Wales: Recommended Books and Movies

By Rick Steves

To learn more about Wales past and present, check out a few of these books and films. (And see our similar lists for elsewhere in Europe.)

Books

  • The Anglo Files: A Field Guide to the British (Sarah Lyall, 2008). A New York Times reporter in London wittily recounts the eccentricities of life in the UK.
  • Fever Pitch (Nick Hornby, 1992). Hornby's memoir illuminates the British obsession with soccer.
  • Here Be Dragons (Sharon Kay Penman, 1985). The author melds history and fiction to bring 13th-century Wales vividly to life (first in a trilogy).
  • A History of Britain (Simon Schama, 2000–2002). The respected historian presents a comprehensive, thoroughly readable three-volume collection.
  • A History of Modern Britain (Andrew Marr, 2007). This searching look at the transformations in British life over the last few decades accompanies a BBC documentary series of the same name.
  • A History of Wales (John Davies, revised 2007). This insightful history tells the story of Wales from the Ice Age to the present.
  • The Kingdom by the Sea: A Journey Around the Coast of Great Britain (Paul Theroux, 1983). After 11 years as an American expatriate in London, travel writer Theroux takes a witty tour of his adopted homeland.
  • A Land (Jacquetta Hawkes, 1951). This postwar best seller is a sweeping, poetic natural history of the British landscape and imagination.
  • The Matter of Wales (Jan Morris, 1985). The half-English, half-Welsh author reveals the mysteries and joys of life in Wales.
  • Notes from a Small Island (Bill Bryson, 1995). In this irreverent and delightful memoir, US expat Bryson writes about his travels through Britain — his home for two decades.
  • The Story of Britain from the Norman Conquest to the European Union (Patrick Dillon, 2011). Studious older children will get a healthy dose of history from this elegant, illustrated volume.
  • This Little Britain: How One Small Country Changed the Modern World (Harry Bingham, 2007). Bingham offers an informative, entertaining review of Great Britain's contributions to world history.

Films and TV Shows

  • The Englishman Who Went up a Hill but Came down a Mountain (1995). Starring Hugh Grant and scored with a Welsh choir, this heartwarming, somewhat-true tale of two cartographers who arrive in a Welsh village in 1917 focuses mainly on what makes the Welsh so different from the English.
  • How Green Was My Valley (1941). Director John Ford's Academy Award winner chronicles the lives of a 19th-century Welsh coal-mining family.
  • Sherlock (2010–). Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Watson (Martin Freeman) are excellent in this BBC update of the detective's story, set in present-day London — but mainly filmed in Cardiff.