15 British books everyone should read in their lifetime

There is nothing more British than curling up on a sofa with a cup of tea and a good book as the cold weather settles in. Winter is arguably the best time to catch up on some much needed reading, and in Britain, rainy days make a good book a necessity.

Here’s Business Insider’s Top 15!

White Teeth’ by Zadie Smith

'White Teeth' by Zadie Smith


Zadie Smith’s “White Teeth” is a classic internationl bestseller, and an unforgettable portrait of London. This must-read book follows three families, with three different cultures over three generations in a riotous, funny, and heartfelt manner.

‘Netherland’ by Joseph O’Neill

'Netherland' by Joseph O'Neill


Joseph O’Neill’s “Netherland” deals with the concepts of belonging, and not belonging, as well as the nature of male friendship. When Chuck Ramkissoon is found dead at the bottom of a New York canal, a Dutch banker living in London, Hans van den Broek, remembers his unlikely friendship with Chuck during the New York of 9/11.

‘Northanger Abbey’ by Jane Austen

'Northanger Abbey' by Jane Austen


Although Jane Austen is mostly known for masterpieces like “Pride and Prejudice,” “Emma,” or “Persuasion,” “Northanger Abbey” is the most underrated of the lot. This book takes a massive swipe at the Gothic novel and regurgitates all its cliches in one of Jane Austen’s funniest novels.

‘The Remains of the Day’ by Kazuo Ichiguro

'The Remains of the Day' by Kazuo Ichiguro


This novel about a butler in post-war Britain is one of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ favourites. Kazuo Ishiguro’s brilliant and evocative novel which lays out life in between wars is very much a must-read modern classic.


‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ by J.K. Rowling

'Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them' by J.K. Rowling


Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original screenplay” marks J.K. Rowling’s screenplay debut. Whether you’ve been a Potterhead for a long time or are completely new to the wizarding world, this adventure-packed book is an amazing read if you’re in need of a bit of magic.

‘Animal Farm’ by George Orwell

'Animal Farm' by George Orwell


Better known for his novel “1984,” George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” is nonetheless a world famous classic. Orwell features British writing at its best as he writes about a world where the animals run Mr Jones out of a farm and try to run it by themselves.


‘Scoop’ by Evelyn Waugh

'Scoop' by Evelyn Waugh


Evelyn Waugh’s best known and most exhuberant comedy definitely won’t disappoint. Lord Copper, editor of the Daily Beast, thinks he found the best journalist to cover a little war in the African Republic of Ishmaelia, and it all goes downhill from there. Evelyn Waugh’s “Scoop” is a satire of Fleet Street’s need for hot news.

‘Folk Devils, and Moral Panics’ by Stanley Cohen

'Folk Devils, and Moral Panics' by Stanley Cohen


Our only non-fiction pick, Stanley Cohen’s “Folk Devils and Moral Panics” is well-written, and a necessary read.

The book explores the ways in which the media, and those in a position of political power, define a condition, or group, as a threat to societal values. Cohen argues that this fear marginalises groups and inhibits rational discussions about potential solutions.

‘Atonement’ by Ian McEwan

'Atonement' by Ian McEwan


“Atonement” is Ian McEwan’s ninth novel, and one which he’ll probably be best remembered for. We meet Briony Tallis on the hottest summer day of 1935, but by the end of the day the thirteen year old girl will have made a decision she will spend the rest of her life trying to atone for.

‘Bleak House’ by Charles Dickens

'Bleak House' by Charles Dickens


Dickens is generally regarded as the greatest author of the Victorian era and he masterfully shows it in one of his lesser known masterpieces, “Bleak House.” The book features complex characters, and criticism of London’s legal system.


‘Jane Eyre’ by Charlotte Brontë

'Jane Eyre' by Charlotte Brontë


The novel follows the eponymous character’s evolution to adulthood, as well as her love for Mr. Rochester. A must-read British classic which everyone should have on their book shelves.

‘Middlemarch’ by George Eliot

'Middlemarch' by George Eliot


Mary Ann Evans (better known by her pen nameGeorge Eliot) makes a beautiful analysis of the life in a rural English town during the time of social unrest before the 1832 Reform Bill. “Middlemarch” is a complex tale of frustrated love, which truly shows us what life was like in the mid-nineteenth century.


‘Vanity Fair’ by William Makepeace Thackeray

'Vanity Fair' by William Makepeace Thackeray


William Makepeace Thackeray’s novel is a wonderful satire of the upper middle class in London, and is populated with some of the most amazing female characters in literature. It follows the life of Becky Sharp, who is alienated because of her less-than-impressive pedigree, and needs to use all her wit and charm to escape her destiny as a governess.

‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ by D H Lawrence

'Lady Chatterley’s Lover' by D H Lawrence


Penguin Books was sued in 1960 for publishing this particular book, and the acquittal of the case was the first step towards sexual liberation, legalisation of abortion, and an openess towards homosexuality. At the time, the descriptions of sexual intercourse were a bit much, but hindsight gives us the possibility to discover what all the fuss is about.

‘Mrs Dalloway’ by Virginia Wolf

'Mrs Dalloway' by Virginia Wolf


In June 1923, Clarissa Dalloway and Septimus Smith’s lives interweave in a novel about memory, war and London. “Mrs Dalloway” is one of Virginia Woolf’s masterpieces, and a classic British must-read.

If you love books, you will absolutely love our English Literature course here at The Sheffield College covering all your favourite prose from the world – not just Britain. Click here to see more…



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