This post has been written to set the hearts of bookworms who love Leeds on fire. Here we delve deep into who the best writers from Leeds are, even suggesting some of their most prominent page-turners to get started with. Enjoy the ride – sorry – read!
Alan Bennett is undoubtedly one of Yorkshire’s best, and most famous, literary exports, having dished up fantastically human works for decades. He was born in Leeds back in 1934 and attended school here before heading south to Oxford University to study history. We’ll skim over the fact that he now lives in Camden Town with his longterm partner, because its evident from Bennett’s output how much Leeds and Yorkshire is still such a huge part of who he is. Having produced screenplays and books, as well as film adaptations, Bennett’s work stretches far and wide. The History Boys is definitely worth a watch but as its books you’re more interested in, then make sure to get yourself a copy of Talking Heads. A series of monologues originally written for TV, the work tells the stories of six individuals who are at different stages of denial about their circumstance. It’s entertaining, darkly comic and very poignant and you’re sure to sympathise with all of the characters in some way.
Dorothy Koomson was born in London but attended the University of Leeds where she was inspired to set her book My Best Friend’s Girl that involves a friendship, betrayal, twists and turns. The book was published in 2006 and Koomson has gone on to have a successful career since. Her very first novel was written at the impressive age of 13, and despite remaining unpublished, it proves that she was a natural wordsmith, gifted from an early age. She now lives in Brighton, but her best book keeps the characters alive, well and kicking in our dear city. Give it a go.
Avid readers who also like football would definitely get on with David Peace. The author grew up in Ossett in West Yorkshire but was inspired by Leeds United as content for one of his most successful books, The Damned Utd. Based on manager Brian Clough’s 1974 stint at the club which lasted just 44 days, the book tells the story of that jam-packed and fascinating time. But it was mired in a bit of controversy when former footballer Johnny Giles sued Peace for misrepresenting him in the book, leading publishers Faber and Faber to update copies thereafter, removing any unfavourable and untrue references. Strangely, Peace is actually a supporter of Huddersfield Town, one of Leeds United’s main rivals!
Kate Atkinson was awarded an MBE in 2011 and although she was born in York, one of her best books begins with the opening scene set in The Merrion Centre. She was set for literary stardom as she won the Whitbread Book of the Year Prize back in 1995 for another of her works, but we really loved her more recent book Started Early, Took My Dog. Atkinson’s great sense of humour and quick wittedness comes across in the novel that intertwines past and present, showing how they’re never really that far apart. She debuted parts of the book to a packed audience at York Literature Festival back in 2010. It didn’t take long for it to become critically acclaimed. Hopefully, you’ll enjoy it as much as we did.
As we’ve bent the rules a little with who we’ve allowed onto this list (not sure if you noticed, but they’re not all strictly from Leeds!), we’re finishing up with a pure Leeds author, who has lived and worked in the city all of his life. Thornton’s book The Story of Leeds really is a must-read as it chronicles the history of the city, all told in an engaging yet educational way. Thornton himself is an interesting man with a diverse background, having taught at secondary schools in the city but also making time to pursue further study at the University of Leeds. This educational background probably explains why you learn so much about Leeds’ history in the book, through social, political and economic lenses. He takes us on a journey through the ages, right up until now. Its a book every city-dweller should get their hands on as it offers the chance to properly get to know the city we call home.
We look forward to hearing which of these authors you’ve most enjoyed reading, and with any luck this will inspire any budding writers out there to continue keeping their eyes peeled for inspiring material, waiting to be discovered in Leeds.
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