Our Favourite North East Books
When we're not out exploring and finding new places to visit in the north east, we sometimes like to curl up with a milk (or several sweet sherries) and crack open a book. We're always on the look out for new north east books to peruse, so we thought we'd ask our lovely Fabulous North Facebook group for some recommendations.
Curiosities Of Northumberland
Recommended by Jenny Taylor
This book is filled with over 60 curiosities in and around our beautiful historic Northumberland, we have covered thousand upon thousands of miles on our quest to locate them all. Each curiosity has an old forklore tale a back story of its origin and whether believed or not adds a real sense of adventure in the search for a little piece of history which captures the essence of Northumberland,its history, industrial heritage, the people and the villages.
This book was given to me as a present from my brother and like a magical mystery treasure hunt we have since been on a mission to complete the book of 'Curiosities of Northumberland' which was republished in the early 1970's but originally published in 1819. So of course there are a few curiosities that no longer remain (or have been preserved in local museums) but the majority we have accomplished and it's been an amazing adventure exploring our beautiful lands and learning the historical points of interest.
Not all are easy to find and old village boundaries may have moved and the distance referenced in miles seem very different today. But every village visited is surrounded by stunning scenery and you are guaranteed to enjoy every roadtrip on the quest to find a curiosity.
I don't think you will be disappointed it has pages with hand drawn sketches and old photographs to help with identification and location. I understand this book is very difficult to find other than in libraries for references purposes but it is a priceless treasure of mine.
Where There's Muck, There's Bras
Recommended by Andrew Gardner
The first book I have gone for is one I read recently, picked up from the wonderful Forum Books in Corbridge, titled "Where there's muck, there's bras". No, that isn't a typo, it is Bras. It's a fascinating and humorous book about the incredible women of the north.
Some you will know and are household names, others you may never have heard of, but will want to know more about. I think any book that contains sections on Iron Age Queen Cartimandua, Victoria Wood, the Bronte sisters and Hilda Ogden can't be bad, can it?
The Castles Of Northumberland
Recommended by Simon Hawkins
There are 70 castles in Northumberland and are all steeped in rich history. So if you are looking to find out more about them, this book by Stephen Wood is a cracker. Unpacking this amount of history can easily lead to pages of dry facts, but the writing style and tone of this book are both informative and entertaining. I found myself engrossed in the events and people surrounding the castles as I was swept from their primitive beginnings to their modern stance.
As the book is such an easy read I found myself completing it cover to cover on a sunny afternoon in the garden, but it also a book you can dip into should you want to find out more about a particular castle. It also contains loads of amazing pictures (some provided by the Fabulous North!).
The Buildings of Northumberland
Recommended by Jos Forester-Melville
So, I find it impossible to just choose one book. I love books of all descriptions and love reading up on places visited. I guess my Holy Grail of Northumberland is my battered and bruised copy of 'The Buildings of Northumberland by Nikolaus Pevsner and Ian Richmond. (That's Brizlee Tower on the cover). This is like a dictionary of every town, village and hamlet in Northumberland and outlines any and every building of note. It's helped me to learn about architecture and the different names of parts of buildings.
It's helped me to appreciate architectural changes over periods of time and is a stepping stone to other books or websites that maybe give a more in depth perspective of a building. It's taught me how to look at buildings from the outside in and to photograph things that you might miss on a first glance but can then marvel at on a later look at home. This is literally one of my most favourite books (and you can get them for every county!)
North East England - The Region's Development
Recommended by Rosalind Parker
The book North East England was a gem of a find in the Oxfam Shop by the Elvet Bridge in Durham City. It helped bring me up to speed on the development, social and economic growth of the area. I also liked that it covered the timeline 1760 to 1960.
What surprised me was that welfare started much earlier than I thought, and aid was there. Strikes and alcohol were commonplace. The huge problem was of course the growth. In my opinion, it was well written (published in 1979). It dealt with facts and the sections and took you through the time time. A great reference book with citations. The shop to boot also gave me 'Tales of Durham part II' free!
A Walking History Of North Shields & Tynemouth
Recommended by Dave Scholey (Author)
This book offers a walking guide to Tynemouth and North Shields and takes in some of the more interesting sites. Covering around 5 miles it is a circular walk and explains what to watch out for en route. The book gives some background and local history relating to the things you will see. Ideal for introducing children to the history of the area while also bringing invaluable insights and information to visitors and to those moving into the area.
Beginning in a car park opposite the priory and castle it tells the story of it's origins and of some of the people buried in the graveyard. It also explains the critcal role played by Lord Cuthbert Collingwood statue in the Battle of Trafalgar and discusses how necessary the Low and High Lights were to provide safe navigation past the legendary Black Middens.
The tour then heads further into North Shields, giving history of old buildings, the childhood homes of Stan Laurel and the origin of the Wooden Dollies.
The Sterkarm Handshake
Recommended by Louisa Read
Set in the 21st century, scientists have discovered that by harnessing fusion energy they can open a time tunnel back to 16th century Cumbria and plunder their resources. Unfortunately they don't seem to realise the local Reivers including the biggest and baddest Sterkarm clan aren't best pleased with this. The modern archaeologist Andrea falls for the 16th century Per, and the book deals with the fallout!
100 Walks In Northumberland
Recommended by Sandra Clemens
Walking has become a bit of an obsession for me over the last few years. I love a long wander in the countryside, with no one else about apart from the birds. (Do you have to be anti social to be part of the FN team? Possibly). This book covers some brilliant walks, one of my favourites being a wander up to Ros Castle. I had never heard of Ros Castle until I read about it in this book, but really enjoyed a peaceful saunter in some unspoilt countryside a couple of years ago.
The routes are well described and easy to follow too. There are many walks to choose from in the book of varying degrees of difficulty. Some of my other favourites include Simonside Hills, Druridge Bay and Morpeth & Bothal. You can find out more about these places on our website, and see if they take your fancy.
Grace Darling. Maid And Myth.
Recommended by Sheila Lamb
I am at present reading a book by Richard Armstrong about my heroine Grace Darling. The book is Grace Darling. Maid And Myth. As well as interesting facts and stories about Grace the book is also an absorbing documentary on aspects of life in early Victorian times. A great read!!
Wild Guide - North East England
Recommended by Jilly KA
This is the latest publication in a series of books on fun, wild, not as well known places to visit around the UK. We've used the other books in the series lots over the last few years. I was hoping a book on the north nast would be next, so pleased to see it was!
The photos are amazing and really entice you to get out, see somewhere different, eat in lesser known eateries, stay in unusual and wild places. Each area has a numbered map to find every place mentioned, map co-ordinates and the time it will take you to walk from your transport to your chosen spot. A great book to browse and enjoy an adventure from your armchair, but I bet you will be tempted to get out there somewhere.
Recommended by Kathy Smith
Life And Death in Prehistoric Northumberland - Standing stones, burials, carved rocks, pottery and weapons found since pre-history to Roman times.
Tales of the Border Reivers - Tales of turbulent times in the 16th century, the struggles of the Wardens to maintain law and order in the Border Marches.
The Body in the Bank - Famous murders that took place in the region.
Northumberland's Lost Houses
Recommended by Neil Hall
Take a step back in time a hundred years or so and explore the old Stately homes, halls and townhouses, many which have now long since disappeared from the county. Brilliant book explaining the owners and sites many of which are local including Belsay Castle, Bothal Haugh, Dilston Hall, Pandon House, Riddlehamhope House, Scotswood Hall, Parrow Hall, Tillmouth Hall any many others.
England's Last Wilderness
Recommended by Phil Andrews
Written by David Bellemy and Brendan Quayle. When the book first came out it was one of the least discovered areas in the country. (To be honest it probably still is!) The book explores the seven main dales that make up the area and they explain some of the history and talk to locals. It's a journey that can be done by car and there are also a few walks in the book. David Bellemy also did a video of the area.
Recommended by Andrew Gardner
My second choice is simply titled "Byker" and it is by the Finnish photographer Sirkka-Lissa Konttinen who lived in Byker for six years and photographed it for twelve. The book documents the Byker community in all its glory during the 1970s as it was witnessing its traditional industry closing down and sections of it demolished to make way for new housing. It is seen as the social documentation of a rich working class community and culture on the eve of its destruction.
The photos are wonderful, and there are some great characters on show. If you knew Byker during that time they will bring back lots of memories. While some photos may make the area seem grim and depressing, what really shines through is the affection Sirkka-Lissa Konttinen had for the place she called home for so long.
Recommended by Jos Forester-Melville
'Northumberland Rocks' is the best title for a book and explores the history of the county and its 425 million year history, scenery, landscape and habitats. It's about the very matter that the county is built upon and is often overlooked. It's divided up into 50 different places in Northumberland where rocks make a special statement about the land we live in. It helps to unravel time through geology in a non yawn fashion.
Recommended by Simon Hawkins
We couldn't have a round up of north east books without mentioning the fabulous detective fiction of LJ Ross. Set in the glorious backdrop of the north east's most iconic locations, these books follow the investigations of DCI Ryan and his team as this solve a variety of murder-mysteries.
Now boasting over 20 books in the series you'll be whisked away to places such as Cragside, the Warkwork Hermitage, Marsden Rock and Penshaw monument to name a few. So if you like solving a Scooby Doo mystery, mixed with glorious NE backdrops, geordie humour and stotties, then have a butchers at this range.
If you buy a book by clicking on a link on this page, then Amazon may drop some funds in the Fabulous North coffers which we will use to run some giveaways.