England: travel books to read before you go

This excerpt from Lonely Planet’s England guide provides a selection of travel literature to get you in the mood for your trip.

What better way to get acquainted with England than by reading someone else’s adventures? Here are some of our favourite books about English travel, along with a few tomes exploring the quirkier side of this sceptred isle.

Notes from a Small IslandNotes from a Small Island is a bestselling memoir by the American-born author Bill Bryson, based on trips around Britain in the 1970s and ’80s. Employing Bryson’s trademark fussy style and self-deprecating wit, it’s incisive, observant and very funny.

In Search of EnglandIn Search of England by HV Morton is one of the classic prewar English travelogues, written by a veteran Daily Express columnist in the 1920s. The language is old-fashioned, but it makes a fascinating companion to more modern texts.

Strange Laws of Old EnglandNigel Cawthorne’s The Strange Laws of Old England explores lots of weird and wonderful laws on the English statute book. Required reading if you’re planning on entering Parliament in a suit of armour or transporting corpses in a London cab.

EnglandIn England: 1000 Things You Need To Know, Nicolas Hobbes examines lots of quintessentially English things, from the people, legends and events that have shaped the nation’s history through to the origins of stilton, roast beef and the Royal Mail.

In Search of the English EccentricAnother investigation into ‘Englishness’ is In Search of the English Eccentric by Henry Hemming – a poised, perceptive and frequently hilarious exploration of some of the nation’s eccentrics, including crop-circle makers, a man who thinks he’s the reincarnation of King Arthur, and Captain Beany, who likes to spend his days bathing in baked beans.

Pies and PrejudicePies and Prejudice: In Search of the North is a whimsical journey through England’s northerly counties by British radio DJ Stuart Maconie, a ‘Northerner in exile’, who returns to his roots to discover the truth about life Up North.

The Water RoadPaul Gogarty’s The Water Road travels along England’s canals between London and the Humber, Severn and Mersey, colloquially known as the ‘Cut’ or the ‘Grand Cross’. It’s a mix of historical account and modernday travelogue; Gogarty relates a similar trip around English shores in The Coast Road.

More travel literature reading lists for other destinations can be found here.