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Iain Sinclair's Top Book Recommendations

Want to know what books Iain Sinclair recommends on their reading list? We've researched interviews, social media posts, podcasts, and articles to build a comprehensive list of Iain Sinclair's favorite book recommendations of all time.


Our Mutual Friend

A satiric masterpiece about the allure and peril of money, Our Mutual Friend revolves around the inheritance of a dust-heap where the rich throw their trash. When the body of John Harmon, the dust-heap’s expected heir, is found in the Thames, fortunes change hands surprisingly, raising to new heights “Noddy” Boffin, a low-born but kindly clerk who becomes “the Golden Dustman.” Charles Dickens’s last complete novel, Our Mutual Friend encompasses the great themes of his earlier works: the pretensions of the nouveaux riches, the ingenuousness of the aspiring poor, and the unfailing... more
Recommended by Iain Sinclair, Christine L. Corton, and 2 others.

Iain SinclairThis book comes very late in Dickens’s own career, but it has a powerful sense – a sense that’s been crucial to me – of London depending on the river. (Source)

Christine L. CortonWe have this tour de force writing where he describes the London fog. It’s grey in the countryside and as it moves closer to the centre of the City of London it gets blacker and blacker. (Source)

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Mother London

Three hospital outpatients all find that they hear voices - the voices of London's past. As they explore the city of their present day, they also explore its recent past and its forgotten people. Through the lives of those on the fringe of society, we learn what it is like - and what it has always been like - to live in the great, sprawling, polyphonic, multicoloured capital. less
Recommended by Iain Sinclair, and 1 others.

Iain SinclairIn a sense, Mother London connects with what I’ve just been talking about. Michael Moorcock is probably best known generally for a series of sword and sorcery novels, but he’s also very much in the tradition of the earlier writing I mentioned: Victorian-Edwardian ideas of fiction, of the man of letters, the guy who turns his hand to any form of writing and is very much a person of London. (Source)

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London Bridge

One of the last major untranslated works by France's most controversial author, London Bridge is a riotous novel about the London underworld during World War I. Picking up where Guignol's Band (1944; English translation 1954) left off, Céline's autobiographical narrator recounts his disastrous partnership with a mystical Frenchman (intent on financing a trip to Tibet by winning a gas-mask competition); his uneasy relationship with London's pimps and whores and their common nemesis, Inspector Matthew of Scotland Yard; and, most scandalously, his affair with a baronet's... more
Recommended by Iain Sinclair, and 1 others.

Iain SinclairI chose London Bridge because I love the idea of a totally non-Anglicised consciousness looking at our city as a construct. Because Céline is a deeply French writer, in a totally different tradition, he sees London mythologised as a fictional entity – and he treats it with a dynamism and an energy that I don’t find in English writing. Also, he makes these wonderful, crazy trajectories across the... (Source)

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Hangover Square

Hamilton captures the edgy, obsessive and eventually murderous mindset of a romantically frustrated British man in this WWII-era novel. London 1939, and in the grimy publands of Earls Court, George Harvey Bone is pursuing a helpless infatuation with Netta who is cool, contemptuous and hopelessly desirable to George. George is adrift in hell, until something goes click in his head and he realizes that he must kill her. less
Recommended by Iain Sinclair, Simon Brett, and 2 others.

Iain SinclairI chose Patrick Hamilton because he hits, in particular, on the derangement of the city. He was a big drinker. His writing is like the hallucination or the delirium of an alcoholic dream, and sees London as a kind of nightmare. (Source)

Simon BrettYes. It’s a study of schizophrenia, in a way. The main character, George Harvey Bone, goes into these strange trance states. Like a lot of Patrick Hamilton’s characters, he is devoted to a woman who is not worthy of him, who is one step up from a prostitute. He’s obsessed with her, and eventually ends up murdering her. It’s just an incredibly written, claustrophobic book that would be in my top... (Source)

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The Secret Agent

The Secret Agent is the unsurpassed ancestor of a long series of twentieth-century novels and films which explore the confused motives that lie at the heart of political terrorism. In its use of powerful psychological insight to intensify narrative suspense, it set the terms by which subsequent works in its genre were created. Conrad was the first novelist to discover the strange in-between territory of the political exile, and his genius was such that we still have no truer map of that region's moral terrain than his story of a terrorist plot and its tragic consequences for the guilty... more

Jason BurkeBasically, anything you want to know about how terrorism works you can find in this book. It is not necessarily about who is behind terrorism because in this book it is a shadowy foreign state that wants an agent provocateur in London to explode Greenwich Observatory to make a point. (Source)

Iain SinclairThere are lots of reasons I’m very fond of Conrad as a writer. I like visions of London that come translated or diffused or refracted through other cultures. In that way, I suppose, I like this book in the same way I like my first choice, the Céline. Coming here out of his Polish background, Conrad picked up on the elements you were talking about in terms of Dickens — the city as a labyrinth of... (Source)

Jessica SternYes, I thought I was being clever and unique and didn’t realise so many other people had made the connection. The book is based on an incident that actually did occur when an anarchist tried to blow up the Royal Observatory. In the novel, a group of hapless anarchists are trying to incite a rebellion. Their main concern is that British society is too liberal and they want to demonstrate that this... (Source)

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