I’ve read a lot of travel writing. Memoirs, guides, essays, anecdotes, you name it. It’s so much fun (to me anyway) to read about someone’s adventures abroad (which is one reason why I love reading people’s blogs!). When I found out I’d be moving to England, I took the first chance I could to stock up on English travel reads. So I thought I’d share a few of my favorites with you! (Yes, yes, I know it’s a book post and this isn’t Wednesday, but it’s still sort of travel-related so shhh!)
Favorite Anthropological Study: Watching the English, by Kate Fox
I can’t even remember how I heard about this book — I probably just did a google search on books about England — but I’m so glad I found it. Kate Fox’s observations about behavioral codes in England are both informative and entertaining. Even more so because she’s English. She covers everything from the incessant talk about the weather, English humor, and manner of dress, to class identification, sexual stereotypes, and the rules of recreation. This book made me think about why everyone does the things they do, not just the English. And while it did scare me a bit before coming here (“Will I ever know what an English person really means when they say something to me, or is everything code?!”) I’ve found since living here that one of Fox’s points is dead on: cultural rules change over time — even in England.
Favorite Book of To-Do’s: Mad Dogs & Englishmen: A Year of Things to See and Do in England, by Tom Jones
Have you read/seen/heard of Tom Jones’s first book, Tired of London, Tired of Life? If not, it’s a book that gives you daily suggestions for what to do in London. Apparently Tom’s inspiration for writing the first book was that he had indeed begun to tire of London and became motivated to rediscover what makes his city so wonderful. After covering London, he decided to expand his search for things to do to the entire country, which is how this book was born. All of Tom Jones’s books (there are three now) are full of colorful illustrations, and this one’s organized by month so you’ll know ahead of time what activities are available. You’ll never be bored in England again!
Favorite Book of (Im)Personal Experiences The Anglo Files, by Sarah Lyall
Sarah Lyall was/is a New York Times journalist who moved to London after falling in love with an alluring Brit. While The Anglo Files includes some bits of Lyall’s personal experiences, those are really just contextual backdrops for the information she gives you about the English government, codes of conduct, cricket, the national attitude toward the media, etc. Lyall used her journalistic prowess to get direct quotes from people of note while writing this book. But it’s less a book about her life in England than it is about how the country itself functions no matter who’s in it. It’s an interesting, funny, and sometimes puzzling look at England through the eyes of an outsider.
Favorite Book I Haven’t Read Yet: The Road to Little Dribbling: More Notes from a Small Island, by Bill Bryson
Bill Bryson is a well-known voice in travel writing. Actually, he’s a well-known writer, period. He’s written about his time as an American expat in England, his return to the United States, his time in Australia, Europe, Africa, his childhood, Shakespeare, Science, and nearly anything else you can think of. His new book is about his second trip around Britain, twenty years after his first trip around the island (which he then wrote about in the book Notes from a Small Island), to see what has changed in the country he calls home. I have a few of Bryson’s other books, so I was excited to hear that this one was coming out. When I picked it up in Waterstones and flipped it open to the London chapter, what I read made me laugh out loud. In the store. I didn’t even care who looked. That sold me on it. I can’t wait to dig in properly.
What are your favorite travel reads?