10 Manchester books that everyone should read


Following Government advice to stop visiting restaurants, pubs and theatres, we’re all finding ourselves spending more time indoors.

Now’s as good a time as any to indulge in reading for pleasure. And where better to start than with some stories about our beloved city?

From crime fiction and music history to comedy and cookery, Manchester is a central character in these ten titles.

Black Moss by David Nolan

Award-winning author, TV producer and crime reporter David Nolan has written books including I Swear I Was There, about the legendary 1976 Sex Pistols gig at The Lesser Free Trade Hall, and You’re Entitled To An Opinion, a biography of Tony Wilson.

His first novel, which he describes as ‘Manc noir’, is set in Manchester. In 1990, as rioters took over Strangeways prison, someone killed a little boy at Black Moss. And no one cared. No one except Danny Johnston, a young radio reporter trying to make a name for himself.

Over 25 years later, Danny returns to his home city to revisit the murder that’s always haunted him.

The Mighty Walzer by Howard Jacobson

Winner of the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize, Howard Jacobson’s painfully funny novel is about love, sex, and ping-pong in 1950s Manchester.

The novel introduces us to Oliver Walzer, a natural at ping-pong, even with his improvised bat (the Collins Classic edition of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde) – though not so adept at relationships with the opposite sex.

This Man Booker prize winner’s novel is a hilarious homage to the Manchester of his youth.

Sonic Youth Slept On My Floor by Dave Haslam

Writer and DJ Dave Haslam’s wonderfully evocative memoir is a masterful insider account of the Hacienda, the rise of Madchester and birth of the rave era, and how music has sound-tracked a life and a generation.

The cast of his life reads like a who’s who of ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s popular culture, from Tony Wilson and John Lydon to Johnny Marr and Ian Brown.

From having Morrissey to tea to having a gun pulled on him at the Hacienda and a drug dealer threatening to slit his throat, this is not your usual memoir.

Fear of Falling by Cath Staincliffe

Cath Staincliffe, who lives in Manchester, is an award winning novelist, radio playwright and creator of ITV’s hit series Blue Murder.

A modern tragedy about the splinters that can tear families apart, her latest novel – published last year – poses the question: what if the child you have longed for ends up hurting those you love?

Crime writer Ian Rankin described the book as “harrowing and humane. A real knockout.”

Substance: Inside New Order by Peter Hook

Set against a backdrop of sex, drink and drug-fuelled tours, as well as hair-raising Hacienda tales, former New Order bassist Peter Hook’s memoir is a boisterous account of life in Manchester and on the road.

Outrageously funny and painfully honest, this rollicking, no-holds-barred account reveals the highs and lows of life in a rock band.

The Emigrants by WG Sebald

WG Sebald’s Manchester of the 1960s is a stark, near-deserted cityscape.

At first the book appears simply to document the lives of four Jewish émigrés in the twentieth century. But gradually, as Sebald’s dreamlike prose begins to draw their stories, the four narrations merge into an overwhelming evocation of exile and loss.

Written with a bone-dry sense of humour and a fascination with the oddness of existence, The Emigrants is a heady mix of fact, memory, fiction and photographs.

Sirens by Joseph Knox

Photo: Jay Brooks

A sharp modern noir introducing troubled junior detective Aidan Waits, Joseph Knox’s hard-hitting crime debut Sirens won rave reviews across the press when it was published in 2017, and he’s gone on to write two more smash hits.

Sirens grew out of night-walking around Manchester and seeing a whole other side to the city,” said Joseph, who said he couldn’t imagine setting his crime novels anywhere else.

“Joseph Knox owns Manchester and paints it in all its grimy colours,” said Val McDermid. “Manchester throbs with lowlife in this startling debut,” said Sarah Hilary. And The Guardian wrote that Joseph “presents the city as pungently and uncompromisingly as Ian Rankin does Edinburgh.”

The Gangs of Manchester by Andrew Davies

Before the Peaky Blinders, there were the Scuttlers. Andrew Davies’ colourful history tells the story of these Scuttlers, one of the first modern youth tribes, and their battles for supremacy on the streets of 19th century Manchester and Salford.

Gangs such as the Bengal Tigers and the Meadow Lads emerged from the grimy streets of 1870s industrial Manchester, armed and ready to wage ferocious turf wars with rivals.

Davies’ well-researched book includes newspaper articles, photographs and court reports of the time, detailing the rise of the gangs until their demise at the turn of the century.

The Manchester Cookbook: Second Helpings

The first edition of The Manchester Cookbook was hugely successful,  highlighting some of the city’s top dishes as well as signposting local producers and suppliers across the county.

Second Helpings is packed with recipes from some of Manchester’s most popular restaurants so you can recreate more local dishes at home.

But more than just recipes, it’s also a collection of local success stories, featuring contributors from Ancoats to Chorlton, from First Street to Stockport.

Underground Manchester by Keith Warrender

Photo: Keith Warrender

Keith Warrender has long been fascinated by what might exist beneath the city’s streets.

Evidence shows that a complex network of subterranean tunnels under the city was used for hundreds of years, for everything from air raid shelters and bunkers to an underground railway.

Complete with vintage photographs, this book tells stories of a ‘lost’ river, a water wheel, and of walks beneath the city’s famous streets.


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