Top Ten Books about Britain, Britishness, and the Brits

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Magda, she of the missing articles, has chosen her favourite books about Britishness. Read about how we see ourselves and how we are seen by others. What are our totems, aside from a nice cup of tea? We are a peculiar people at times, you know, even if our articles are better than hers. <ducks>. Why not tell us about your favourite books about Britain?


A Field Guide To The British by Sarah Lyall

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Up to date, insightful and witty account of an American journalist's impressions, anecdotes and more serious but still amusing analyses of British (or rather, English) ways, from the UFOs in the Lords to binge drinking hooligans, from "rumpy-pumpy" to page three girls. Full review...

Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson

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If you like Bryson as an author and are not familiar with this, you will almost certainly love it. For Bryson virgins, it's a good place to start if you wish to. This humorous account of a tour of Great Britain is OK as light entertainment but don't expect particularly beautiful prose nor deep insights. Full review...

The Kingdom by the Sea: A Journey Around the Coast of Great Britain by Paul Theroux

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Beautifully written, gloomy, depressive and funny at the same time, this exploration of coastal UK at the time of the Falkland War as a metaphor for a crumbling empire is now a travel classic. Highly recommended. Full review...

St Pancras Station by Simon Bradley

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A concise, yet eclectic history of an architectural icon. One for admirers of the Victorian age, but maybe not for trainspotters. Full review...

50 People Who Buggered Up Britain by Quentin Letts

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The author's choice of people in public life, mainly from the political and media world, who have in one way or another dumbed down or tarnished the name of Britain in the last thirty years or so. Full review...

Having It So Good: Britain in the Fifties by Peter Hennessy

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This isn't as easy read, but it is a very rewarding one and will stand as the definitive book on the nineteen-fifties for a very long time. It's highly recommended here at Bookbag Towers. Full review...

A History of Modern Britain by Andrew Marr

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A lively account of the political and social history of Britain from Winston Churchill's appointment as Prime Minister in 1940 to Tony Blair's resignation and beyond. Magnificently researched and written with a pleasing lightness of touch, it's highly recommended by Bookbag. Full review...

We Danced All Night: A Social History of Britain Between the Wars by Martin Pugh

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A social history of the 1920s & '30s that might just change your view not only of those decades but of everything that came after. None of the modern scourges of society are as new as we like to think and it's interesting to see them in their first incarnation. Splendidly detailed, but spun with humour that makes the whole not just a fascinating re-look at a time we thought we knew, but a totally enjoyable read to boot. Full review...

This Little Britain by Harry Bingham

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A serious look at the benefits Britain has bequeathed the world, historically, scientifically, judicially and mostly quite superbly. Possibly too rich, it is an interesting and comprehensive volume for all. Full review...

English Food by Jane Grigson

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The one cookery book I would hate to be without. It covers all foods prefering quality over quantity or cheapness and the writing is sublime. I'm about to buy my third copy as the previous two have fallen apart from over-use. Full review...

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