Books Magazine

My Year as an Armchair Anglophile

By Joyweesemoll @joyweesemoll

logo for 2014 British History Reading ChallengeAfter signing up for Reading Challenges yesterday, including the British History Reading Challenge, I started compiling a list of books I might read in advance of our hoped-for trip to England in the fall, using notes I’ve gathered for the last couple of years and the Book Lust series by Nancy Pearl.

In order for my husband to be as interested in this trip as I am, we’ve decided to make a theme of The Scientific Revolution, The Age of Enlightenment, and The Industrial Revolution. This covers the eras of history from the restoration of the Stuart monarchy through the Georgian era (including The Regency) into Victorian times, the mid-1600s to the mid-1800s.

So, I’m looking for suggestions of places to see in England and books to read that will help us explore those times. I have a huge list of books, so I’m hoping for help to whittle it down to the best of the best — I can maybe read 20 books on this topic this year, probably fewer since many of these are chunksters (that I can count for the Chunkster Reading Challenge). I’m also  looking for additions, books I’ve missed that I shouldn’t.

cover of London: The Biography by Peter Ackroyd
Some sweeping histories (fiction and non):

London by Edward Rutherfurd
London: The Biography by Peter Ackroyd
Thames: The Biography by Peter Ackroyd
Albion: The Origins of English Imagination by Peter Ackroyd

1600s

Quicksilver, The Confusion, and The Systems of the World (Baroque Cycle series) by Neal Stephenson
Newton by Peter Ackroyd
The Great Fire of London by Peter Ackroyd
The Illustrated Pepys by Samuel Pepys
The Compleat Angler by Izaak Walton
His invention so fertile: a life of Christopher Wren by Adrian Tinniswood
The Clockwork Universe : Isaac Newton, the Royal Society, and the birth of the modern world by Edward Dolnick

1700s

The Illustrated Longitude by Dava Sobel
Greenwich Time and the Longitude by Derek Howse
Hawksmoor by Peter Ackroyd
Empire of the Seas : how the navy forged the modern world by Brian Lavery
Life of Samuel Johnson by James Boswell
London Journal by James Boswell
Mary Wollstonecraft: A Revolutionary Life by Janet Todd

1800s

cover of What Happens in London by Julia Quinn
What Happens in London by Julia Quinn (and other Regency Romances — who is your favorite author?)
London Under by Peter Ackroyd
Dickens by Peter Ackroyd
Dickens’s London by Peter Clark

And, beyond…

I think Bletchley Park might be a fitting postscript to our exploration of early technology and would give me an excuse to read these two books:

The Secret Lives of Codebreakers: The Men and Women Who Cracked the Enigma Code at Bletchley Park by Sinclair McKay
Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson

For travel planning and dreaming, travel memoirs are always helpful, so these are on the list:

Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson
My Love Affair with England by Susan Allen Toth
England As You Like It by Susan Allen Toth

Which of these books have you read and enjoyed? What books are you reminded of that should be added to this list?

Signature of Joy Weese Moll


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