While we at the Riot are taking this lovely summer week off to rest (translation: read by the pool/ocean/on our couches), we’re re-running some of our favorite posts from the last several months. Enjoy our highlight reel, and we’ll be back with new stuff on Wednesday, July 8th.
This post originally ran January 14, 2015.
If you’re one of the millions of Downton Abbey fans whose hearts go all aflutter at the mention of the name Matthew Crawley, or Bates and Anna, or even Mr. Pamuk…well then this stack of books is for you.
It’s been a few years now since we all first caught Downton fever. For a while Downton Abbey was cropping up everywhere – there were parodies and drinking games; it appeared as “Woodworthy Manor” in How I Met Your Mother and even had a cameo in Iron Man 3.
Since then we’ve been through weddings and funerals, car accidents and pig farming crises, and oh just so much drama with that Crawley family, haven’t we?
Now as series five ends in the UK and kicks off in the States, I made a little reading list for you, my fellow Downton Abbey addicts, in case you too just can’t get enough of the drama and intrigue of the class system in pre-WWII England.
Books About Downton Abbey
The World of Downton Abbey by Jessica Fellowes
The Chronicles of Downton Abbey by Jessica Fellowes and Matthew Sturgis
These books shamelessly cater to their demographic – and we are their demographic. (Just look at that cover – “The Rivalry and Romance Revealed… The Secrets and History Unlocked…”)
These books are written by Jessica Fellowes, the niece of Downton creator Julian Fellowes, so they’re legit. You’ll find behind-the-scenes photos and making-of stories, but there is also a lot of history. The books were released alongside each season of the show, so The World of Downton Abbey roughly correlates with the first season or two, The Chronicles of Downton Abbey came out during the third season, etc.
Behind the Scenes at Downton Abbey by Emma Rowley
A Year in the Life of Downton Abbey by Jessica Fellowes
More behind the scenes, more anecdotes, more history. Behind the Scenes at Downton Abbey came out last year with season four, and A Year in the Life of Downton Abbey is brand new with season five. Just when I start to think maybe I’m over the whole thing, a new one comes out and I can’t wait to get my hands on it.
Books About Highclere Castle
Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey by The Countess of Carnarvon
Lady Catherine, The Earl, and the Real Downton Abbey by The Countess of Carnarvon
These books are written by the current Countess of Carnarvon who lives in Highclere Castle, where Downton is filmed. I first picked up Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey because I just can’t resist anything Downton related, but my expectations weren’t very high – I wasn’t sure I was interested in the history of the house itself.
But then I starting reading and I found stories of Highclere Castle being transformed into a hospital during the first World War… and an Earl discovering King Tut’s tomb… and of course a bit of drama and some romance and even a visit from the Prince of Wales. I liked the first book but Lady Catherine, The Earl, and the Real Downton Abbey was even better.
Books That Inspired Downton Abbey
To Marry an English Lord by Gail Maccoll and Carol Wallace
Below Stairs by Margaret Powell
If you’re a real history geek like me, you’ll love these two. Below Stairs is the memoir of a kitchen maid (I haven’t read this one yet but it has the endorsement of Julian Fellowes himself), and To Marry an English Lord traces the history of how rich American women married Dukes and Earls and moved to England (the character of Cora was written after reading this book).
So there you go: a bit of history, a bit of drama; a bit of Downton Abbey reading to while away the winter days.