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Johnson's Life of London: The People Who Made the City That Made the World Hardcover – 27 Oct 2011

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 322 pages
  • Publisher: HarperPress; 1st edition (27 Oct. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007418930
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007418930
  • Product Dimensions: 15.9 x 3.5 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 37,167 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Boris Johnson was elected Mayor of London in May 2008. Before this he was the Editor of the Spectator and Member of Parliament for Henley on Thames. He is the author of many books, notably Have I Got Views for You and Dream of Rome.

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Review

“Revealing anecdotes go far beyond familiar guide-book tales…Johnson’s unerring eye for detail catches your attention but also moves his story on…Johnson sets out his stall for London’s future with such patent sincerity that you’d have to be stony-hearted not to go along for the ride” Mail on Sunday

“As the thumbnail sketches accumulate, we come to realise just how like Boris all the London heroes have been” Evening Standard

“Boris’s book is half the size, a lighter weight in every way….it is the work of a journalist….someone with a love of painting word pictures ….this is a book of hidden gems….his vocabulary is extraordinary and his polymathery a joy….as he cycles through history….we glimpse him everywhere….it is best when Boris’s enthusiasms are on display, as exuberant as a vase of bird-of-paradise blooms” The Times

“Johnson’s sketchbook diverts……(while) Livingstone’s doorstop apologia will try the patience of the most obsessional geek”. The Independent

About the Author

Boris Johnson was elected Mayor of London in May 2008. Before this he was the Editor of the Spectator and Member of Parliament for Henley on Thames. He is the author of many books, notably Have I Got Views for You and Dream of Rome.


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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By T. J. Collcutt on 31 Jan. 2012
Format: Hardcover
This is Boris's cleverly constructed manifesto to secure his next sojourn as London's Mayor and it's better than stuffing pamphlets through doors. He shows a love of London and an instinctive grasp of what makes Londoners tick, presented in his unique Beano-like style where he lays his scholarship under a veneer of prep-school vulgarity and japery. You get the feeling this is a rather well-educated toff having fun; Private Eye of course has captured the vernacular perfectly in its Boris lampoons. The reader/voter can feel Boris is not taking himself too seriously and nobody likes a pompous politician. From Roman times to the present he continually updates himself with references to the Euro or recession.He pays homage to big finance and big ideas without which we wouldn't have a London, but he also takes a pot now and again at bankers and money-men.He covers the building of the city from all angles of its culture, brown-nosing nobody but appreciative of the myriad skills that go into making London, from the real story of wealthy Dick Whittington to the foresight of Joseph Bazalgette and his sewers.He overdid it a bit extolling the virtues and importance of Keith Richards and the Stones and his final chapter is unashamed vote seeking even down to the desirability of his pet project, the Thames Estuary Airport. But whatever your politics this is gripping and educational and downright hilarious stuff, while its accuracy and viewpoint will be questioned endlessly as every historical document should be. I'd rather read this than the election address that's just landed in my letter-box....
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Peter Rust on 31 Dec. 2011
Format: Hardcover
I was given this book by a relation who, to my knowledge, has never voted Conservative, so it came as quite a surprise.
Boris clearly loves to entertain as well as inform. There is also the teasing - each chapter contains a word I have never heard of - is he creating a new lexicon?
This book is full of vitality and energy and has evidently had a huge amount of research. Where did he find the time?
Peter Rust
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By S. Becker on 27 Jan. 2012
Format: Hardcover
Thank goodness for a man who can say what he thinks (and put it into print), and not give a fig about what anyone else thinks. In Boris Johnson's account of the personalities that shaped London, we find a book which is unashamedly personal and indulgent. Endearingly, it reveals the hopes and values of the author. And yet any narcissism is disarmed by the highly entertaining, tongue-in-cheek conversational style it is written in. One can't help but laugh - frequently.

Johnson's Life of London is not an academic work. The factual information is limited to the bare basics required to set the scene. What Johnson is interested in sharing is the humanity and life force of his subjects. He makes it clear that any great city is a product of the personalities that inhabit it as much as the historical events that occur. He also argues strongly that great cities inspire competition amongst individuals, thereby leading to intellectual progress. Johnson dicusses how the 16th century theatres, bidding for audience share, promoted the emergence of Shakespeare; the 18th century feuds within the Royal Society gave us Newton and Robert Hooke; the 19th century competition in the Royal Academy produced Turner and Constable.

Johnson has chosen his subjects with this central thesis in mind. In addition, Johnson clearly identifies with and idealises many of them. The longest chapter in the book is devoted to John Wilkes - journalist turned Mayor of London. Second prize goes to Winston Churchill. He lauds unfailing principles (even when unpopular), the ability to influence others into action, and a healthy dose of eccentricity as admirable character traits. In the end, I couldn't help but think that Johnson himself would like to be added to his own book in the future. On the cover art, he is riding the bicycle. Turn to the back however, and there is an empty seat. Perhaps reserved for you.
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Boris is great on 22 Nov. 2011
Format: Hardcover
History comes alive only when written from the heart and Johnson's is full of swashbuckling japes, bloodthirsty yells and energetic sideswipes. A fantastic read. Sean - did you read the wrong book?
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Geoffrey Woollard VINE VOICE on 15 Jan. 2012
Format: Hardcover
Boris Johnson has been 'Boris the buffoon' in my book for as long as I can recall but, despite that, he seems still to propel himself to greater popularity. I was given this book by two much-loved relatives who like the fellow and I wrote to them as follows:

"Dear ****** and *****,

As it appears that Boris Johnson is in with a chance of becoming the next Tory leader, I'd better bone up on him more than I had previously (when I was convinced that he was just a blond-haired buffoon with a good classical education). Therefore, your Christmas present to me has come at an opportune time and, what's more, I hadn't already got it - and, what's even more, I had got it on my mental list to get (along with a biography of Otto von Bismarck: I go for high flyers). It's just the sort of 'stuff' that I like and given to me by two people whom I like very much!"

Having now read the book, I can appreciate better why it is that otherwise nice and sensible people go head-over-heels for the blond-haired buffoon for he writes amusingly and engagingly about a subject that is - for the present, at least - closest to his heart.

Boris (most folk call him that: he seems to need no surname nowadays) is a charismatic mayor of London and he is a fine historian of London. The book, which, irritatingly, has no index nor reference notes, was evidently written in some haste and with, I guess, no more fact checking than an Old Etonian with a good classical education would think that he needed and such effort that the mayor put it into it makes for a rollicking read (rather like the author's articles in the Daily Telegraph).

The thing is, did I enjoy it? Yes, I did, and it had me laughing out loud at many moments.
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