This fall, my sister and I will be going on a three week trip to London, Bath and Greece. Our plan is to celebrate my sister finally becoming a licensed architect by sightseeing, going to high tea and, near the end of the trip, spending a couple of days sitting on a beach in the Mediterranean. We are ridiculously excited.
Right about the time we were settling on dates for our trip, I was offered a review copy of That’s Not English: Britishisms, Americanisms, and What Our English Says About Us by Erin Moore. Of course I accepted it, and flew through it a fit of excitement just after my sister and I booked our plane tickets.
In the book, Moore looks at some of the big and small differences in British and American English, and what those differences can show us about British and American culture. The words and topics she chooses range from relationships to drinking to reserve versus enthusiasm. It’s both delightful in the topics it chooses and, really, a great primer on some of the language issues that we might across while abroad. If you’re at all interested how language affects culture, this is a book you’ll want to pick up.
Because we’re both readers, we’ve been collecting and sharing and getting excited about other British books – both nonfiction and fiction – that we can read ahead of our trip. Here are some that we’ve grabbed so far:
Princes at War by Deborah Cadbury (nonfiction) – This is a new one out last month from PublicAffairs, a look at the crisis in the British monarchy following Prince Edward’s abdication at the start of World War II. This topic has been well-covered, but I’m intrigued by the fact that the book focuses on all four of George V’s sons.
Black Diamonds by Catherine Bailey (nonfiction) – I love Catherine Bailey’s books about aristocratic British families. In this one she covers the “Fitzwilliam coal-mining dynasty and their breathtaking Wentworth estate, the largest private home in England.” It promises feuds, scandals and civil unrest.
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (fiction) – I’ve been wanting to read this book, a fictional account of the rise and fall of Thomas Cromwell during Henry VII’s reign, ever since I finished watching The Tudors, but I’m trying to hold off… I think this is going to be the book I take on the plane with me.
Mr. Churchill’s Secretary by Susan Elia McNeal (fiction) – This is the first book in a quartet of mysteries featuring a young intelligence officer working as a typist at No. 10 Downing Street at the opening of World War II. My sister has read the first two in this series and said they’re great.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (fiction) – Can you believe I’ve never read this book? Heading to London seems like a good time to remedy that situation.
Funny Girl by Nick Hornby (fiction) – The panelists on one of my favorite podcasts, Pop Culture Happy Hour, recently did an episode on this book. The story of a female comedian on a popular television show in 1960s London also sounds charming.
Of course we are always looking for more options. What are some of your favorite books about London (or Bath, or Greece). We would love your suggestions!