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Writer and Artyness columnist Barbara Henderson likes to read about the place she is visiting and takes a book about London to the UK capital

By Barbara Henderson

“London, Baby!” – when the characters of the US sitcom Friends planned a trip to the UK’s capital, this became the catchphrase.

I’m showing my age here – this show was big when I was younger. I must confess, “London, baby!” was the very first thing which popped into my head when I was invited south to attend the Historical Association’s awards night. The second, third and fourth things to crowd my mind were questions: Where to stay? What to wear? Much agonising ensued. And finally: What to read?

Barbara Henderson.
Barbara Henderson.

Like many booklovers, I like to read a book set in the place I am visiting.

For me, it enhances the experience and makes for much, much stronger memories.

I remember the summer spent devouring Graham Greene’s Loser Takes All in Monaco, for example. Norse Sagas in Iceland, Grassic Gibbon in Aberdeenshire – you get my travel-drift.

I needed a London story to lose myself in. Having recently come across the writer Matthew Wainwright on Twitter, I had become aware of his novel Out Of The Smoke, a young adult historical adventure about a young Victorian chimney-sweep who drifts into a life of gangland crime.

I had known little about Lord Shaftesbury and his impressive work among London’s urchins and the young people of the capital’s criminal underbelly. Around the corner from Whitehall, I put up my aching feet on a park bench and made a start.

London, Iconic skyline and great place to enjoy a book.
London, Iconic skyline and great place to enjoy a book.

Soon, the old buildings around me breathed with life; the present fell away. Check! Another travel reading memory made.

I wonder if you are lucky enough to travel this summer. If so, you can do no better than seek out a book to cement your holiday memories.

The internet is your friend here, but at the risk of telling you something you already know, have you heard of the website tripfiction.com?

If you haven’t, prepare yourself to be swept into a vortex of travel-reading inspiration!

You can search by location, by author, by genre, browse their interactive reading maps and – should you feel that way inclined – become part of the network of readers and submit reviews and suggestions of your own. There is a fascinating blog to follow too. Never travel without a toothbrush or a book. The rest is detail.

But wait, what if travelling is out of the question at the moment? In that case, I can only direct you to local writer SG MacLean’s forthcoming new book The Bookseller Of Inverness, out on August 4 from Quercus. I am counting the days as I love Shona’s work! Set in the Highlands in the aftermath of the Battle of Culloden, it promises to be a great read.

Launches: Waterstones Inverness (Aug 4, 5.30pm); Picaresque Books, Dingwall (Aug 11, 6.30pm).

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