Reading list


My travels are inspired by countless fictions, stories and travelogues. What’s included in this list are works either particularly instructive in dreaming up this project, or relevant enough to be read on the road. I warmly encourage further suggestions, particularly about Scotland and Wales. Scroll down to the comments to see some of the excellent suggestions many readers of this blog have already shared, and please contribute anything further.

J.G. Ballard, Kingdom Come
William Blake, Jerusalem: The Emanation of the Giant Albion
Bill Brandt, photography
Thomas Browne, Urne-Burial
Benjamin Britten, Peter Grimes
Bill Bryson, Notes from a Small Island
Mike Carter, One Man and His Bike
John Clare, poems and fragments
William Cobbett, Rural Rides
Claude Debussy, La Mer
Thomas De Quincey, Confessions of an English Opium-eater
Daniel Defoe, Journeys around England
Josie Dews, Slow Coast Home
Andrea Dunbar, The Arbor
Friedrich Engels, The Condition of the Working Class in England
Brian Eno, Ambient 4
Paul Farley and Michael Symonds Roberts, Edgelands
The Fall, continuously
Kate Fox, Watching the English
William Gilpin, Observations on the River Wye
Owen Hatherley, A New Kind of Bleak: Journeys through Urban Britain
Roy Hattersley, In Search of England
Richard Hoggart, The Uses of Literacy
Patrick Keiller, The View from the Train and Robinson trilogy
James Kelman, The Busconductor Hines
Laurie Lee, As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning
Mike Leigh, Abigail’s Party
Don McCullin, photos
Felix Mendelssohn, Hebrides Overture
Magnus Mills, The Restraint of Beasts
Shane Meadows, Dead Man’s Shoes
Seamus Milne, The Enemy Within
Morrissey, and The Smiths
H.V. Morton, In Search of England
George Orwell, The Lion and the Unicorn
Martin Parr, photos
Jeremy Paxman, The English
David Peace, GB84
J.B. Priestley, English Journey
William Shakespeare, The Tempest
Alan Sillitoe, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning
R.L. Stevenson, Travels with a Donkey
John ‘Walking’ Stewart, Opus Maximum
Paul Theroux, Kingdom By the Sea
Dylan Thomas, Under Milk Wood
E.P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class
Gilbert White, The Natural History of Selborne
Raymond Williams, Essays
William Wordsworth (and Coleridge), Lyrical Ballads.


6 thoughts on “Reading list

  1. There are many books I could recommend on Scotland – but here are a few – I’ve already emailed you some – as your reading list seemed to be extremely lacking in anything to do with anything other than England – or “Britain” – which is generally presented by many of the authors as meaning the same thing – unquestioning anglo-centricism! – and road books through the states

    Native Stranger: A journey in familiar and foreign Scotland. Alistair Scott. Very interesting read – and he did his tour pretty much like you – cycling and camping round the country – including the Shetlands – where he starts. You’ve got a good chance of picking it up in charity book shop once you cross the border. Highly recommended – interesting yet easy read.

    Blossom: What Scotland needs to flourish. Lesley Riddoch ( tweet @LesleyRiddoch ).Lesley Riddoch is a well know journalist and radio broadcaster. This is a very interesting and insightful book on the current state of Scotland (including poverty, poor health, inequality) and culture & examples of community activism – despite officialdom. If you tweet – may well be worth contacting her. She very approachable and would be very able to fill you in – and she’ll have loads of contacts. I think she lives in Glasgow.

    Soil and Soul: People versus corporate power. Alastair Mc Intosh. Folk of the island of Eigg fight to purchase their island after centuries of “ownership” by uncaring mostly absentee landlords. It is on the way between Skye and Mull – and it is a shame that you seem to miss it out.

    The Poor had now lawyers: Who owns Scotland and how they got it. Andy Wightman. (tweet: @andywighman ). Sure he did an update version of it “the poor still have no lawyers”. Title speaks for itself really.

    On the crofters’ trail: in search of the Clearance Highlanders. David Craig. The author travels through several of the islands of Scotland and goes to Canada to find out the experiences and effects of the Highland Clearances that decimated the Scottish Highland culture and language, following the Jacobite Rebellion. The clearances have many and complex causes but the establishment of the Hanoverian regime by wiping out opposition to it a very central part of it. The effects are still felt very much in the Highlands and islands – and the empty Highlands are the echo of the ghosts of busy communities that were cleared of the land. As you cycle through the “empty” highlands of Scotland – remember that only a few hundred years ago they were full of people who were ethnically and culturally cleansed.

    Radical Scotland; Arguments for self-determination. Ed Gerry Hassan and Rosie Ilett. Collection of essays from the “left” in Scotland on arguments from the left on Scottish self-determination

    The Isles: A History. Norman Davies. Long and good introduction re the concept of “Britain” – and the common unthinking anglo-centrcism constantly using England/English = Britain/British. It will also explain how the name “Albion” is a term “stolen” by the Normans to try and justify their “Britishness” – when in fact it was used by the British Celts fighting the Anglo-Saxon invasions – to differentiate themselves!!!

    Remember- don’t fall into unthinking, unquestioning anglo-centricism!


    • Had thought last night – since Alsatair Scott – author of Native Stranger – did pretty much the same thing as you – cycling & camping through Scotland to interview locals about their community and what makes them feel “Scottish” ( and you are trying to find out what it means to be “English”) – and he lives in Skye (from what I remember) and you will be passing through Skye – it may be worthwhile you trying to contact him. His contact email is:


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