London is special. For centuries, it has been amongst the greatest cities of the world. But a city is nothing without its people. This sparkling new history of London, told through a relay-race of great Londoners shows in one, personality-packed book that the ingenuity, diversity, creativity and enterprise of London are second to none. Boris Johnson believes that in order to understand London one has to know about its past. The heart and spirit of London lies in its people, in the range of its cultures. Through its diversity and energy, London provides an environment which empowers people to create, the impetus to invent. Boris Johnson’s new book explores this cross current of influences between Westminster and the City, between the politicians and the wealth creators, over many centuries. Johnson's Life of London – a fitting tribute of course to one of the greatest Londoners – celebrates many of the characters who have made this city great. Boris’s book provides a chronological story of London but is written in the form of a relay race of biographies – some very famous figures, some more obscure. He ranges from the Romans to one of the author’s predecessors as mayor, Dick Whittington; from John Wilkes (a strong upholder of the freedom of the press) to J.W. Turner; from Chaucer to Gandhi, and through to modern times.Boris Johnson writes with wit and erudition, providing the reader with delightful insights. The book discovers London as none of us have seen it before and the journey is exhilarating and surprising .
©2011 Boris Johnson (P)2011 HarperCollins
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A misleading title, somewhat. The book starts brilliantly then halfway through it turns into some biography and history of Shakespeare for a considerable length of time. Whilst he and the entertainment industry at the time completely revolutionised what happened in this area for centuries to come, I felt the far too in-depth information on particular plays and Shakespeare himself to be detracting from the story of the city of London. The start is excellent though and really engages in an anthropological discussion about why people migrate to the city. All fairly obvious, but interesting nonetheless. Just a shame the start was the best bit.
"Fantastic Boook. Needs more Boris!"
It is a fantastically enthusiastic and enjoyable book, that kept me entertained every step of the way. I was a little disapointed when Boris stopped narrating after chapter 2 and only returned for two more chapters before the end. Once I got used to that it was great fun!
Thoroughly enjoyed this book. The story of London, illustrated through various well and lesser known characters, was fascinating. It was lively, absorbing and fascinating. I particularly loved the chapters read by Boris Johnson whose enthusiasm about his subject, wit, broad knowledge and
Intelligence shone through. You could almost see him! What a pity he only read a couple of chapters himself although the other narrator was very good, but somehow Johnson's sparkle was missing.
I have also enjoyed Johnson's book on Churchill and do wish more of his books were available on Audible, especially if read by the author.
"Bit of a mish-mash - like London itself"
Some parts are a lot more interesting than others. Boris has a magpie sensibility which hones in on certain sparkly individuals and ignores everyone else. He has soft spots for Robert Hooke and John Wilkes of the 17th and 18th centuries, whom he focuses on to the detriment of everyone else alive at the time. The 75 minutes spent just on John Wilkes was immensely tedious after the first 20 minutes. I felt a bit like a tourist who was persuaded to visit several worthy sites when I'd rather have been walking round more entertaining venues. Altogether a bit of a mish-mash.
Boris only reads a very few bits at the beginning and the end, giving the impression that he just turned up for the first day of recording. So one star off for that, and another deducted for my pet hate of lazily chopping the audiobook into 20 minutes chunks rather than proper chapters.
"Not read by Boris"
Not unless it was really read by Boris
Not read by Boris
The graphic of this book clearly states "Read by the author". Sadly this is not the case. It should say "Read a little bit by the author". So if you are expecting Boris to read his book then don't buy this
"Best read in a longtime."
Very jealous of Boris' command of English and descriptive style. Super interesting read. I am now filled with useless but interesting info about my city
"Thoroughly entertaining - history on a human scale"
One of the joys of reading well-written history is the recognition that people who lived centuries ago were not all that different from people living now, and that many of the great mysteries of the past can be illuminated by asking how people today would react in the same circumstances.
Boris Johnson is a master at this. The pictures he paints of Boudicca battling incompetent and greedy Roman bureaucrats, Robert Hooke creating wonderful inventions and implacable enemies with equal ease, and the marvellously rascally John Wilkes bending every law to get himself elected could be fables explaining how public life works in London today.
Although these portraits are written with warmth, humour and affection, Johnson does not shy away from the darker side of his subjects' characters. These are real people, described in the round, who have each made some remarkable contribution to the city he clearly loves.
The early chapters are the best. I'm afraid that Keith Richards just isn't as interesting a character as Samuel Johnson, and the chapter on Churchill is strangely thin - as if he had to be included, but Johnson's heart just wasn't in the task of summarising his faults and his achievements.
But this is a terrific listen, even if Boris doesn't actually read it all himself. Highly recommended for anyone with even a passing interest in how London came to be.
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