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The must-read Manchester books that will fill you with civic pride

These Manchester books will keep Mancunian bookworms entertained for days
Manchester book

From music, TV and history books to Manc Noir thrillers and young adult fiction, these Manchester books will keep Mancunian bookworms entertained for days.

From music and literature to theatre and politics, the city has produced some of the most influential and creative figures in British culture.

We love reading Manchester books, whether they’re set in our city or written by a local author.

In this article, we take a look at some of the best books from Manchester that capture the unique character of the city and its people.

These books offer a fascinating insight into the history, culture, and identity of Manchester, and are sure to make you proud to be a Mancunian.

Tales from the Dance Floor by Sacha Lord and Luke Bainbridge

Sacha Lord
Photo credit: Greater Mancunians Project

Sacha Lord, who has co-founded some of the biggest music events in the world, including The Warehouse Project and Parklife Festival, will reveal behind-the-scenes accounts and exposés, including never-before-heard hair-raising stories on his early promoter years at seminal Manchester clubs like Sankeys, Home, The Haçienda and Paradise Factory.

Recounting three decades of untold stories spanning Lord’s career, Tales from the Dancefloor is a journey through the meteoric rise of Manchester’s house music scene that transformed the city into the capital of nightlife that it is today.

“Like most Mancunians my age, my life is a tale of two cities,” says Sacha Lord. “Then and now. It has been the very best of times, and there has also been the worst of times – often in the same week, sometimes in the same night! Manchester really has been the making of me, and it has so much to answer for.

“I’ve been shot at in a drive-by shooting, bundled into a car by gangsters and had death threats. I’ve been sued and broke, I’ve had to deal with an army of rats who were high on cocaine, had £130,000 stolen in an armed robbery and been targeted by a Romanian organised crime gang.

“In the past 30 years, my generation has witnessed a musical revolution, as electronic music went from being a niche genre to arguably the biggest music genre in the world. I’ve been lucky to have been in the eye of the storm of this musical and cultural revolution – to have some of the most incredible life-affirming experiences, to meet most of my musical heroes and to have thrown some of the biggest parties this country has ever seen, and I’m excited to reveal all in this book.”

The book is co-authored with best-selling author Luke Bainbridge and is published by HarperNorth, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

The book is out now and you can order your copy on Amazon here.

Mancunians by David Scott

Mancunians by David Scott is a book that explores the unique character of the people of Manchester.

You can get a copy by clicking here

Manchester, England: The Story of the Pop Cult City by Dave Haslam

Manchester, England: The Story of the Pop Cult City is a book written by Dave Haslam, which chronicles the city’s cultural and musical history.

The book explores Manchester’s music scene from the 1960s to the present day, highlighting the key artists and movements that have shaped the city’s identity.

The explosion of music and creativity in Manchester can be traced back from Victorian music hall and the jazz age, to Northern Soul and rock and roll, through to acid house and Oasis.

But its roots are in Manchester’s history as a melting pot of popular idealism and dissent, from the industrial revolution on, via film, theatre, comedy and TV.

And for Manchester, read England and the world.

Dave Haslam is uniquely placed to tell this story – Manchester, England is as witty, erudite and passionate as you would expect from a man who can say, again and again, “I was there”.

Like Jon Savage’s England’s Dreaming, this is the last word on the abiding centre of 40 years of UK pop culture.

You can get a copy by clicking here

Little Wilson and Big God by Anthony Burgess

Little Wilson and Big God is an autobiographical work by Anthony Burgess, which covers the period of his life from his birth in 1917 to the publication of his first novel in 1956.

The book explores Burgess’s early years in Manchester, his experiences during World War II, and his struggles as a writer.

Burgess provides a frank and often humorous account of his life, and offers insights into his creative process and the themes that would come to define his work.

Little Wilson and Big God is a compelling read for anyone interested in Burgess’s life and the influences that shaped his writing.

You can get a copy by clicking here

Mancunia by Michael Symmons Roberts

Mancunia is a poetry collection by Michael Symmons Roberts that explores the history, culture, and identity of Manchester, England.

Through a series of lyrical and evocative poems, Roberts reflects on the city’s industrial past, its vibrant music scene, and the unique character of its people.

Mancunia is both a real and an unreal city.

In part, it is rooted in Manchester, but it is an imagined city too, a fallen utopia viewed from formal tracks, as from the train in the background of De Chirico’s paintings.

In these poems we encounter a Victorian diorama, a bar where a merchant mariner has a story he must tell, a chimeric creature – Miss Molasses – emerging from the old docks.

There are poems in honour of Mancunia’s bureaucrats: the Master of the Lighting of Small Objects, the Superintendent of Public Spectacles, the Co-ordinator of Misreadings. Metaphysical and lyrical, the poems in Michael Symmons Roberts’ seventh collection are concerned with why and how we ascribe value, where it resides and how it survives.

Mancunia is – like More’s Utopia – both a no-place and an attempt at the good-place. It is occupied, liberated, abandoned and rebuilt.

Capacious, disturbing and shape-shifting, these are poems for our changing times

He also touches on contemporary issues such as urban renewal, immigration, and social inequality.

Mancunia offers a powerful and nuanced portrait of one of England’s most dynamic and fascinating cities, and is a must-read for anyone who loves Manchester or is interested in the intersection of poetry and place.

You can get a copy by clicking here

A Taste of Honey – Shelagh Delaney

A Taste of Honey is a ground-breaking play by Shelagh Delaney, first performed in 1958. Set in working-class Manchester, the play tells the story of Jo, a teenage girl who lives with her neglectful mother and falls in love with a black sailor.

Along the way, she grapples with issues such as poverty, race, and gender roles.

Delaney’s play was notable for its frank portrayal of working-class life and its use of unconventional characters and themes.

A Taste of Honey is widely regarded as a classic of post-war British theatre and continues to be performed and studied today.

The Manchester Man – Isabella Banks

The Manchester Man is a historical novel by Isabella Banks, first published in 1876.

The novel is set in Manchester, England during the 19th century and follows the life of Jabez Clegg, a working-class man who rises to wealth and success through his hard work and determination.

Along the way, he encounters various obstacles, including class prejudice, political unrest, and personal tragedy.

Banks’ novel is notable for its detailed and vivid portrayal of life in 19th century Manchester, as well as its themes of social justice, industrialisation, and the power of the individual to overcome adversity.

The Manchester Man remains a classic of Victorian literature and a fascinating window into the history of one of England’s most important cities.

Manchester: Looking for the Light Through the Pouring Rain by Kevin Cummins

Madonna of Bolton by Matt Cain

“Madonna of Bolton” by Matt Cain is a heartwarming coming-of-age novel that tells the story of Charlie Matthews, a young boy from Bolton who dreams of becoming a writer and meeting his idol, Madonna.

Despite facing bullying and prejudice for his sexuality, Charlie is determined to follow his dreams and move to London. With the support of his close-knit family and friends, he embarks on a journey of self-discovery and learns to embrace his true self.

Set against the backdrop of the 1980s and 90s, this novel is a nostalgic celebration of love, friendship, and pop culture.

The Rats’ Tales: The Official Biography

In the past decade, the UK’s most famous busking band The Piccadilly Rats have conquered the country from London to Blackpool, appeared on the main stage at some of the biggest festivals in the UK, and even appeared on ITV’s Judge Rinder Show.

Their ability to stop commuters and shoppers in their tracks by the sight, sound and sheer insanity of their performance has left many onlookers wondering just who these people were, and how the hell they got here.

Now, Martin Green’s official biography, published in September with a foreword by Clint Boon, tells the official story. 

Out now in paperback and ebook, published by Empire Publications.

Manchester Unspun by Andy Spinoza

Manchester Unspun by Andy Spinoza is a book that explores the rich history and culture of Manchester. 

At the end of the 1970s, Manchester seemed to be sliding into the dustbin of history.

Today the city is an international destination for culture and sport, and one of the fastest-growing urban regions in Europe.

This book offers a first-hand account of what happened in between. Arriving in Manchester as a wide-eyed student in 1979, Andy Spinoza went on to establish the arts magazine City Life before working for the Manchester Evening News and creating his own PR firm.

In a forty-year career he has encountered a who’s who of Manchester personalities, from cultural icons such as Tony Wilson to Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson and influential council leaders Sir Richard Leese and Sir Howard Bernstein.

His remarkable account traces Manchester’s gradual emergence from its post-industrial malaise, centring on the legendary nightclub the Haçienda and the cultural renaissance it inspired.

Manchester unspun begins in the gloom of a city still bearing the scars of the Second World War and ends among the shiny towers of an aspiring twenty-first-century metropolis. It is an insider’s tale of deals done, government and corporate decision-making, nightclubs, music and entrepreneurs.

You can get a copy by clicking here

While We Were Getting High: Britpop and the 90s

Liam Gallagher outside Man City’s old ground at Maine Road July 1994. Photo by Kevin Cummins from While We Were Getting High

Photographer Kevin Cummins documented the rise and fall of Cool Britannia – and his book discusses its legacy with key players.

Kevin spent the 90s as chief photographer at NME, and While We Were Getting High is a nostalgic look back at the Britpop era through hundreds of striking photos – many never seen before.

Nostalgic, anarchic and featuring contributions from icons of the Britpop era including Noel Gallagher and Brett AndersonWhile We Were Getting High is a seminal portrait of a decade like no other.

Out now in hardback and ebook, published by Cassell Illustrated.

I Wanna Be Yours

Photo: Paul Wolfgang Webster

The Bard of Salford has had an extraordinary life, filled with remarkable personalities: from Nico to Chuck Berry; Bernard Manning to Linton Kwesi Johnson; Elvis Costello to Gregory Corso; Mark E. Smith to Gil Scott Heron and Joe Strummer and on to more recent fans and collaborators like Alex Turner, Plan B and Guy Garvey.

And now, aged 71, John Cooper Clarke has written his first memoir, interspersed with stories of his rock’n’roll and performing career and named after one of his most famous poems, I Wanna Be Yours.

It’s a memoir fizzing with John’s trademark wit and wicked humour, revealing an incredible career which starts in Salford, spans five decades and as many continents, and features an incredible cast of characters along the way.

Out now in hardback, ebook and as an audiobook, published by Picador.

You can get your copy by clicking here

60 Years of Coronation Street

Celebrating the show’s diamond anniversary later this year, 60 Years of Coronation Street is an exhaustive, compelling and entertaining history packed full of features and long forgotten photos.

The book takes readers through every year with a unique timeline that highlights key plot lines and significant production events, accompanied by interviews with key actors, producers and production staff.

A special section on the show’s creator, Tony Warren, details how the programme evolved from page to screen and is illustrated with rare imagery and artefacts from his own archive.

Out now in hardback and ebook, published by Hamlyn.

Regeneration Manchester

Len Grant has been a photographer in Manchester for three decades, documenting the construction of some of our most iconic architecture and charting the revival of our most blighted neighbourhoods.

In the last three decades the Manchester City Region has shaken off its post-industrial malaise and confidently elbowed its way on to the international stage. Following significant regeneration projects in both the public and private sectors, the cities of Manchester and Salford are now considered by many as exemplars of urban revival. One photographer has made this turnaround the subject of his creative career.

In Regeneration Manchester: 30 years of storytelling Len Grant charts each of his significant regeneration commissions, from the construction of iconic landmarks like the Bridgewater Hall and the Lowry to the creation of new neighbourhoods and the revival of historic districts. Drawing from his extensive photographic archive and private notebooks, Grant creates a personal story of an unprecedented period in his home city’s recent history.

You can get your copy by clicking here

Manchester: Something Rich and Strange

Moving far from the glitzy shopping districts and architectural showpieces, away from cool city-centre living and modish cultural centres, this book shows us the under-appreciated and overlooked parts of Greater Manchester in which the majority of Mancunians live, work and play.

What is Manchester? Moving far from the glitzy shopping districts and architectural showpieces, away from cool city-centre living and modish cultural centres, this book shows us the unheralded, under-appreciated and overlooked parts of Greater Manchester in which the majority of Mancunians live, work and play.

It tells the story of the city thematically, using concepts such a ‘material’, ‘atmosphere’, ‘waste’, ‘movement’ and ‘underworld’ to challenge our understanding of the quintessential post-industrial metropolis.

Bringing together contributions from twenty-five poets, academics, writers, novelists, historians, architects and artists from across the region alongside a range of captivating photographs, this book explores the history of Manchester through its chimneys, cobblestones, ginnels and graves. This wide-ranging and inclusive approach reveals a host of idiosyncrasies, hidden spaces and stories that have until now been neglected.

Bringing together contributions from writers from across the region alongside a range of captivating photos, this book explores the history of Manchester through its chimneys, cobblestones, ginnels and graves.

You can get your copy by clicking here

111 Places in Manchester That You Shouldn’t Miss

Authors Julian Treuherz and Peter de Figueiredo have collected 111 unusual and interesting local places in this new book, combined with stunning photographs.

It aims to take readers to an alternative Manchester, from Peterloo to the Pankhursts, from Elizabeth Gaskell to Anthony Burgess, from the Sephardic Synagogue to the Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art, and of course to Madchester and the famous music scene of Morrissey, Tony Wilson and the Haçienda.

Both locals and visitors to the city will almost certainly find themselves with a list of new places to discover once lockdown is over.

Out now in paperback, published by Emons Verlag.

The Mermaid’s Pool

David Nolan, author of the superb Black Moss, is back with a second helping of Manc Noir – and things are about to get even darker.

It’s 1988 and ecstasy is flooding the streets of Manchester. Over one weekend, Detective Inspector Smithdown is faced with a missing single mum, machete wielding gangs in Oldham, simmering racial tensions across communities and a mutilated body found at the edge of remote lake with a mythical reputation.

The locals say bad things happen at the Mermaid’s Pool. They’re dead right.

You can get your copy by clicking here

Quiet Acts of Violence

This crime thriller is Manchester novelist Cath Staincliffe’s 26th novel and is set in her home city.

A dead baby is found, and her mother may well be in danger. Manchester’s version of Cagney and Lacey, detectives Donna Bell and Jade Bradshaw, are on the case. But will they get to the bottom of it in time?

Cath, who is also the creator of ITV’s hit series Blue Murder, writes about the northern working class with compassion and humanity.

Out now in hardback, audiobook and ebook, published by Constable.

You can get your copy by clicking here

The Game Weavers

This debut by young BAME author Rebecca Zahabi is a fantasy YA novel with LGBTQ themes exploring love, identity and coming-of-age.

Half British, half Iranian, 25-year-old Rebecca grew up in France but has been resident in Manchester for several years, completing an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Manchester.

Her first novel, published in October, is ideal for fans of magical realism – a love story with fantasy themes set in a contemporary Britain where LGBTQ+ rights have taken a backwards step.

Out now in paperback, published by ZunTold Publishing.

You can get your copy by clicking here

When The Past Kills

MJ Lee was born in Manchester, and the city provides the setting for his new book, the latest instalment of a gritty crime series that fans of Stuart Macbride and Joseph Knox will love.

A scream breaks the air in the coroner’s office. An execution is being broadcast live on the internet. It’s a shocking incident, and for Manchester-based DI Thomas Ridpath it means an old case is back to haunt him.

Just as Ridpath’s life is getting back to normal, he is forced to revisit the case that defined his career: the Beast of Manchester investigation rears its head once again. Now, coppers are being targeted – but who will be next?

Out now in paperback, published by Canelo Crime.

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