variety of books for all ages you can find set in England!
Looking for more books set in Europe? Check out these books set in Spain!
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