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5 Essential London Reads

Packing your bags for your international internship? Don’t forget to pack ( or more likely download) a few good novels set in your destination.

Guidebooks are all very well but to really get a feeling of the character of a place, to get to know its less touristy sights and to start to appreciate its cultural weight, novels can be much more evocative and expansive.

Here are our top 5 London based novels to help you get your fictional fix –


A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle

You’ve watched Cumberbatch and Downey Jr play the infamous consulting detective and now it is time to get caught up in the original. This novel is the debut of Holmes and he’s on good form, uncovering an intriguing story of love and revenge.

•Area Covered – Brixton and Marylebone

•Bonus Fact – Conan Doyle wrote the book at the age of 27 in less than 3 weeks


Absolute Beginners by Colin MacInnes

Set in 1958 this acclaimed novel is written from the perspective of its 18 year old narrator; it gives an amazing glimpse into the cultural and demographic changes happening in London at that time.

•Area Covered – Notting Hill

•Bonus Fact – made into a movie of the same name in 1986, featuring the one and only David Bowie

Bleak House by Charles Dickens

We couldn’t write this list without including Dickens and Bleak House is one of his best. Set in the 1820s this vast novel, complete with side plots and masses of characters, focuses on the wide-ranging impact of a long running court case.

•Area Covered – Chancery Lane and Holburn

•Bonus Fact – the novel became a key part of the movement for legal reform


Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

At its most basic this is a novel about a high society lady preparing for a summer soiree but it’s much more than that. Through flashbacks and reminiscences we learn a deep personal history of Mrs Dalloway and the culture of interwar Britain.

•Area Covered – Westminster

•Bonus Fact – as well being adapted into a movie in 1997 the novel also inspired the novel and movie The Hours

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Ok, so this is actually set in “London Below”, an alternative subterranean London from Gaiman’s fabulous fantasy mind but it’s a very worthwhile inclusion on the list. The characters and locales will have your imagination running overtime as you wander around London Above.

•Area Covered – Blackfriars and beyond (and, um, a lot of sewers)

•Bonus Fact – the TV series of the same name was actually written before the novel


What would you add to this list? Share your top London reads recommendations here or tweet us at @TheInternGroup


Sources: Goodreads, Abebooks, The Guardian.

Photos and blog by Nicola Ball

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The International Internships Blog is a collaboration by The Intern Group staff, alumni and current participants to give you career advice & tips, program information, & so much more!