The English countryside will always be home for me, at least in the truest sense of the word.
Although I’ve moved around a lot in adulthood and my adopted homeland is now Denmark, I was born, grew up, and became who I am on a sheep farm in southeast England.
The Sussex countryside is the place I understand better than any other: the hedgerows, oak trees, lambs in spring, and cozy cottages. And now I no longer live there, I often gravitate towards books that remind me of it.
With charming writing and evocative settings, the books in this post feel like being in the English countryside. I hope you enjoy them all as much as I have.
Read on for my pick of the best books set in the English countryside to immerse yourself in small village communities, everyday farm life, and beautiful nature…
The best books set in the English countryside to escape into cozy rural life
Darling by India Knight
Crafted as a contemporary retelling of Nancy Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love, Darling is a witty comfort read brimming with fresh starts, courage, and romance (with some partnerships more successful than others).
In this charming novel set in the English countryside, teenage Linda Radlett feels herself destined for greater things – and a love story that she absolutely won’t find in her family’s sprawling farmhouse in Norfolk.
When she moves to London to become a model, Linda achieves a fresh start: but life is unromantic, dark, and complicated. One day, she spontaneously boards the Eurostar train to Paris, where love and transformation await.
English Pastoral: An Inheritance by James Rebanks
James Rebanks learned how to work the ancient land the old way from his grandfather, but by the time he inherited the farm, the landscape that was once teeming with wildlife had profoundly changed.
What follows is a love letter to rural landscapes and a story of inheritance, full of hope despite what is lost, as one farmer begins the process of restoring vanishing life to leave a legacy for the future.
The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher
It’s a warm and enduring feel-good classic that has touched the hearts of millions of readers, about one family in England and the passions and heartbreaks that have held them together for three generations.
The worlds that Rosamunde Pilcher created are so warm, rich, and immersive that you can’t help but tumble into their country lanes, delicate artwork, and family tiffs and quirks.
The Yorkshire Shepherdess by Amanda Owen
If you’ve always dreamed of quitting your job and city life to move to the countryside, read The Yorkshire Shepherdess. (I grew up on a sheep farm and know some of the less glamorous realities, but it’s still an alluring daydream.)
This is Amanda Owen’s heartwarming tale of life as a shepherdess, living alongside her husband Clive and seven (yep) children at Ravenseat, a 2000-acre farm in Swaledale in North Yorkshire.
Full of fun rural anecdotes and unforgettable characters that hark back to James Herriot’s charming books, it’s a story that will inspire you to look at the countryside and the people who make a living there with new appreciation.
From Peter Rabbit to Jemima Puddle Duck, Beatrix Potter’s characters exist in a dreamy countryside world filled with flowers, gardens, and lazy days of exploration and friendship.
Opening with a biography of Beatrix Potter’s gardening life, this wonderful book follows her through a year in the garden, offering a season-by-season overview of the colourful blooms, flourishing trees, and experiences that marked her year outdoors.
Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee
When talking about the best English countryside books, I have to mention Cider with Rosie, the classic evocative tale of an idyllic childhood close to nature by Laurie Lee.
In this gorgeous book, Lee conjures up evocative memories of life in a remote Cotswold village among the fields, woods, and characters of the place before industrialization and with the backdrop of war.
Ask the Fellows Who Cut the Hay by George Ewart Evans
Around a decade ago, I spotted a beautiful hardcover copy of Ask the Fellows Who Cut the Hay in my local bookshop and instantly fell in love with it.
I gave it to my Dad as a gift, and still love browsing the book’s restful and wonderfully illustrated pages whenever I visit him.
This is a classic picture of England’s rural past, focused on a remote village in Suffolk and told through conversations with those who recall the customs of old.
Illustrating legacies that span from the time of Chaucer to the rhythms of farming that still mark the year, it’s a wonderful celebration of the British countryside.
Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome
About two decades ago, I received a beautiful copy of the children’s classic Swallows and Amazons from my grandparents.
Whenever I pick it up, I remember exactly what the book felt like to me as a child: magic, adventure, and the freedom of warm summer days.
Retreat into this childhood escape to the Lake District that’s full of days spent journeying to the camp on Wild Cat Island, searching for lost treasure, and camping under the stars.
All Things Bright and Beautiful: The Classic Memoirs of a Yorkshire Country Vet by James Herriot
Now settled into the sleepy village of Darrowby and married to Helen the farmer’s daughter, James Herriot thinks life should finally be quiet and simple.
But as a vet in 1930s Yorkshire, he must not only contend with the domestic challenges of grudge-holding dogs and delivering calves after homemade wine, but also the reality of life in a country on the verge of war.
Selected Poems of William Wordsworth
When I think of quintessentially English writers, I think of William Wordsworth. His poetry feels like the English countryside to me, offering an oasis of calm when the noise of city life gets too much.
Dive into this anthology of selected poems, chosen by Seamus Heaney for Faber, and imagine the rolling hills, dancing daffodils, and fluffy clouds of Wordsworth’s England.
If you love reading books about the English countryside, you might also like these collections…