How do you conjure up the roar of a tiger, a chilling arctic wind or the total blackness of outer space in a matter of seconds? Start by opening a book. A time machine or a train ticket, call it what you want, but literature has the ability to take you wherever you want to go if you just immerse yourself in its poetic landscapes. Here are five books that will transport you straight to the streets of London (ahead of your actual trip!).

1. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde 

The Picture of Dorian Gray is the only novel written by Oscar Wilde, in which the protagonist becomes the subject of a remarkable painting. Desperate to preserve his youth and beauty in order to indulge in his hedonistic lifestyle, Dorian sells his soul and wishes that his portrait will age in his stead. He then begins leading a double life, rummaging through Victorian London in search of new self-fulfilling experiences. "YOLO!" as Oscar Wilde would have said if he'd been around today. 

English level: advanced
Place to visit: Kensington

2. White Teeth by Zadie Smith 

Set in North London in the 1990's, Smith's novel tells the story of three families from different cultural backgrounds; the Bangladeshi Iqbals, the English and Jamaican working class Joneses and English middle class Chalfens. The themes of heritage and roots play out as the families' lives collide and are pulled apart in various, random – and often humorous – ways. 

English level: medium  
Place to visit: Brick Lane

Dracula resides mostly in north London and roams the wild fields of Hampstead Heath and The Spaniards Inn - a pub which is still open today - in search of fresh blood

3. Voyage in The Dark by Jean Rhys 

Jean Rhys' modernist tale of identity is told by Anna Morgan, a young chorus girl forced to leave her home on one of the Caribbean colonies and settle in London at the start of the 20th century. The title alludes to Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, but rather than being a journey into the darkness of the "uncivilised" African jungle, as told by Conrad, Rhys' novel never leaves London. Anna's descent into despair instead unfolds in England, a place she finds hostile and monotonous, whereas Dominica brims with light and vibrancy in her memory. 

English level: medium
Place to visit: Camden

A picture from the film  Drakula Halála  (1921)

A picture from the film Drakula Halála (1921)

4. High Fidelity by Nick Hornby   

Although the film is set in Chicago, Nick Hornby's bestselling novel takes place in London. It follows the story of a rather self-involved record shop owner called Rob, whose girlfriend Laura has just left him for the upstairs neighbour. Influenced by the geeky conversations about mixtapes, B-sides and desert-island top picks infesting his store, Rob fashions a list of his own; his five most memorable breakups. It takes him on an emotional journey of self-discovery and realisation.  

English level: beginner
Place to visit: Berwick Street

5. Dracula by Bram Stoker 

Surely you've heard of the king of vampires, the pale count Dracula who's allergic to sunlight, sleeps in a coffin and sucks blood from his victims in the form of a bat? In the original novel from 1897 – which has since spawned various artistic, theatrical and filmic interpretations - Dracula leaves his spooky castle in Transylvania, Romania, in an attempt to settle in England and spread the undead curse. He resides mostly in north London and roams the wild fields of Hampstead Heath and The Spaniards Inn (a pub which is still open today) in search of fresh blood.  

English level: advanced
Place to visit: Hampstead Village

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