100 Must-Read Novels Set in London

There’s a reason cities are such fertile terrain for novels: they’re full to the brim with people, in all their variety. Rich, poor, hopeless or spurred by the dream that brought them to the city in the first place, they come from all over the world and speak many languages, many varieties of each of those languages. London epitomizes all of those things, and so here is your list of 100 novels wholly or partly set there — in different parts of the city, in different sort of communities, at different points in history.

This is, of course, not an exhaustive list, and like all non-exhaustive lists the choices made for its content are, to some extent, subjective. But nonetheless, these books will give you a good feel for the history, culture, and geography of London.

1. 26a by Diana Evans

“Identical twins, Georgia and Bessi, live in the loft of 26 Waifer Avenue. Their Nigerian mother puts cayenne pepper on her Yorkshire pudding and has mysterious ways of dealing with homesickness; their father angrily roams the streets of Neasden. Older sister Bel discovers sex, high heels and organic hairdressing, the twins prepare for a flapjack empire, and baby sister Kemy learns to moonwalk for Michael Jackson. How will Georgia and Bessi cope in a world of separateness and solitude, and which of them will be stronger?”

2. 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

“It all began with a letter inquiring about second-hand books, written by Helene Hanff in New York, and posted to a bookshop at 84, Charing Cross Road in London. As Helene’s sarcastic and witty letters are responded to by the stodgy and proper Frank Doel of 84, Charing Cross Road, a relationship blossoms into a warm and charming long-distance friendship lasting many years.”

3. A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers by Xiaolu Guo

“Twenty-three-year-old Zhuang arrives in London to spend a year learning English. Struggling to find her way in the city, and through the puzzles of tense, verb and adverb; she falls for an older Englishman and begins to realise that the landscape of love is an even trickier terrain…”

4. A Distant Shore by Caryl Phillips

“Dorothy has walked away from a bad thirty-year marriage, an affair gone sour and a dangerous obsession. Between her visits to the doctor and the music lessons she gives to bored teenagers, she is trying to rebuild a life. It’s not immediately clear why her neighbour, Solomon, is living in the village, but his African origin suggests a complex history that is at odds with his dull routine of washing the car and making short trips to the supermarket.”

5. A Parcel for Anna Browne by Miranda Dickinson

“Anna Browne is an ordinary woman living an ordinary life. Her day job as a receptionist in bustling London isn’t exactly her dream, yet she has everything she wants. But someone thinks Anna Browne deserves more… When a parcel addressed to Anna Browne arrives, she has no idea who has sent it. Inside she finds a beautiful gift – one that is designed to be seen. And so begins a series of incredible deliveries, each one bringing Anna further out of the shadows and encouraging her to become the woman she was destined to be. As Anna grows in confidence, others begin to notice her – and her life starts to change. But who is sending the mysterious gifts, and why?”

6. A Week in December by Sebastian Faulks

“London, the week before Christmas, 2007. Seven wintry days to track the lives of seven characters: a hedge fund manager trying to bring off the biggest trade of his career; a professional footballer recently arrived from Poland; a young lawyer with little work and too much time to speculate; a student who has been led astray by Islamist theory; a hack book-reviewer; a schoolboy hooked on skunk and reality TV; and a Tube driver whose Circle Line train joins these and countless other lives together in a daily loop.”

7. About a Boy by Nick Hornby

“At thirty-six, Will is as hip as a teenager. He’s single, child-free, goes to the right clubs and knows which trainers to wear. He’s also found a great way to score with women: attend single parents’ groups full of available (and grateful) mothers, all hoping to meet a Nice Guy. Which is how Will meets Marcus, the oldest twelve-year-old on the planet. Marcus is a bit strange: he listens to Joni Mitchell and Mozart, looks after his mum and has never owned a pair of trainers. But Marcus latches on to Will – and won’t let go. Can Will teach Marcus how to grow up cool? And can Marcus help Will just to grow up?”

8. Absolute Beginners by Colin MacInnes

“London, 1958. A new phenomenon is causing a stir: the teenager. In the smoky jazz clubs of Soho and the coffee bars of Notting Hill the young and the restless – the absolute beginners – are revolutionising youth culture and forging a new carefree lifestyle of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll. Moving in the midst of this world of mods and rockers, Teddy gangs and trads., and snapping every scene with his trusty Rolleiflex, is MacInnes’ young photographer, whose unique wit and honest views remain the definitive account of London life in the 1950s and what it means to be a teenager.”

9. Act Like It by Lucy Parker

“Richard Troy used to be the hottest actor in London, but the only thing firing up lately is his temper. We all love to love a bad boy, but Richard’s antics have made him Enemy Number One, breaking the hearts of fans across the city. Have the tides turned? Has English rose Lainie Graham made him into a new man? Sources say the mismatched pair has been spotted at multiple events, arm in arm and hip to hip. Could the rumours be right? Could this unlikely romance be the real thing? Or are these gifted stage actors playing us all?”

10. Adrift in Soho by Colin Wilson

“Harry Preston says goodbye to the provinces and comes to London looking for life and adventure. It is the mid-50s and he soon finds himself in the impoverished and slightly seedy world of the emerging Beat Generation. As he progresses through the ranks of would-be artists and deluded romantics of Soho and Notting Hill, he begins to make sense of the world and his role in it.”

11. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

“Ifemelu and Obinze are young and in love when they depart military-ruled Nigeria for the West. Beautiful, self-assured Ifemelu heads for America, where despite her academic success, she is forced to grapple with what it means to be black for the first time. Quiet, thoughtful Obinze had hoped to join her, but with post-9/11 America closed to him, he instead plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London. Fifteen years later, they reunite in a newly democratic Nigeria, and reignite their passion — for each other and for their homeland.”

An Equal Music by Vikram Seth

“Michael Holme is a violinist, a member of the successful Maggiore Quartet. He has long been haunted, though, by memories of the pianist he loved and left ten years earlier, Julia McNicholl. Now Julia, married and the mother of a small child, unexpectedly reenters his life and the romance flares up once more.”

13. Atonement by Ian McEwan

“On a hot summer day in 1934, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis witnesses a moment’s flirtation between her older sister, Cecilia, and Robbie Turner, the son of a servant and Cecilia’s childhood friend. But Briony’s incomplete grasp of adult motives—together with her precocious literary gifts—brings about a crime that will change all their lives.”

14. Belgravia by Julian Fellowes

“Julian Fellowes’s Belgravia is the story of a secret. A secret that unravels behind the porticoed doors of London’s grandest postcode. Set in the 1840s when the upper echelons of society began to rub shoulders with the emerging industrial nouveau riche, Belgravia is peopled by a rich cast of characters. But the story begins on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. At the Duchess of Richmond’s new legendary ball, one family’s life will change forever.”

15. Brick Lane by Monica Ali

“After an arranged marriage to Chanu, a man twenty years older, Nazneen is taken to London, leaving her home and heart in the Bangladeshi village where she was born. Her new world is full of mysteries. How can she cross the road without being hit by a car (an operation akin to dodging raindrops in the monsoon)? What is the secret of her bullying neighbour Mrs. Islam? What is a Hell’s Angel? And how must she comfort the naïve and disillusioned Chanu?”

16. Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding

“As Bridget documents her struggles through the social minefield of her thirties and tries to weigh up the eternal question (Daniel Cleaver or Mark Darcy?), she turns for support to four indispensable friends: Shazzer, Jude, Tom and a bottle of chardonnay.”

17. Brixton Rock by Alex Wheatle

“Set against the backdrop of the Brixton race riots in London in the 1980s, this novel tells a story of overcoming obstacles from a teen’s perspective. Brenton Brown, a 16-year-old mixed-race youth, has lived in a children’s home all his life and is haunted by the absence of his mother. Complications arise, however, when he finally meets his mother and then falls dangerously in love with his half-sister. Killer Terry Flynn also scars Brenton’s life and leaves him wanting revenge. Through it all, this determined teen is driven to pursue education and recognize his true self in the midst of chaos.”

18. Capital by John Lanchester

“It’s 2008 and things are falling apart: Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers are going under, and the residents of Pepys Road, London—a banker and his shopaholic wife, an old woman dying of a brain tumour and her graffiti-artist grandson, Pakistani shop owners and a shadowy refugee who works as the meter maid, the young soccer star from Senegal and his minder—are receiving anonymous postcards reading “We Want What You Have.” Who is behind it? What do they want?”

19. Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith

“When a mysterious package is delivered to Robin Ellacott, she is horrified to discover that it contains a woman’s severed leg. Her boss, private detective Cormoran Strike, is less surprised but no less alarmed. There are four people from his past who he thinks could be responsible–and Strike knows that any one of them is capable of sustained and unspeakable brutality. With the police focusing on one of the suspects, Strike and Robin delve into the dark and twisted worlds of the other three men. But as more horrendous acts occur, time is running out for the two of them…”

20. Chasing Charlie by Linda McLaughlan

“When unlucky-in-love Sam bumps into her first boyfriend, the charming but roguish Charlie, she falls head first for him all over again. Even though he broke her heart, she’s determined to win him back – even if she has to chase him all over London.”

21. City of the Mind by Penelope Lively

“In London’s changing heartland, architect Matthew Halland is aware of how the past and the present blend. It stirs memories of his boyhood, the early years of his daughter Jane and the failed marriage that he has almost put behind him. Here too is the London of prehistory, of Georgian elegance, of the Blitz. But Matthew is occupied with constructing a new future for London in Docklands, and with it he begins to forge new beginnings of his own.”

22. Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella

“Meet Rebecca Bloomwood. She has a great flat, a fabulous wardrobe full of the season’s must-haves, and a job telling other people how to manage their money. She spends her leisure time … shopping. Retail therapy is the answer to all her problems. She knows she should stop, but she can’t. She tries Cutting Back, she tries Making More Money. But neither seems to work. The letters from the bank are getting harder to ignore. Can Becky ever escape from this dreamworld, find true love, and regain the use of her credit card?”

23. Coram Boy by Jamila Gavin

“The Coram man takes babies and money from desperate mothers, promising to deliver them safely to a Foundling Hospital in London. Instead, he murders them and buries them by the roadside, to the helpless horror of his mentally ill son, Mish. Mish saves one, Aaron, who grows up happily unaware of his history, proving himself a promising musician.  As Aaron’s new life takes him closer to his real family, the watchful Mish makes a terrible mistake, delivering Aaron and his best friend Toby back into the hands of the Coram man.”

24. Curtain Call by Anthony Quinn

“On a sultry afternoon in the summer of 1936 a young woman is witness to an attempted murder in a London hotel room. Nina, a West End actress, faces a dilemma: she shouldn’t have been at the hotel in the first place, and certainly not with a married man. But once it becomes apparent that she has seen the face of the man the newspapers have dubbed ‘the Tie-Pin Killer’ she realises that unless she acts quickly, more women will die.”

25. Damage by Josephine Hart

Damage is the gripping story of a man’s desperate obsession and scandalous love affair. He is a man who appears to have everything: wealth, a beautiful wife and children, and a prestigious political career in Parliament. But his life lacks passion, and his aching emptiness drives him to an all-consuming, and ultimately catastrophic, relationship with his son’s fiancée.”

26. Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal

“When Nikki takes a creative writing job at her local temple, with visions of emancipating the women of the community she left behind as a self-important teenager, she’s shocked to discover a group of barely literate women who have no interest in her ideals. Yet to her surprise, the white dupatta of the widow hides more than just their modesty – these are women who have spent their lives in the shadows of fathers, brothers and husbands; being dutiful, raising children and going to temple, but whose inner lives are as rich and fruitful as their untold stories. But as they begin to open up to each other about womanhood, sexuality, and the dark secrets within the community, Nikki realises that the illicit nature of the class may place them all in danger.”

27. Evelina by Frances Burney

“Frances Burney’s first and most enduringly popular novel is a vivid, satirical, and seductive account of the pleasures and dangers of fashionable life in late eighteenth-century London. As she describes her heroine’s entry into society, womanhood and, inevitably, love, Burney exposes the vulnerability of female innocence in an image-conscious and often cruel world where social snobbery and sexual aggression are played out in the public arenas of pleasure-gardens, theatre visits, and balls. But Evelina’s innocence also makes her a shrewd commentator on the excesses and absurdities of manners and social ambitions – as well as attracting the attention of the eminently eligible Lord Orville.”

28. First Love by Gwendoline Riley

“Neve is a writer in her mid-30s married to an older man, Edwyn. For now they are in a place of relative peace, but their past battles have left scars. As Neve recalls the decisions that led her to this marriage, she tells of other loves and other debts, from her bullying father and her self-involved mother to a musician who played her and a series of lonely flights from place to place. Drawing the reader into the battleground of her relationship, Neve spins a story of helplessness and hostility, an ongoing conflict in which both husband and wife have played a part. But is this, nonetheless, also a story of love?”

29. Hangover Square by Patrick Hamilton

“London, 1939, and in the grimy publands of Earls Court, George Harvey Bone is pursuing a helpless infatuation. Netta is cool, contemptuous and hopelessly desirable to George. George is adrift in a drunken hell, except in his ‘dead’ moments, when something goes click in his head and he realises, without a doubt, that he must kill her. In the darkly comic Hangover Square Patrick Hamilton brilliantly evokes a seedy, fog-bound world of saloon bars, lodging houses and boozing philosophers, immortalising the slang and conversational tone of a whole generation and capturing the premonitions of doom that pervaded London life in the months before the war.”

30. Hearts and Minds by Amanda Craig

Rich or poor, five people, seemingly very different, find their lives in the capital connected in undreamed-of ways. There is Job, the illegal mini-cab driver whose wife in Zimbabwe no longer answers his letters; Ian, the idealistic supply teacher in exile from South Africa; Katie from New York, jilted and miserable as a dogsbody at a political magazine, and fifteen-year-old Anna, trafficked into sexual slavery. Polly Noble, an overworked human rights lawyer, knows better than most how easy it is to fall through the cracks into the abyss. Yet when her au pair, Iryna, disappears, Polly’s own needs and beliefs drag her family into a world of danger, deceit and terror.

31. Her by Harriet Lane

“Two women; two different worlds. Emma is a struggling mother who has put everything on hold. Nina is sophisticated and independent – entirely in control. When the pair meet, Nina generously draws Emma into her life. But this isn’t the first time the women’s paths have crossed. Nina remembers Emma and she remembers what Emma did… But what exactly does Nina want from her? And how far will she go in pursuit of it?”

32. Here’s Looking at You by Mhairi McFarlane

“Despite the oddballs that keep turning up on her dates, Anna couldn’t be happier. As a 30-something with a job she loves, life has turned out better than she dared dream. However, things weren’t always this way, and her years spent as the ‘Italian Galleon’ of an East London comprehensive are ones she’d rather forget. So when James Fraser – the architect of Anna’s final humiliation at school – walks back into her life, her world is turned upside down. But James seems a changed man. Polite. Mature. Funny, even. People can change, right? So why does Anna feel like she’s a fool to trust him?”

33. Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

“When Elspeth Noblin dies of cancer, she leaves her London apartment to her twin nieces, Julia and Valentina. These two American girls never met their English aunt, only knew that their mother, too, was a twin, and Elspeth her sister. The girls move to Elspeth’s flat, which borders Highgate Cemetery in London. As the girls become embroiled in the fraying lives of their aunt’s neighbours, they also discover that much is still alive in Highgate, including–perhaps–their aunt, who can’t seem to leave her old apartment and life behind.”

34. Honour by Elif Shafak

“Pembe follows her Turkish husband, Adem, to London, where they hope to make new lives for themselves and their children. In London, they face a choice: stay loyal to the old traditions or try their best to fit in. After Adem abandons his family, Iskender, the eldest son, must step in and become the one who will not let any shame come to the family name. And when Pembe begins a chaste affair with a man named Elias, Iskender will discover that you could love someone with all your heart and yet be ready to hurt them.”

35. House of Cards by Michael Dobbs

“Michael Dobbs’ entertaining tale of skulduggery and intrigue within the Palace of Westminster has been a huge hit with the public. Its scheming hero, Chief Whip Francis Urquhart, who uses fair means and foul to become Prime Minister, is one of the best-known characters of the last decade – the politician we all love to hate.”

36. How Not To Fall in Love, Actually by Catherine Bennetto

“Emma has a job in television which is distinctly less glamourous and exciting than it sounds. She’s managed to claw her way up the ranks from Tea-Maker and Rubbish-Collector to 2nd Assistant Director. So when she finds she’s accidentally very pregnant and at the same time accidentally very sacked, she knows things are going to have to change.”

37. I Can’t Think Straight by Shamim Sarif

“Tala, a London-based Palestinian, is preparing for her elaborate Middle Eastern wedding when she meets Leyla, a young British Indian woman who is dating her best friend. Spirited Christian Tala and shy Muslim Leyla could not be more different from each other, but the attraction is immediate and goes deeper than friendship. As Tala’s wedding day approaches, simmering tensions come to boiling point and the pressure mounts for Tala to be true to herself.”

38. I Heart London by Lindsey Kelk

“Home is where the heart is. Right? Angela Clark has fallen in love with America — and it’s starting to love her back. Throw one expired visa into the mix, and things quickly take a turn for the worse. She might love her life as a Brit in New York, but now she has no choice but to return to London. Not only does she leave behind her gorgeous boyfriend Alex — she must also face unfinished business back on home turf. There’s the ex-boyfriend — who she moved to New York to get away from. Then there’s her best friend, with her perfect new baby. And there’s her mum. Now, there’s another wedding in the offing — and everyone remembers how well the last one went …”

39. King Solomon’s Carpet by Barbara Vine and Ruth Rendell

“Tom Murray is a promising musician reduced to illegal busking in Underground stations and a sad little love affair with his accompanist Alice, who left her husband and newborn baby, taking only her violin. Together with Jasper Darne, another dropout from his family who likes to ride on the tops of Underground carriages, and Jed Lowrie, a Safeguard volunteer who’s left behind his own family to live for his hunting hawk Abelard, they live in a failed schoolhouse–whose bell tolled for the only time in memory when the headmaster hanged himself from its rope.”

40. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

“On a cold and snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd is born, the third child of a wealthy English banker and his wife. Sadly, she dies before she can draw her first breath. On that same cold and snowy night, Ursula Todd is born, lets out a lusty wail, and embarks upon a life that will be, to say the least, unusual. For as she grows, she also dies, repeatedly, in any number of ways. Clearly history (and Kate Atkinson) have plans for her: In Ursula rests nothing less than the fate of civilisation.”

41. London Belongs to Me by Norman Collins

“It is 1938 and the prospect of war hangs over every London inhabitant. But the city doesn’t stop. Everywhere people continue to work, drink, fall in love, fight and struggle to get on in life. At the lodging-house at No.10 Dulcimer Street, Kennington, the buttoned-up clerk Mr Josser returns home with the clock he has received as a retirement gift. The other residents include faded actress Connie; tinned food-loving Mr Puddy; widowed landlady Mrs Vizzard (whose head is turned by her new lodger, a self-styled ‘Professor of Spiritualism’); and flashy young mechanic Percy Boon, whose foray into stolen cars descends into something much, much worse…”

42. London Belongs to Me by Jacquelyn Middleton

“Meet Alex, a recent college graduate from Tallahassee, Florida in love with London, pop culture, and comic cons. It’s not easy being twenty-one-years-old, and Alex has never been the most popular girl. She’s an outsider, a geeky fangirl … with dreams of becoming a playwright in a city she’s loved from afar, but never visited. Fleeing America after a devastating betrayal, she believes London is where she’ll be understood, where she belongs. But Alex’s past of panic attacks and broken relationships is hard to escape. When her demons team up with a jealous rival determined to destroy her new British life, Alex begins to question everything: her life-long dream, her new friends, and whether London is where she truly belongs.”

43. London Belongs To Us by Sarra Manning

“Seventeen-year-old Sunny’s always been a little bit of a pushover. But when she’s sent a picture of her boyfriend kissing another girl, she knows she’s got to act. What follows is a mad, twelve-hour dash around London – starting at 8pm in Crystal Palace (so far away from civilisation you can’t even get the Tube there) then sweeping through Camden, Shoreditch, Soho, Kensington, Notting Hill . . . and ending up at 8am in Alexandra Palace.”

44. London Does Not Belong to Me by Kok Liang Lee

London Does Not Belong To Me was written by Lee during his return to Malaya from England by sea in 1954 and was only published posthumously in 2003. It was partly based on his experience as a student in London. The novel has a nameless Chinese protagonist whose love for an Australian woman is unfulfilled. This novel resonates a post-colonial themes and inclinations which echoed in subsequent international anglophone literature.”

45. London Fields by Martin Amis

“Everyone is always out there searching for someone and something, usually for a lover, usually for love. And this is a love story. But the murderee – Nicola Six – is searching for something and someone else: her murderer. She knows the time, she knows the place, she knows the motive, she knows the means. She just doesn’t know the man.”

46. London: The Novel by Edward Rutherford

“Edward Rutherford’s classic novel of London, a glorious pageant spanning two thousand years. He brings this vibrant city’s long and noble history alive through the ever-shifting fortunes, fates, and intrigues of half-a-dozen families, from the age of Julius Caesar to the twentieth century.
Generation after generation, these families embody the passion, struggle, wealth, and verve of the greatest city in the world.”

47. Mother London by Michael Moorcock

“Three hospital outpatients all find that they hear voices – the voices of London’s past. As they explore the city of their present day, they also explore its recent past and its forgotten people. Through the lives of those on the fringe of society, we learn what it is like – and what it has always been like – to live in the great, sprawling, polyphonic, multicoloured capital.”

48. Mr Loverman by Bernadine Evaristo

“Barrington Jedidiah Walker is seventy-four and leads a double life. Born and bred in Antigua, he’s lived in Hackney since the sixties. A flamboyant, wise-cracking local character with a dapper taste in retro suits and a fondness for quoting Shakespeare, Barrington is a husband, father and grandfather – but he is also secretly homosexual, lovers with his great childhood friend, Morris. His deeply religious and disappointed wife, Carmel, thinks he sleeps with other women. When their marriage goes into meltdown, Barrington wants to divorce Carmel and live with Morris, but after a lifetime of fear and deception, will he manage to break away?”

49. Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

“Society hostess, Clarissa Dalloway is giving a party. Her thoughts and sensations on that one day, and the interior monologues of others whose lives are interwoven with hers gradually reveal the characters of the central protagonists. Clarissa’s life is touched by tragedy as the events in her day run parallel to those of Septimus Warren Smith, whose madness escalates as his life draws toward inevitable suicide.”

50. My Best Friend’s Girl by Dorothy Kroomson

“Best friends Kamryn Matika and Adele Brannon thought nothing could come between them – until Adele did the unthinkable and slept with Kamryn’s fiancé, Nate. Worse still, she got pregnant and had his child. When Kamryn discovered the truth about their betrayal she vowed never to see any of them again. Two years later, Kamryn receives a letter from Adele asking her to visit her in hospital. Adele is dying and begs Kamryn to adopt her daughter, Tegan. With a great job and a hectic social life, the last thing Kamryn needs is a five year old to disrupt things. Especially not one who reminds her of Nate. But with no one else to take care of Tegan and Adele fading fast, does she have any other choice?”

51. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

“Under the streets of London there’s a world most people could never even dream of. A city of monsters and saints, murderers and angels, and pale girls in black velvet. Richard Mayhew is a young businessman who is about to find out more than he bargained for about this other London. A single act of kindness catapults him out of his safe and predictable life and into a world that is at once eerily familiar and yet utterly bizarre. There’s a girl named Door, an Angel called Islington, an Earl who holds Court on the carriage of a Tube train, a Beast in a labyrinth, and dangers and delights beyond imagining . . . And Richard, who only wants to go home, is to find a strange destiny waiting for him below the streets of his native city.”

52. Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller

“Schoolteacher Barbara Covett has led a solitary life until Sheba Hart, the new art teacher at St. George’s, befriends her. But even as their relationship develops, so too does another: Sheba has begun an illicit affair with an underage male student. When the scandal turns into a media circus, Barbara decides to write an account in her friend’s defence—and ends up revealing not only Sheba’s secrets, but also her own.”

53. Not Working by Lisa Owens

“Claire Flannery has quit her job in order to discover her true vocation – only to realize she has no idea how to go about finding it. Whilst everyone around her seems to have their lives entirely under control, Claire finds herself sinking under pressure and wondering where her own fell apart. ‘It’s fine,’ her grandmother says. ‘I remember what being your age was like – of course, I had four children under eight then, but modern life is different, you’ve got an awful lot on.’”

54. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

“The story of the orphan Oliver, who runs away from the workhouse only to be taken in by a den of thieves, shocked readers when it was first published. Dickens’s tale of childhood innocence beset by evil depicts the dark criminal underworld of a London peopled by vivid and memorable characters — the arch-villain Fagin, the artful Dodger, the menacing Bill Sikes and the prostitute Nancy. Combining elements of Gothic Romance, the Newgate Novel and popular melodrama, in Oliver Twist Dickens created an entirely new kind of fiction, scathing in its indictment of a cruel society, and pervaded by an unforgettable sense of threat and mystery.”

55. One Day by David Nicholls

“It’s 1988 and Dexter Mayhew and Emma Morley have only just met on the night of their graduation. Tomorrow they must go their separate ways. But after only one day together, they cannot stop thinking about one another. Over twenty years, snapshots of that relationship are revealed on the same day—July 15th—of each year. Dex and Em face squabbles and fights, hopes and missed opportunities, laughter and tears. And as the true meaning of this one crucial day is revealed, they must come to grips with the nature of love and life itself.”

56. Ordinary Thunderstorms by William Boyd

“One May evening in London, as a result of a chance encounter and a split-second decision, the young climatologist Adam Kindred loses everything – home, job, reputation, passport, credit cards, money – never to get them back. With the police and a hit man in merciless pursuit, Adam has no choice but to go underground, joining the ranks of the disappeared, struggling to understand how his life has unravelled so spectacularly. His journey of discovery will take him along the Thames from Chelsea to the sink estates of the East End. On the way he encounters aristocrats, priests, prostitutes and a policewoman – but will he ever find himself again?”

57. Paradise City by Elizabeth Day

“Four disparate characters find themselves linked together in Paradise City. Howard Pink is a wildly successful businessman still struggling to cope fifteen years after his nineteen-year-old daughter disappeared. Beatrice Kizza fled persecution from Uganda where homosexuality is illegal. She now works as a maid at a hotel Howard frequents. Esme Reade, an ambitious staff reporter on a Sunday tabloid, is desperate to get the Howard Pink interview for which all London reporters froth at the mouths. Carol Hetherington, a widow who has time to keep an eye on her neighbours’ actions, makes an astonishing discovery.”

58. Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman

“Eleven-year-old Harrison Opoku, the second best runner in Year 7, races through his new life in England with his personalised trainers – the Adidas stripes drawn on with marker pen – blissfully unaware of the very real threat around him. Newly-arrived from Ghana with his mother and older sister Lydia, Harri absorbs the many strange elements of city life, from the bewildering array of Haribo sweets, to the frightening, fascinating gang of older boys from his school. But his life is changed forever when one of his friends is murdered. As the victim’s nearly new football boots hang in tribute on railings behind fluorescent tape and a police appeal draws only silence, Harri decides to act, unwittingly endangering the fragile web his mother has spun around her family to keep them safe.”

59. Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

“Peter Grant, having become the first English apprentice wizard in fifty years, must immediately deal with two different but ultimately inter-related cases. In one he must find what is possessing ordinary people and turning them into vicious killers, and in the second he must broker a peace between the two warring gods of the River Thames.”

60. Second Class Citizen by Buchi Emechata

“In the late 1960’s, Adah, a spirited and resourceful woman manages to move her family to London. Seeking an independent life for herself and her children she encounters racism and hard truths about being a new citizen.”

61. Shadow of the Hangman by Edward Marston

“1815. Peter and Paul Skillen, identical twins and fearless thief-takers, stalk all who dare to walk in the shadow of the hangman. When they catch a notorious burglar, they claim a handsome reward and infuriate the Bow Street Runners who believe they have a monopoly on policing in the capital. The Home Secretary, Viscount Sidmouth, faces a crisis. During a massacre of American prisoners of war at Dartmoor, two escape and come to London in search of retribution. If their demands are not met, Sidmouth will be killed. The Skillen brothers are hired to catch the fugitives and must compete with the Runners to bring the villains to justice in a compelling tale of murder, kidnap, revenge, intrigue and political machination.”

62. Small Island by Andrea Levy

“Hortense Joseph arrives in London from Jamaica in 1948 with her life in her suitcase, her heart broken, her resolve intact. Her husband, Gilbert Joseph, returns from the war expecting to be received as a hero, but finds his status as a black man in Britain to be second class. His white landlady, Queenie, raised as a farmer’s daughter, befriends Gilbert, and later Hortense, with innocence and courage, until the unexpected arrival of her husband, Bernard, who returns from combat with issues of his own to resolve.”

63. Single in the City by Michele Gorman

“To think Hannah ever believed that Americans differed from Brits mainly in pronunciation, sophistication and dentistry. That’s been the understatement of a lifetime. She lands upon England’s gentle shores with no job, no friends and no idea how she’s supposed to build the life she’s dreaming of. Armed with little more than her enthusiasm, she charges headlong into London, baffling the locals in her pursuit of a new life, new love and sense of herself.”

64. Sofia Khan Is Not Obliged by Ayisha Malik

“Sofia Khan is single once more, after her sort-of-boyfriend proves just a little too close to his parents. And she’d be happy that way too, if her boss hadn’t asked her to write a book about the weird and wonderful world of Muslim dating. Of course, even though she definitely isn’t looking for love, to write the book she does need to do a little research…”

65. Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho

“At his wit’s end, Zacharias Wythe, freed slave, eminently proficient magician, and Sorcerer Royal of the Unnatural Philosophers—one of the most respected organizations throughout all of Britain—ventures to the border of Fairyland to discover why England’s magical stocks are drying up. But when his adventure brings him in contact with a most unusual comrade, a woman with immense power and an unfathomable gift, he sets on a path which will alter the nature of sorcery in all of Britain—and the world at large…”

66. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is a collection of twelve short stories by Arthur Conan Doyle, featuring his fictional detective Sherlock Holmes. It was first published on 14 October 1892; the individual stories had been serialised in The Strand Magazine between June 1891 and July 1892.”

67. The Ballad of Peckham Rye by Muriel Spark

The Ballad of Peckham Rye is a wickedly farcical tale of an English factory town turned upside-down by a Scot who may or may not be in league with the Devil. Dougal Douglas is hired to do “human research” into the lives of the workers, Douglas stirs up mutiny and murder.”

68. The Book of Lost and Found by Lucy Foley

“LONDON, 1986: Bequeathed an old portrait by her grandmother, Kate Darling begins to unpick the tapestry of her family’s secret history in a journey that takes her to Corsica, Paris and back to the heady days of the Roaring Twenties where it all began. PARIS, 1939: Alice Eversley and Thomas Stafford meet once again in the City of Light. Tom is now a world-famous artist, Alice is much-changed too – bruised from the events of the last decade. Perhaps they can lose themselves in the love story that ignited by a moonlit lake all those years ago? But sometimes there’s no place for happy endings – and there’s no hiding from the shadow of war …”

69. The Buddha of Suburbia by Hanif Kureishi

The hero of Hanif Kureishi’s debut novel is dreamy teenager Karim, desperate to escape suburban South London and experience the forbidden fruits which the 1970s seem to offer. When the unlikely opportunity of a life in the theatre announces itself, Karim starts to win the sort of attention he has been craving – albeit with some rude and raucous results.

70. The Colour of Memory by Geoff Dyer

In The Colour of Memory, six friends plot a nomadic course through their mid-twenties as they scratch out an existence in near-destitute conditions in 1980s South London. They while away their hours drinking cheap beer, landing jobs and quickly squandering them, smoking weed, dodging muggings, listening to Coltrane, finding and losing a facsimile of love, collecting unemployment, and discussing politics in the way of the besotted young—as if they were employed only by the lives they chose.

71. The Crimson Petal and the White by Michael Faber

“Sugar, 19, prostitute in Victorian London, yearns for a better life. From brutal brothel-keeper Mrs Castaway, she ascends in society. Affections of self-involved perfume magnate William Rackham soon smells like love. Her social rise attracts preening socialites, drunken journalists, untrustworthy servants, vile guttersnipes, and whores of all kinds.”

72. The End of the Affair by Graham Greene

“The love affair between Maurice Bendrix and Sarah, flourishing in the turbulent times of the London Blitz, ends when she suddenly and without explanation breaks it off. After a chance meeting rekindles his love and jealousy two years later, Bendrix hires a private detective to follow Sarah, and slowly his love for her turns into an obsession.”

73. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

“Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens. She’s even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses. ‘Jess and Jason’, she calls them. Their life – as she sees it – is perfect. If only Rachel could be that happy. And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Now Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives she’s only watched from afar. Now they’ll see; she’s much more than just the girl on the train…”

74. The Hand that First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell

“When the sophisticated Innes Kent turns up on her doorstep, Lexie Sinclair realises she cannot wait any longer for her life to begin, and leaves for London. There, at the heart of the 1950s Soho art scene, she carves out a new life. In the present day, Elina and Ted are reeling from the difficult birth of their first child. Elina struggles to reconcile the demands of motherhood with her sense of herself as an artist, and Ted is disturbed by memories of his own childhood that don’t tally with his parents’ version of events. As Ted begins to search for answers, an extraordinary portrait of two women is revealed, separated by fifty years, but connected in ways that neither could ever have expected.”

75. The Impressionist by Hari Kunzru

“Born into luxury but disinherited and cast out onto the streets of Agra, Pran Nath must become a chameleon. Chasing his fortune, he will travel from the red light district of Bombay to the green lawns of England to the unmapped African wilderness. He will play many different roles — a young prize in a brothel, the adopted son of Scottish missionaries, the impeccably educated young Englishman headed for Oxford — in order to find the role that will finally fit.”

76. The Innocents by Francesca Segal

“Adam and Rachel are getting married at last. Childhood sweethearts whose lives and families have been intertwined for years; theirs is set to be the wedding of the year. But then Rachel’s cousin Ellie makes an unexpected return to the family fold. Beautiful, reckless and troubled, Ellie represents everything that Adam has tried all his life to avoid – and everything that is missing from his world. As the long-awaited wedding approaches, Adam is torn between duty and temptation, security and freedom, and must make a choice that will break either one heart, or many.”

77. The L Shaped Room by Lynne Reid Banks

“Set in the late 1950s, the 27-year-old unmarried Jane Graham arrives alone at a run-down boarding house in London after being turned out of her comfortable middle class home by her shocked father who has learned she is pregnant. Jane narrates the story as we follow her through her pregnancy and her encounters with the other misfits and outsiders who reside at the boarding house.”

78. The Lonely Londoners by Sam Selvon

“In the hopeful aftermath of war they flocked to the Mother Country—West Indians in search of a prosperous future in the ‘glitter-city’. Instead, they have to face the harsh realities of living hand to mouth, of racism, of bone-chilling weather and bleak prospects. Yet friendships flourish among these Lonely Londoners and, in time, they learn to survive.”

79. The Long Firm by Jake Arnott

“Harry Starks, club owner, racketeer and porn king, is trying to jump the queue into legitimacy. This swinging sixties novel reveals the seedier side of London where the low life met the high life in the city’s dark underbelly.”

80. The Mimic Men by V. S. Naipaul

“Born of Indian heritage, raised in the British-dependent Caribbean island of Isabella, and educated in England, forty-year-old Ralph Singh has spent a lifetime struggling against the torment of cultural displacement. Now in exile from his native country, he has taken up residence at a quaint hotel in a London suburb, where he is writing his memoirs in an attempt to impose order on a chaotic existence. His memories lead him to recognize the cultural paradoxes and tainted fantasies of his colonial childhood and later life: his attempts to fit in at school, his short-lived marriage to an ostentatious white woman. But it is the return to Isabella and his subsequent immersion in the roiling political atmosphere of a newly self-governing nation – every kind of racial fantasy taking wing – that ultimately provide Singh with the necessary insight to discover the crux of his disillusionment.”

81. The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

“Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London to start a new life at boarding school just as a series of brutal murders mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper killing spree of more than a century ago has broken out across the city. The police are left with few leads and no witnesses. Except one. Rory spotted the man believed to be the prime suspect. But she is the only one who saw him – the only one who can see him. And now Rory has become his next target…unless she can tap her previously unknown abilities to turn the tables.”

82. The Napoleon of Notting Hill by G K Chesterton

“In a London of the future, the drudgery of capitalism and bureaucracy have worn the human spirit down to the point where it can barely stand. When a pint-sized clerk named Auberon Quinn is randomly selected as head of state, he decides to turn London into a medieval carnival for his own amusement. One man, Adam Wayne, takes the new order of things seriously, organizing a Notting Hill army to fight invaders from other neighbourhoods. At first his project baffles everyone, but eventually his dedication proves infectious, with delightful results.”

83. The Night Watch by Sarah Waters

“This is the story of four Londoners – three women and a young man with a past, drawn with absolute truth and intimacy. Kay, who drove an ambulance during the war and lived life at full throttle, now dresses in mannish clothes and wanders the streets with a restless hunger, searching. Helen, clever, sweet, much-loved, harbours a painful secret. Viv, glamour girl, is stubbornly, even foolishly loyal, to her soldier lover. Duncan, an apparent innocent, has had his own demons to fight during the war. Their lives, and their secrets connect in sometimes startling ways. War leads to strange alliances…”

84. The Opposite House by Helen Oyeyemi

“Maja was five years old when her black Cuban family emigrated from the Caribbean to London, leaving her with one complete memory: a woman singing – in a voice both eerie and enthralling – at their farewell party. Now, almost twenty years later, Maja herself is a singer, pregnant and haunted by what she calls ‘her Cuba’.”

85. The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory

“1521. Henry VIII rules over a fashionable court alive with pageant and celebration, the lack of a son his only threat. When young Mary Boleyn arrives at court, she becomes his new mistress, an unwitting pawn in the ambitions of the powerful Boleyn and Howard families. As Henry’s interest begins to wane, the Boleyns scheme to put forward Mary’s sister, Anne. Yet Anne Boleyn, newly returned from the French court, won’t agree to be Henry’s mistress – only his wife. Pitting the king’s desperation for an heir against the advice of his powerful advisors, Wolsey and Cromwell, what follows will change the course of a country’s history.”

86. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

“As Dorian Gray sinks into a life of crime and gross sensuality, his body retains perfect youth and vigour while his recently painted portrait grows day by day into a hideous record of evil, which he must keep hidden from the world.”

87. The Report by Jessica Francis Kane

“It is an early spring evening in 1943 when the air-raid sirens wail out over the East End of London. From every corner of Bethnal Green, people emerge from pubs, cinemas and houses and set off for the shelter of the tube station. But at the entrance steps, something goes badly wrong, the crowd panics, and 173 people are crushed to death. When an enquiry is called for, it falls to the local magistrate, Laurence Dunne, to find out what happened during those few, fatally confused minutes. But as Dunne gathers testimony from the guilt-stricken warden of the shelter, the priest struggling to bring comfort to his congregation, and the grieving mother who has lost her youngest daughter, the picture grows ever murkier. The more questions Dunne asks, the more difficult it becomes to disentangle truth from rumour – and to decide just how much truth the damaged community can actually bear. It is only decades later, when the case is reopened by one of the children who survived, that the facts can finally be brought to light …”

88. The Road Home by Rose Tremain

“In the wake of factory closings and his beloved wife’s death, Lev makes his way from Eastern Europe to London, seeking work to support his mother and his little daughter. After a spell of homelessness, he finds a job in the kitchen of a posh restaurant and a room in the house of an appealing Irishman who has already lost his family. Never mind that Lev must sleep in a bunk bed surrounded by plastic toys–he has found a friend and shelter. However constricted his life in England remains, he compensates by daydreaming of home, by having an affair with a younger restaurant worker, and by trading gossip and ambitions via cell phone with his hilarious friend Rudi, who, dreaming of the wealthy West, lives largely for his battered Chevrolet.”

89. The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie

“Set in a modern world filled with both mayhem and miracles, the story begins with a bang: the terrorist bombing of a London-bound jet in midflight. Two Indian actors of opposing sensibilities fall to earth, transformed into living symbols of what is angelic and evil.”

90. The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad

“Mr Verloc, the secret agent, keeps a shop in London’s Soho where he lives with his wife Winnie, her infirm mother, and her idiot brother, Stevie. When Verloc is reluctantly involved in an anarchist plot to blow up the Greenwich Observatory things go disastrously wrong, and what appears to be “a simple tale” proves to involve politicians, policemen, foreign diplomats and London’s fashionable society in the darkest and most surprising interrelations.”

91. The Swimming Pool Library by Alan Hollinghurst

“Young, gay, William Beckwith spends his time, and his trust fund, idly cruising London for erotic encounters. When he saves the life of an elderly man in a public convenience an unlikely job opportunity presents itself – the man, Lord Nantwich, is seeking a biographer. Will agrees to take a look at Nantwich’s diaries. But in the story he unravels, a tragedy of twentieth-century gay repression, lurk bitter truths about Will’s own privileged existence.”

92. The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope

“The Way We Live Now is a scathing satirical novel published in London in 1875 by Anthony Trollope, after a popular serialisation. It was regarded by many of Trollope’s contemporaries as his finest work. One of his longest novels (it contains a hundred chapters), The Way We Live Now is particularly rich in sub-plot. It was inspired by the financial scandals of the early 1870s, and lashes at the pervading dishonesty of the age, commercial, political, moral, and intellectual. It is one of the last significant Victorian novels to have been published in monthly parts.”

93. Their Finest Hour and a Half by Lissa Evans

“It’s 1940. In a small advertising agency in Soho, London, Catrin Cole writes snappy lines for Vida Elastic and So-Bee-Fee gravy browning. But the nation is in peril, all skills are transferable and there’s a place in the war effort for those who have a knack with words. Catrin is conscripted into the world of propaganda films. After a short spell promoting the joy of swedes for the Ministry of Food, she finds herself writing dialogue for ‘Just an Ordinary Wednesday’, a heart-warming but largely fabricated ‘true story’ about rescue and romance on the beaches of Dunkirk. And as bombs start to fall on London, she discovers that there’s just as much drama, comedy and passion behind the scenes as there is in front of the camera…”

94. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John Le Carré

“It is now beyond a doubt that a mole, implanted decades ago by Moscow Centre, has burrowed his way into the highest echelons of British Intelligence. His treachery has already blown some of its most vital operations and its best networks. It is clear that the double agent is one of its own kind. But which one? George Smiley is assigned to identify him. And once identified, the traitor must be destroyed.”

95. Tunnel Vision by Keith Lowe

“Until now Andy’s interest in the London Underground has been relatively harmless. Rachel, his long- suffering fiancée, has long since learnt to put up with it. But on the eve of their wedding, in a fit of last-minute nerves, Andy makes a drunken bet which threatens to ruin everything. His task is to travel to every tube station on the system in a single day. As part of the challenge his passport, his honeymoon tickets and his credit cards have been hidden in various places along the way – he has just 20 hours to find them all and complete his journey or the wedding is off. Tired, hungover, amazed at his own foolishness, he sets out on his journey at 5am with Brian, a drunk he picks up in Morden. He knows he can win his bet, and at first he seems to be making good progress. But then everything starts to go wrong…”

96. Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackery

Vanity Fair follows the fortunes of two contrasting but inter-linked lives: through the retiring Amelia Sedley and the brilliant Becky Sharp, Thackeray examines the position of women in an intensely exploitative male world.”

97. Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh

“In the years following the First World War a new generation emerges, wistful and vulnerable beneath the glitter. The Bright Young Things of twenties’ Mayfair, with their paradoxical mix of innocence and sophistication, exercise their inventive minds and vile bodies in every kind of capricious escapade – whether promiscuity, dancing, cocktail parties or sports cars. In a quest for treasure, a favourite party occupation, a vivid assortment of characters, among them the struggling writer Adam Fenwick-Symes and the glamorous, aristocratic Nina Blount, hunt fast and furiously for ever greater sensations and the fulfilment of unconscious desires.”

98. We Are All Made of Glue by Marina Lewycka

“Georgie Sinclair’s life is coming unstuck. Her husband’s left her. Her son’s obsessed with the End of the World. And now her elderly neighbour Mrs Shapiro has decided they are related. Or so the hospital informs her when Mrs Shapiro has an accident and names Georgie next of kin. This, however, is not a case of a quick ward visit: Mrs Shapiro has a large rickety house full of stinky cats that needs looking after and that a pair of estate agents seem intent on swindling from her. Plus there are the ‘Uselesses’ trying to repair it (uselessly). Then there’s social worker who wants to put her in a nursing home. Not to mention some letters that point to a mysterious, painful past. As Georgie tries her best to put Mrs Shapiro’s life back together somehow she much stop her own from falling apart…”

99. White Teeth by Zadie Smith

“On New Year’s morning, 1975, Archie Jones sits in his car on a London road and waits for the exhaust fumes to fill his Cavalier Musketeer station wagon. Archie—working-class, ordinary, a failed marriage under his belt—is calling it quits, the deciding factor being the flip of a 20-pence coin. When the owner of a nearby halal butcher shop (annoyed that Archie’s car is blocking his delivery area) comes out and bangs on the window, he gives Archie another chance at life.”

100. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

“England in the 1520s is a heartbeat from disaster. If the king dies without a male heir, the country could be destroyed by civil war. Henry VIII wants to annul his marriage of twenty years and marry Anne Boleyn. The pope and most of Europe opposes him. Into this impasse steps Thomas Cromwell: a wholly original man, a charmer and a bully, both idealist and opportunist, astute in reading people, and implacable in his ambition. But Henry is volatile: one day tender, one day murderous. Cromwell helps him break the opposition, but what will be the price of his triumph?”

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