If you’re like us, you like to delve into books before heading to a destination or once you’ve arrived. Reading takes you to a place before you arrive, and while there, sets the scene from another time. The storied River Thames, especially, has inspired poetry, historic narratives and literature. With so many books about the Thames River, we have selected a few of our favourites.
2019 will be Rowing The World’s sixth year on the Classic River Thames. To celebrate the longest flowing river in England, and its 346 kilometres through 45 locks from Thames Head to the sea, we’ve collected a few great reads.
We mentioned some classics to try out in an earlier post, Best Rowing Literature – River Thames, and would be remiss not to list them again:
- Three Men in a Boat, Jerome K. Jerome, published in 1889, chronicles the adventures of three men who row between Kingston and Oxford with a dog who does not like the water. Hilarity ensues.
- Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens begins with a daughter rowing her father between Southwark Bridge and London Bridge while, ahem, looking for corpses.
- Dreams Do Come True, an autobiography by Olympian Katherine Granger in 2012, includes lovely descriptions of rowing near Marlow.
Beyond these, here are a few more books about the Thames that we hope may inspire you:
Thames – Sacred River
If you love history and incredible tidbits, you’ll enjoy Peter Ackroyd’s Thames – Sacred River, which covers the river’s history from prehistoric to current times, as well as its smells and colours, magic and myths, trade and weather. Tales of hauntings and suicides, floods and tides, locks and bridges will also be revealed, including when the river was 14 feet shallower than it is now, making it feasible for Caesar and his legions to cross the Thames and defeat the British tribes.
I Never Knew That About the Thames
If you like books filled with drawings, fascinating facts and folklore, you’ll love Christopher Winn’s I Never Knew That About the Thames. The author takes readers on a trivia-laden journey out of London along the banks of the River Thames to discover the secrets and tales of England’s most famous waterway, including an island where Magna Carter was signed, and Henley-on-Thames, where the first Oxford and Cambridge boat races were held.
There are many general books about the Thames, such as the ones listed above, but if your interests are more specific, those exist too for just about everything from ghosts, to disasters, to paths and pubs on the Thames.
Writing The Thames
Beautifully illustrated with seventy full-color illustrations, Writing The Thames tells the river’s remarkable story through art, poetry, and prose, while celebrating the writers who helped form its enduring legacy. Amazon summarizes Writing the Thames:
“From Arthur Conan Doyle to Charles Dickens, Colin Dexter to Kenneth Grahame, writers and artists have often taken inspiration from the Thames. Gathering poetry, artwork, and short excerpts from longer prose, Writing the Thames includes chapters on topics that dominate in literary and artistic depictions of the Thames, from historical events like Julius Caesar’s crossing in 55 BCE and Elizabeth I’s stand against the Spanish at Tilbury to the explorations of the topographers who mapped and drew the river to the many authors, including Thomas More, Francis Bacon, William Morris, and Henry James, who enjoyed riverside retreats. A chapter on boats features the frenetic rowers from Zuleika Dobson, a camping tale from Three Men in a Boat, and the story of William Hogarth’s impulsive five-day trip down the river with four inebriated friends.”
Some of the best-loved children’s literature has also been inspired by the Thames, including The Wind in the Willows.” When in Henley-on-Thames during our tour, be sure to pop into the Wind in the Willows Gallery at the River and Rowing Museum.
Enjoy and let us know what books about the Thames you have read.