Literary Tour | The Perfect Book Collection for a Trip to London
ME London has curated a book collection that epitomises London, so good one doesn’t even need to leave the hotel.
From On The Night Bus by Nick Turpin
Autumn is upon us and for those familiar with the temperamental British weather, you would know that the end of Summer isn’t something to commiserate over as we hardly ever have much of a summer anyway. So as the mercury drops outside, stocking up on books to read indoors become more and more appealing.
Of course, visitors to London shouldn’t be put off, there is plenty of indoor cultural activities to take part in across the city. However, on those rainy days when the thought of leaving your room sounds beyond heinous, the ME London hotel, itself an architectural beauty, has a book collection, made in partnership with VICE, that is perfect for any local or visitor to explore London and it’s kaleidoscope of cultures without even leaving the hotel.
ME London is positioned in the centre of London’s best creative spaces; from the intricate maze of corridors at Somerset House, each room a buzz of artists hard at work, to the Tate with its mind-blowing viewing platform and the heights of innovation in art. Nevertheless one doesn’t have to walk much further than the hotel lobby to get a taste of what London’s art scene has to offer. Photobooks offering the best of British creatives adorn this cultural space. Missed the Only Human exhibit at the National Gallery a couple of months back? No problem - the Martin Parr exhibit has been immortalised, the intricacies of personhood, specifically Britishness, presented through the likes of Anna Wintour and Zadie Smith, now available for all ME guests to discover.
From the National Gallery, one can head along the Mall, past Buckingham Palace, and explore the white streets and aristocratic buildings of the affluent Belgravia in Karen Knorr’s beautiful photo book of the same name. These pictures delve into the lives of the wealthy minority at the peak of Thatcherism, not from their own self-flattering gaze but from Knorr’s satirical and exaggerated perspective. “They are ‘non-portraits’ in that they do not aim to flatter or to show the ‘truth’ of these people”, Knorr argues.
Coming out of Belgravia and into the next neighbourhood over, the shops of Knightsbridge, an aesthetic place to walk and take in the window displays, have been enshrined in pictures even more stunning. Famed film director Harmony Korine’s Gucci depicts the global, high-end brands’ clothes and accessories draping the bodies of average tourists while Nick Warpington’s Alexander McQueen: Working Process offers a glimpse into the world of the legendary and innovative yet tragic designer from the start of his career on the streets of East London to global domination and recognition as one of London’s greats.
Of course, East London has defined British fashion and cultural history over the last 100 years. No book sums this up better than Street London: 1985 - 1996, an ad-hoc collage book that explores the gritty realism of the street fashions of Shoreditch, Hoxton and Hackney that were inspiring the young McQueen. These streets are also famed for their brutalist architecture and while a trip to the Barbican is definitely recommended, one can avoid the uncomfortable underground commute instead opting for Brutal London, an ode to the stunningly raw and urban architecture of the post-war East End.
London’s youth culture is epitomised in Palace Skateboards; the beloved, cult skate brand that inspired Alasdair Mclellan’s The Palace, or The Story of the Face: The Magazine that changed culture a picture book dedicated to the British fashion and music mag that launched the career of Kate Moss. Just as the magazine comes back after 15 years, Harry Styles and Dua Lipa now adorning its covers, one can delve into one of the biggest shapers of London’s rich cultural history.
On the topic of shaping the city’s cultural history, paying homage to Grime is an absolute must. Hattie Collins and Olivia Rose’s This Is Grime explores and celebrates the relatively new history of the UK’s most exciting and influential music genre, from its modest beginnings with the likes of Wiley and Kano in East London all the way to inspiring young artists like Stormzy, south of the river in Croydon.
After a quick trip south of the Thames on the Overground with Muriel Spark’s The Ballad of Peckham Rye, where one can read into the working-class cultural history of 1960’s Peckham, it’s time to wrap up our figurative book tour of London with Nick Turpin’s On The Night Bus, really the only option to end the evening. This book depicts the raw authenticity of night travel from the outside. Blurred figures resting their tired heads against fogged up windows, hand-prints and fingers drawing in the condensation. If you are sitting in your hotel room, the constant British rain your incarcerator, then this book is a mood. The perfect opportunity to indulge in those autumn-winter blues.
The ME London book collection is stunning and extensive but it is also truly representative of the city. While we don’t recommend you spend your time in London hauled up in your room reading all day, we do suggest checking out the hotel’s literature collection, which offers the perfect cultural context for the city you are about to experience.