'That's the thing about books. They let you travel without moving your feet.' ― Jhumpa Lahiri

Bristol has inspired several acclaimed works of literature over the years, as well as producing a very long list of talented authors. So, why not 'travel' to Bristol before you've even left home through the wonderful world of books? 

With Jhumpa Lahiri's quote ringing in our ears, we've put together our pick of Bristol-related book recommendations, including fictional tales based in the city, some of the most infamous Bristol-related books, and a host of non-fiction titles exploring the city. 

All of the below are available from our excellent independent booksellers including Stanfords, Tangent, Bookhaus, Rova, and many more. 

We hope that delving into these titles will inspire you to book a visit to Bristol and let the city leap off the pages around you. 


An Olive Grove in Ends by Moses McKenzie (2022) 

This highly acclaimed debut novel from Bristol-born writer Moses McKenzie revolves around the life of Sayon Hughes, a young Black man from the Stapleton Road area of Easton, as he struggles to achieve his dreams of buying a grand house overlooking the Avon Gorge in Clifton with his girlfriend Shona. The book has been described as a 'gritty fable about love, faith and redemption' by The Guardian, and is a powerful exploration of social mobility and inequality in the city. 

Cover of 'An Olive Grove in Ends' by Moses McKenzie - credit Hachette UK
Image: An Olive Grove in Ends, credit Hachette UK 

Keep Him Close by Emily Koch (2020)

Keep Him Close is a dark drama set in Bristol, featuring notable landmarks in the city. The novel focuses on mother-son relationships and the dynamic between two women as they try to unravel what happened on a night out which goes very badly wrong.

Cover of 'Keep Him Close' by Emily Koch - credit Harvill Secker
Image Keep Him Close by Emily Koch, credit Harvill Secker

Birdcage Walk by Helen Dunmore (2017)

A haunting depiction of domestic constraints set in Bristol at the time of the French Revolution, named after the real-world Bristol landmark in Clifton. 

Cover of 'Birdcage Walk' by Helen Dunmore - credit Hutchinson
Image: Birdcage Walk by Helen Dunmore, credit Hutchinson

Watching You by Lisa Jewell (2018)

Cover of 'Watching You' by Lisa Jewell - credit Atria Books
Image: Watching You by Lisa Jewell, credit Atria Books

Melville Heights is one of the nicest neighbourhoods in Bristol, England; home to doctors and lawyers and old-money academics. It’s not the sort of place where people are brutally murdered in their own kitchens. But it is the sort of place where everyone has a secret. And everyone is watching you.

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (1883)

Treasure Island is a classic tale that transports you a world of pirates and larger than life characters you think you know already – Long John Silver, Billy Bones, Benn Gunn and Blind Pew, plus lines like ‘Ho Ho Ho and a bottle of rum’ and ‘Shiver me timbers’ that always raise a smile. Even if you aren’t familiar with the city, it’s not hard to imagine Bristol's bustling harbour with ships crammed together and surly seadogs around the Harbourside with their ‘swaggering, clumsy sea-walk’. Allow yourself to get swept up in the beautiful narrative and set sail for the adventure of a lifetime – it’s an easy read, an uncomplicated adventure story and a whole heap of fun.

The Bristol Trilogy by Angela Carter (1966-1971)

Acclaimed author Angela Carter authored three novels set in the city, Shadow Dance, Several Perceptions and Love whilst living in Clifton. Bristol landmarks such as Cabot Tower, Bristol Museum and Arnolfini feature in these early novels, set in late 1960's Bristol. 

Amongst Friends by Katharine E Smith (2016) 

Cover of 'Amongst Friends' by Katharine E Smith - credit Heddon
Image: Amongst Friends by Katharine E. Smith

This novel starts with a bang and works backwards to explore the characters and events leading up to it. Set in Bristol, mainly during the 1990s, the writing reflects Katharine E. Smith’s love of the city.

The Fair Fight by Anna Freeman (2014)

Cover of 'The Fair Fight' by Anna Freeman - credit ‎Weidenfeld & Nicholson
Image: The Fair Fight by Anna Freeman, credit Weidenfeld & Nicholson

In this addictive début novel, two Bristolian women – brothel-born Ruth & wealthy recluse Charlotte – find themselves battling together for a chance to lead a free life. Alive with the sights, smells and sounds of the Bristol boxing ring, and glorifying in some unsavoury aspects of the city's vibrant history.

Selfish People by Lucy English (1998)

A young woman who is a romantic is determined to overcome the depression of inner-city Bristol living in 1990s Britain and carve out a life for herself.

Heartman by M. P. Wright (2014)

Cover of 'Heartman' by M.P. Wright - credit Black & White Publishing
Image: Heartman by M.P. Wright, credit Black & White Publishing

Reminiscent of the novels of James Ellroy & Ed McBain, but set in the familiar territory of 1960s Bristol, Heartman races along at a fine pace with a charismatic central character.  It's a wonderful evocation of Bristol's inner city during the era and is the first of a four book strong series. Each is set in and around the St Pauls district of Bristol, exploring attitudes towards race, racism and the experiences of those men and women coming to the UK from the West Indies at the time. 

The Shock of The Fall by Nathan Filer (2014)

Cover of 'The Shock of the Fall' by Nathan Filer - credit HarperCollins
Image: The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer, credit HarperCollins

This poignant novel by mental health nurse and now-renowned Bristol author, Nathan Filer, has won a host of awards for good reason. Brimming with heart and sadness – but ultimately optimistic and uplifting – it gives compassionate insight into grief and mental illness.

The Jenny Cooper crime series by M.R. Hall 

Cover of 'The Coroner' by M.R. Hall - credit PanMacmillan
Image: The Coroner by M.R. Hall, credit PanMacmillan

The Coroner is the first instalment of this gripping series of novels based around Jenny Cooper – a determined ex lawyer, taking over as Severn Vale District Coroner. Based in Bristol, Jenny inherits dark secrets and a piles of buried evidence as she investigates tragic deaths and suicides around the region. Setting the scene in and around the city; you get a true feeling of what makes Bristol the perfect match for Jenny’s ambitions whilst she tried to overcome personal struggles. Other novels in the series include The Disappeared, The Redeemed and The Flight.

Spannered by Bert Random (2011)

A dizzying trip back to the 1990s, when Bristol's famous free party scene was at its peak. Centred on one long night out, this fun and energetic book is as much about finding friendship and kindred spirits as it is about documenting a scene. Great illustrations too.

The First of Midnight (The Story of a Slave's Fight for Freedom) by Marjorie Darke (2007)

Set in 1797 in Bristol, enslaved Midnight works as a bare-knuckle boxer. Midnight can't see any way in which he will ever be able to shake off the chains of slavery. However, he feels some hope when he meets the orphan Jess, whose existence is almost as bleak as his and love enters his life.

  • Bristol and the legacy of Transatlantic Slavery

Starter For Ten by David Nicholls (2003)

Cover of 'Starter for Ten' by David Nicholls - credit Hodder Paperbacks
Image: Starter for Ten by David Nicholls, credit Hodder Paperbacks

Starter for Ten is a novel about Brian Jackson and his first year of University in Bristol (1985–6), his attempts to get on the quiz show University Challenge, and his tentative attempts at romance with Alice Harbinson, another member of the University Challenge team. 

  • There has also been a film made based on the book starring James McAvoy, which was filmed in Bristol. Find out more here.

A Respectable Trade by Philippa Gregory (1995)

The devastating consequences of Transatlantic slavery in 18th century Bristol are explored through the powerful but impossible attraction of well-born Frances and enslaved Mehuru.

Wish Her Safe at Home by Stephen Benatar (1982)

A tale of eccentricity follows the transformation of dreary office worker Rachel Waring when she inherits a luxurious Georgian mansion in Bristol. As her hold on reality gradually loosens the neighbours are left questioning her sanity.

Evelina by Fanny Burney (1778)

Evelina, or the History of a Young Lady's Entrance into the World is a novel about Evelina. A woman who learns to navigate the complex layers of 18th-century society with events that take place in London and Hotwells, near Bristol.

The House In South Road by Joyce Storey

Joyce Storey's autobiography charts a good deal of the 20th Century. From her pre-war life in Bristol, an era of corset and chocolate factories to the luxury of pre-fab houses and her life in post-war Britain. 

Vampires of Avonmouth by Tim Kindberg 

Cover of 'Vampires of Avonmouth' by Tim Kindberg - credit Nsoroma Press
Image: Vampires of Avonmouth by Tim Kindberg, credit Nsoroma Press

This dystopian thriller follows detective David as he struggles to protect his lover after a ship arrives from West Africa, carrying a vampire who hungers not for blood but mental energy.

Infinite Detail by Tim Maughan

Cover of 'Infinite Detail' by Tim Maughan - credit FSG Adult
Image: Infinite Detail by Tim Maughan, credit FSG Adult

Selected as The Guardian’s Science Fiction and Fantasy Book of The Year 2019, this debut novel is about what happens if the internet is destroyed, and is set half in Bristol's Stokes Croft and half in New York City.

The People's Republic of Stokes Croft says: "The world of Infinite Detail is a small step shy of our own: utterly dependent on technology, constantly brokering autonomy and privacy for comfort and convenience. With Infinite Detail, Tim Maughan makes the hitherto-unimaginable come true: the End of the Internet, the End of the World as We Know It."


A Dictionary of Bristle by Harry Stoke and Vinny Green

Cover of 'A Dictionary of Bristle' by Harry Stoke & Vinny Green - credit Behringer
Image: A Dictionary of Bristle by Harry Stoke & Vinny Green

Tangent's biggest selling local book is the perfect gift book for young and old and is accepted worldwide as the authoritative guide to speaking Bristolian. From A for Ank (to go fast, usually on 2 wheels), as in Blige! Ee anked it rown that coner mind! to Z for zider (a fermented drink made from apples), as in Zider I up Landlord!

A House Through Time by David Olusoga and Melanie Backe-Hansen (2020)

Cover of 'A House Through Time' by David Olusoga & Melanie Backe-Hansen - credit Picador
Image: A House Through Time by David Olusoga & Melanie Backe-Hansen

To accompany the 2020 series of 'A House Through Time' on BBC Two, which followed the history of a Bristol house, 10 Guinea Street. David Olusoga and series research consultant Melanie Backe-Hansen explore the rich history of British domestic settings through the centuries. and include practical tips for how readers can trace the past lives of their own homes.

  • Read our blog all about the Bristol series of 'A House Through Time' here

Children Of The Can: Bristol Street Art And Graffiti by Felix 'FLX' Braun

Children of the Can explores the Bristol street art and graffiti scene with full colour images, featuring more than 80 of Bristol's most prolific street artists and graffiti writers.

The Little Book of Bristol by Maurice Fells

A rich, and indeed sometimes bizarre, thread of history weaves its way through the Bristol story. Find out all manner of things, from why a Bristol Diamond would never be found in a jewellery shop to why local by-laws restrict carpet beating to certain hours. 

The Naked Guide to Bristol by Gil Gillespie and Richard Jones

Cover of 'The Naked Guide to Bristol' by Gil Gillespie and Richard Jones - credit Tangent Books
Image: The Naked Guide to Bristol by Gil Gillespie & Richard Jones, credit Tangent Books

The Naked Guide to Bristol is a witty and informative guide to the sights and sounds of Bristol. Whether you're after a big sight-seeing weekend or out to uncover the secret spots in the city, this guide will have you there in no time. Published by Tangent Books.

The Women Who Built Bristol: Volume One and Two by Jane Duffus 

Cover of 'The Women Who Built Bristol' by Jane Duffus - credit Tangent Books
Image: The Women Who Built Bristol by Jane Duffus, credit Tangent Books 

From pin makers and suffragists to police chiefs, olympians and lord mayors, this book shows that Bristol was built by women. These powerful stories are the focus of author Jane Duffus, who through her book series The Women Who Built Bristol – currently working on Volume Three – considers the huge contribution of women to the city, and beyond.

Rife: Twenty-One Stories from Britain’s Youth by Nikesh Shukla & Sammy Jones (2019) 

Cover of 'Rife: 21 Stories from Britain's Youth' by Nikesh Shukla & Sammy Jones - credit Unbound
Image: Rife: 21 Stories from Britain's Youth by Nikesh Shukla & Sammy Jones, credit Unbound

A collection of 21 powerful and passionate essays from writers under the age of 24 based in Bristol and beyond edited by Nikesh Shukla and Sammy Jones. The book features essays which discuss money, mental health, sex, gender, race, equality, crime, education, politics and the future.

Wall and Piece by 'Banksy' (2006) 

Artistic genius, political activist, painter and decorator, mythic legend or notorious graffiti artist? This book shows the best of his work in a fully illustrated colour volume. The ultimate book for any Banksy fan!

111 Places in Bristol That You Shouldn't Miss by Martin Booth (2020) 

Explore some of the most quirky, strange and beautiful places across Bristol and discover some fascinating stories about the city. Whether you're a local or a visitor, this makes for a fascinating read and you'll be a total Bristol expert by then end!

Weird Bristol and More Weird Bristol by Charlie Revelle-Smith (2018 & 2019) 

Based on the popular Twitter feed from acclaimed author Charlie Revelle-Smith, Weird Bristol and More Weird Bristol are an adventure through the dark, mysterious and secret history of an ancient city. From plagues, wars, ghosts and pirates to inventors, fraudsters, suffragettes and radicals.


The Bristol Colouring Book

If you love Bristol, then you will love colouring it in. Featuring a range of picturesque vistas, from the historic Floating Harbour and SS Great Britain to Avon Gorge and the city's Georgian architecture, each stunning scene is full of intriguing detail sure to fire the imagination and make you reach for your colouring pencils.

The Bristol Giants by Oliver Rigby 

A beautiful children's picture book, this story is based on the myth that the Avon Gorge was created by two brother giants.

The Young Isambard series by Robert Guidi

This trilogy of action-adventure novels are set in Georgian London but revolve around honorary Bristolian Isambard Kingdom Brunel in his younger years. 

Cover of 'Isambard and the Cato Street Conspiracy' by Robert Guidi - credit Overspeed Publishing
Image: Isambard and the Cato Street Conspiracy by Robert Guidi, credit Overspeed Publishing

Food & Drink

Bristol Meets the World Cookbook compiled and edited by Kalpna Woolf

This cookbook features recipes compiled over a two year project, working with over 50s across the city to combat loneliness and isolation. Cooks from many cultural backgrounds were invited to share recipes and cook with small groups in areas throughout Bristol including Southmead, Kingswood and Knowle West, alongside groups from care homes and welfare organisations.  Bristol Meets the World was a collaborative project between 91 Ways, Avon Chinese Community Wellbeing Society,  Anchor Hanover, Brunelcare and The Care Forum alongside The Pakistani Welfare organisation. 

A Pie for all Seasons by Pieminister

Cover of the Pieminister Cookbook by Tristan Hogg & Jon Simon - credit Pieminister
Image: A Pie For All Seasons by Tristan Hogg & Jon Simon, credit Pieminister

Love Pieminister pies? Us too! Bristol-based and local favourite Pieminister have created a cookbook 'A Pie for all Seasons,' which is packed with big pies, small pies, family pies, canapies, pieangles, breakfast pies, game pies…pies for every season and every occasion. Yum.

The Bristol Cook Book & The Bristol and Bath Cookbook

Two cook books filled with stunning photos, beautiful recipes and anecdotes from Bristol and Bath's finest independent restaurants, cafes, delicatessens, pubs, farm shops and producers.

The Naked Guide to Cider by James Russell

The Naked Guide to Cider" will introduce cider lovers to the history and culture of their favourite tipple. At the same time it will help people to explore cider country, showing where they can stay and where they can drink, buy or learn about cider. Published by Tangent Books.

  • A Cider Drinker's Guide to Bristol


A Recipe for Sorcery by Vanessa Kisuule (2017) 

Cover of 'A Recipe for Sorcery' by Vanessa Kisuule - credit Burning Eye Books
Image: A Recipe for Sorcery by Vanessa Kisuule, credit Burning Eye Books

A collection of poetry from Bristol's City Poet between 2018 and 2020. Hear more of Vanessa's beautiful words in this film, Bristol: City of Hope. A #WeAreBristol film that poignantly captures the moment in time as the city slowly begins its journey to recovery from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. 

The Echoing Gallery

Thirty-three of the finest contemporary poets living in or associated with Bristol, both familiar names – Philip Gross, Helen Dunmore, Jane Griffiths, to take just three – and up and coming new voices, each specially commissioned to write a response to the city’s wide-ranging art in public spaces and galleries. Available from Redcliffe Press