15 British based Books Worth Reading for A Variety of Reading Interests

May 16, 2021

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Over the past year I have enjoyed the additional time to read even more than I usually do, and I have found my way into many British books (more than I realized I had explored upon looking at my list) :). Some of the titles are included in the above pic, but not all, but each of the 15 hold space in my personal library at Le Papillon. Whether written by British authors or set in Britain, each book — some published recently, some published many decades ago, some just a few years ago — are titles I have enjoyed and recommend or am currently enjoying and immediately knew I wanted to recommend.

I have organized them thematically based on what your reading genre of interest may be, and rest assured, many more titles will be shared in upcoming This & That posts (the weekly post which goes live on the blog each Friday, a reader favorite), A Cuppa Moments monthly video chats or podcast episodes. As well, I continue to add to the collection of British Finds in TSLL’s Shop here which includes not only books, but other British-made items and personally loved and recommended for your home, garden, kitchen and more.

Now to the list for Anglophiles who love to read while in their minds stepping away to Britain.

Escape to the English Countryside

1. Miss Buncle series (four books) by D.E. Stevenson

Published in 1928 and running through the early to mid-1930s, D.E. Stevenson’s series is her best-selling out of all of her many titles. I thoroughly enjoyed book #1, and book #2 was a treat as well. Book #3 I wasn’t entirely keen on, but I still made it through which is saying something as I often will not finish a book if there isn’t enough to hold my interest. Knowing there was a fourth title in the series, a title TSLL readers shared they enjoyed helped to complete the book. Now, I am patiently waiting for book #4 to arrive. As one book reviewer aptly described the series, “There are no vampires, no faeries, no weird creatures, just a sweet story about real people living in a world I’ve always dreamed of”. A lovely light-hearted, tranquil read in both characters and plots.

2. Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner

Recommended to me by Provençal mystery writer M.L. Longworth, Brookner’s talent with prose is on fine display in her novel Hotel du Lac. Set in Switzerland, but with the backdrop of England, Hotel du Lac won Brookner Britain’s Booker Prize (the equivalent to the Pulitizer here in the states) and tells the story of Edith Hope who ‘hopes’ to find the answer to “the eternal question “Why love?”. Edith Hope, who writes romance novels under a pseudonym. When her life begins to resemble the plots of her own novels, however, Edith flees to Switzerland, where the quiet luxury of the Hotel du Lac promises to resore her to her senses.”

3. The Thursday Murder Club: A Novel by Richard Osman

A fast-paced modern mystery, now an international best-seller, The Thursday Murder Club thoroughly kept my attention and creatively kept me guessing. Set in the beautiful English countryside in and around a posh retirement village, the storyline was so well-received Osman has a second book in The Thursday Murder Club series set to be released this September – The Man Who Died Twice. Be sure to put it on your reading list if you already enjoyed his first. I sure have and did. 🙂

Lovers of English History & Biographies

4. Lady Clementine: A Novel by Marie Benedict

Published in 2019 and highly reviewed by readers, I am currently reading this book based on Clementine Churchill, Winston Churchill’s wife and absolutely loving it. Inspired by biographical information known about the Churchills and British history, Benedict superbly weaves a more intimate fictional storyline into historical events to keep you enthralled from chapter to chapter.

5. Churchill: Walking with Destiny by Andrew Roberts

Speaking of Churchill, Winston Churchill has more than 1000 titles inspired by his life journey, and it is biographer Andrew Roberts’ (published in 2017) which is well worth your time (50 hours of audio listening). I began the audio version in late December/early January thanks to a TSLL reader recommendation, and I now have 3-4 hours left. As someone who minored in History and explored British history and literature specifically in college, I am absolutely enjoying Roberts’ critically applauded deep dive into Churchill’s entire life.

6. Long Live The Queen: 23 Rules for Living from Britain’s Longest-Reigning Monarch by Bryan Kozlowski

Having shared my reasons for recommending Kowlowski’s new book (released in November 2020), Long Live The Queen in two previous posts – chosen as the Petit Plaisir in episode #305 and significantly inspiring this post – the book is far more than fluff and surface as it may first appear with such a title. In fact, the author pairs many different studies on health, neurology and quality of life as he explores just how in fact Queen Elizabeth II lives as she does and for as long as she has.

7. The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict

Released this past December, I thoroughly enjoyed exploring Marie Benedict’s interpretation of Agatha Christie’s mysterious disappearance for 11 days in 1926. Masterfully intertwining what is well known about Christie’s early life from the author’s own autobiography and the author’s personal fictitious best guesses, the back-and-forth between two different plot lines – Christie’s earlier life and the present day in 1926 – makes for a quick read.

8. Beatrix Potter: A Life In Nature by Linda Lear

During last year’s British Week, I included a detailed post inspired by my reading and enjoying of Beatrix Potter’s biography. The post, 20 Life Lessons Learned from Beatrix Potter, demonstrates why I found myself having a difficult time putting down the quite lengthy title. Potter’s life has always intrigued me and knowing her now more intimately due to Lear’s detailed research, I respect her life journey and choices even more.

For the Gardeners

9. The Complete Gardener by Monty Don

Shared earlier this month on This & That, beloved British gardener and host of Gardeners’ World has reissued his time of a gardener’s must-have book, The Complete Gardener, now twenty years after its original release. Full of updated images and content, it is a gardener’s go-to resource.

10. RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) Gardening Through The Year by Ian Spence

The most recent edition of this wealth of a gardening book (2017), is one to have in your library if you, like me, love being a student of the dirt, flower, vegetables and seasons. Full-color images, organized by seasons and offering ideas for successional plantings, pick this book up and appreciate how easy they make what may seem overwhelming and initially confusing – gardening well, beautifully and successfully.

11. The Gardener’s Year by Karel Capek

A short book, and a book full of quips and insights which will make you chuckle about the truths of gardening. I delighted in and found myself laughing outloud at times, as well, finishing it far too quickly. “First published in Prague in 1929, The Gardener’s Year combines a richly comic portrait of life in the garden, narrated month by month, with a series of delightful illustrations by the author’s older brother and collaborator, Josef. Capek’s gardeners—all too human, despite their lofty aspirations—often look the fool, whether they be found sopping wet, victims of the cobralike water hose, or hunched over, hands immersed in the soil, ‘presenting their rumps to the splendid azure sky.'” A sincere thank you to a TSLL reader for bringing this series to my attention. There are many more by other revered authors regarding gardening, so be sure to check them out.

12. Herbs: Delicious Recipes and Growing Tips to Transform Your Food by Judith Hann

A cookbook and a how-to gardening book, British herb and acclaimed gardener, Judith Hann was introduced to me when I tuned in to a podcast episode of Pot and Cloche (there are only a few episodes of this show, but if you enjoy gardening, this is a worthwhile British gardening podcast to listen to). Full of growing tips and a glossary of herbs I either had not heard about or knew very little about, the book is beautiful and having tried a few of the recipes, her kitchen creations are delicious, simple and seasonal.

For the Bibliophile

13. Confessions of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell

The second memoir-diary-esque book from Scottish bookseller Shaun Bythell. I was in stitches reading both the first and this title as for one full year in each book, Bythell accounts for not only his till totals, but the events and customers and employee moments of oddity one can only simply laugh at. If you love visiting bookstores and perusing used titles, all the while slipping away to a small town in Scotland – Wigtown!, a bookstore that yes, you can visit when you resume your traveling, this is the book (or should I say books – he now has three – the third is also a fun read) for you.

The British Kitchen & Tea Treats

14. New English Kitchen: Changing the Way You Shop, Cook and Eat by Rose Prince

Originally published in 2005, I came across Rose Prince’s books while traveling in Devon, England, in 2017. It happened to be on the shelves in my vacation rental, and I found it quite detailed in her sharing how “to make the most of local availability and seasonality, keeping a well-stocked store cupboard, growing staples such as herbs and peppering our diet with luxuries such as Parma ham, figs and wonderful cheeses”. While recipes are shared, the The New English Kitchen is not so much a cookbook but a plan, one that will endure as a practical manual for future generations of cooks.”

15. The Official Downton Abbey Afternoon Tea Cookbook

Paired with gorgeous photography from the set of Downton Abbey, discover sweet and savory classics seen on the show—”like Battenberg Cake, Bakewell Tart, toffee puddings, cream scones, and tea sandwiches. The cookbook “also features a detailed narrative history and extols the proper decorum for teatime service, from tea gowns and tearooms to preparing and serving tea.”

Needless to say, books and Britain – two of my favorite things – when they find their way together in the pages of a good book, time slips away and a simple pleasure is savored. I hope you found a title or two that piqued your interest, and may you savor many hours of enjoyable reading and exploration.

VIEW ALL POSTS SHARED DURING THIS YEAR’S British Week, on TSLL

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23 thoughts on “15 British based Books Worth Reading for A Variety of Reading Interests

  1. What a lovely collection, well-paired with a cuppa and pups. Thank you for compiling! Appreciate your archiving (find myself frequently searching for something you’ve shared – the TSLL is content is delightful, keeps me always eager for the next post and benefitting from past posts). Wondering if there is a way to bookmark posts to come back to? Thank you for all of your work with the themed weeks — and for the offerings you provide year-round.

  2. Shannon, the sheer joy you have given me through your book recommendations alone is immeasurable, thank you thank you thank you!
    I thoroughly enjoyed Osman’s The Thursday Murder Club and am so excited to hear another is on its way this fall, hooray, definitely going on my (ever growing) reading list!
    XO
    Rona

    1. Thank you Rona. 😌 I too was delighted and tickled to see the book is turned into a series. I know what will be reading in September. 😉 Have a lovely Sunday and thank you for joining TSLL as British Week commences.

  3. I read Hotel du Lac so many years ago that I don’t remember much about it except that I was going through a David Brooks and Anita Brookner phase then. I really enjoyed The Mystery of Mrs. Christie on your recommendation.

  4. Beautiful book list! Okay, I’m Liz from the Churchill recommendation, and I just finished all 50 hours a couple of weeks ago…took several months of listening a bit each week, but oh my goodness what a life.

    I’ve always thought of Churchill as a given, and never knew about the countless details that made him so absolutely unlikely, and yet possibly the only individual capable of altering the course of 1940-45. Very powerful. For a short and sweet read sometime, I really enjoyed the book ‘Winston Churchill By His Personal Secretary’ by Elizabeth Nel. It seems to have some overlap with the character played by Lily James in the 2017 movie The Darkest Hour.

    I’m so very excited and touched too that you read the Churchill. Currently finishing Miss Buncle #2, what a hard choice for next up (Lady Clementine?) but it will be from your wonderful list, thank you! Toddle-oo and happy Sunday 🌷

    1. Liz, Thank you again for recommending Churchill’s biography. As you said, his journey is terribly unlikely but he had an innate sense of his direction, and that the world, Britain specifically, would need him. His dedication is more than applaudable, and the book served as a reminder that life is complex, but we can bring and learn and hone so many skills which make is more civil, more navigable and offer a positive contribution to the world beyond us.

      Thank you for the second title recommendation. It is now on my wishlist! I think you especially will enjoy Lady Clementine with all of the backstory you now know in such great detail. 🙂

      Have a lovely Sunday and thank you also for the mention of the film, The Darkest Hour.

  5. Couldn’t be happier to start my day with this book list! Thank you Shannon. Only 2 days in and I am already thoroughly enjoying British week 😃

  6. I read the confessions of a Bookseller Series. Light hearted, sad, funny, informative. Great choice for the list

  7. I have read multiple books on your list and were quite pleased with them. The next one I think I want to start is Long Live the Queen. It just seems like something that would hold my interest. I love to read daily and probably a bit too much at times! So, I am always on the lookout for new reads! Must be the English Lit major in me. Have a great week!

  8. I would encourage you (and your readers) to explore more of DE Stevenson’s books. She has a number of other “series” which don’t have to be read together, but they have connecting characters or locales. The Mrs. Tim series will really help you see what it was like to be the wife of an English officer before, during, and after WWII. There are many more that are delightful!

  9. Hello Shannon, I have read a number of the books you recommended. I recently read a series I enjoyed greatly and laughed often while reading the three books by Victor Canning. The books are set between the two World Wars and are wonderfully funny. The Mr. Finchley series consists of: Mr. Finchley Discovers His England, Mr. Finchley Goes to Paris, and Mr. Finchley Takes The Road. What a delightful read they were!

  10. There are so many great recommendations on this list! Can’t wait to start, “Long live the Queen” soon.

  11. Hi Shannon, Thank-you for the excellent book recommendations. I am especially interested in reading Beatrix Potter: A Life in Nature. I recently watched Mrs. Potter and have read Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life by Marta McDowell. I am enthralled by this brilliant and talented woman. Her ideas were way before her time.

  12. Yay! How fantastic, I have added a few more to my reading list. I think I am most excited about the Thursday Murder Club – I really love reading books with main characters outside of my generation. It is such an eye opener! Thanks for sharing.

  13. Another great round up of delicious things to see & read, Shannon, thank you so much. I spent the last couple of months re-reading all of Mary Stewart’s books. Wow! I’d read them all back in my 20s & remembered them fondly, but I’d forgotten just how amazingly good they are, not just in terms of character, plot & setting (& Stewart is a consummate master of all 3), but the quality of the writing itself. I kept finding myself re-reading paragraph after paragraph & even reading them aloud to my husband (or the cat, if he isn’t handy) just for the pleasure of hearing the words fit together.

    On the TV front, our Public TV station has just released a new season of the NZ series The Brokenwood Mysteries & I am thoroughly enjoying it. And I just discovered that there are 7 seasons! I’ve seen only 3, counting the one I’m on now, so I checked with my library & lo, they have ALL of them on DVD. So now I have to decide: do I just jump in or go back to the very beginning & watch them in order (which is the option that makes the most sense). I foresee a happy summer ahead of me.

  14. Great list! I’ve read several of these. I picked up Mrs. Christie after seeing it on the blog and enjoyed it very much. Lady Clementine was very interesting too. The Gardener’s Year was an entertaining read as well as the Confessions of a Bookseller series.

  15. You have inspired me to upgrade my reading! I tend to read a few series over and over and this list is going to be helpful in getting me out of my rut. 🙂 I’ll use it as my summer reading list.

  16. Thank you for the wonderful book recommendations! I *loved* the Thursday Murder Club – couldn’t put it down and read it in two days. Cannot wait for #2.

    Two books I think you will love (if you haven’t read them already) that have that same lighthearted sense of British humor are The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett (there is a character named Norman too!) and Mrs. Queen Takes the Train by William Kuhn. Both are books to make you feel good and reading with a pot of tea is a bonus!

    Now I need to get some books by Shaun Blythell…

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