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Peter Ackroyd's Top Book Recommendations

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



A Pilgrimage

'London: A Pilgrimage' was conceived in 1868 by the journalist and playwright Blanchard Jerrold. Accompanied by the famous artist Gustave Dore, Jerrold prowled every corner of the heaving metropolis, sometimes with plain-clothes police for protection. 'London: A Pilgrimage' is a forgotten classic of social journalism, a frank and brutal look at the poverty striken, gin-swilling London of the nineteenth century, written in a perceptive, bold and gripping style.

180 incredible etchings by Dore escort Jerrold on his odyssey through the pulsating city, into the Lambeth gas works, seedy...
Recommended by Peter Ackroyd, and 1 others.

Peter AckroydThis is a work which was published in 1872. It had 118 engravings by Doré and it is a most wonderful and remarkable depiction of what you might call the low life of London in the 1870s – the working life of London. It shows people in the shipyards, it shows market traders, it shows the poor, it shows the railways systems. It is a very moving and evocative description of the life of London that... (Source)

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Survey of London

John Stow first published his Survey of London in 1598 during the reign of Elizabeth I. His detailed description of the city and its suburbs was an immediate success when it first appeared and has remained a popular classic of English history ever since. less
Recommended by Peter Ackroyd, and 1 others.

Peter AckroydIt has helped enormously. When I was preparing myself for the book I wrote about London – London: The Biography – I read it carefully from page to page. The first edition of A Survey of London was published in 1598 when John Stow himself was then past 70. It is a monumental and magnificent work. (Source)

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Bleak House

Bleak House opens in the twilight of foggy London, where fog grips the city most densely in the Court of Chancery. The obscure case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce, in which an inheritance is gradually devoured by legal costs, the romance of Esther Summerson and the secrets of her origin, the sleuthing of Detective Inspector Bucket and the fate of Jo the crossing-sweeper, these are some of the lives Dickens invokes to portray London society, rich and poor, as no other novelist has done. Bleak House, in its atmosphere, symbolism and magnificent bleak comedy, is often regarded as the best of Dickens.... more
Recommended by Peter Ackroyd, Trevor Phillips, and 2 others.

Peter AckroydBleak House is the work which most powerfully suggests the darkness of London. It conveys a haunted city, half pantomime-half graveyard. (Source)

Trevor PhillipsBleak House tells us not to rely on the courts for justice. In the end, a just society can’t be delivered by people in a courtroom. (Source)

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The Diary of Samuel Pepys

The 1660s represent a turning point in English history, and for the main events -- the Restoration, the Dutch War, the Great Plague and the Fire of London -- Pepys provides a definitive eyewitness account. As well as recording public and historical events, Pepys paints a vivid picture of his personal life, from his socializing and amorous entanglements, to his theatre-going and his work at the Navy Board. Unequaled for its frankness, high spirits and sharp observations, the diary is both a literary masterpiece and a marvelous portrait of seventeenth-century life.


Peter AckroydIt is an invaluable picture of daily life in mid-17th century London and one that has never really been rivalled by any other diarist. (Source)

Alex CarlilePepys gives you a total flavour of his time. It’s a wonderful picture of London – no one else has written remotely as well about London in those days. (Source)

Alex Chase-LevensonPepys is a really great person to follow through an epidemic. He records day by day what it’s like to live in a plague-stricken city, and shows us the intertwining of things that are normal and things that are surreal. (Source)

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