Britain in Books

A few days ago Cath at Read Warbler wrote about doing her own personal USA Challenge, which got me thinking about doing something similar but based in Britain. I love books with a strong sense of location so it seemed quite straightforward – I’d read books set in Britain.

Then I realised it’s not as simple as that – how was I going to decide on the locations? For centuries the people of the British Isles have been discussing, debating and even fighting over how we should divide up the land. Now, I don’t want to get into politics (I’m not saying anything about moves from different sections of our community for ‘independence’), so I thought I’d focus around our counties.

Again not simple. At first I thought I’d use the current local administrative areas, forgetting all the reorganisation that seems to be always on the go! How could I have forgotten after working for over 20+ years in local government! It’s not only the physical areas that keep being tinkered with but also the names of our counties. It’s  complicated and confusing. Eventually I came round to the idea of using the Historic Counties of the United Kingdom – there are 92. With so many counties, I’m making this an open ended project, because I shan’t be restricting my reading to just British books, by any means.

Map source: The Association of British Counties

I’ll read fiction in different genres, I’ll stray into poetry and drama occasionally and I’ll also include non-fiction – history, travel, diaries, biographies and so on. As well as focusing on the counties I’m also going to include regional books and books about the four countries that make up the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland – England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, not forgetting the surrounding islands.

I shall most likely expand/adapt this project and I plan to make a separate page on this blog to record my progress.

I’m not waiting until next year to start – I’m beginning now, in the far north, in the Shetland Isles reading White Nights by Ann Cleeves.

20 thoughts on “Britain in Books”

  1. A lovely idea! If you consider Thomas Hardy for Dorset, how about looking at some of his poetry rather than the novels. Some are heartbreakingly moving. And yes, that’s where I come from and was forcefed his work, tho I never appreciated him until I studied him at Edinburgh in my 40s.

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  2. I don’t know if you are aware of the Reading Detectives project (http://www.readingdetectives.org/), which organised teams to ferret out books with connections to a particular county. It was done in Hampshire, and a few other counties, and might suggest some interesting possibilities for your reading.

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  3. Margaret, I think this sounds lovely. I was very tempted by Cath’s plan to read her way across the US, but I’m even more tempted by your idea. I’ll have to consider it. Good luck to you and I look forward to reading about your progress!

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  4. I was just thinking about your idea this morning after the mention the other day on Cath’s blog. You aren’t kidding about the names and places. I tried to get a map, and was in touch with an English blogger about which to get, and she told me how it shifts all the time. How can that be? How confusing!
    So, are you going to get a little button? And offer this as a challenge to join? Oh, go for it, Margaret! I’d like to do it.
    How does one who doesn’t live there know which county is which in a book? Help, please.

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  5. I think I’ve been doing this on the quiet with my own reading, and when I look up new titles I think, “Have I read about that part of Britain before?”

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  6. I like the ideas for both projects (yours and Cath’s) but I haven’t the discipline (or the reading time) to do anything similar, so I will keep a watching brief and no doubt make notes of any interesting books!
    I hope you enjoy White Nights – I love that series and hope that Ann Cleeves decides to continue beyond Blue Lightning.

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  7. This sounds like a good project and a clever way to spread some interesting reading throughout the year. I will be stopping by yours and Cath’s blog often.

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