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Johnson's Life of London: The People Who Made the City That Made the World [Hardcover]

Boris Johnson
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
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Book Description

27 Oct 2011

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 from Boudacea to the Rolling Stones.

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 .

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Johnson's Life of London: The People Who Made the City That Made the World + The Spirit of London + The Dream of Rome
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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: 16 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 97,244 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.

Product Description


“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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Boris's Beano 31 Jan 2012
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
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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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bright, breezy, populist and pacy 22 Nov 2011
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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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
By James Gallen TOP 1000 REVIEWER
A city has a life and a history to match its magnitude. Fortunately for London, and for us, it has a worthy chronicler of its march of heroes. Author and Lord Mayor, Boris Johnson, has put together this alluring book about The People Who Made the City That Made the World. Johnson provides brief biographies of the featured persons with a particular focus on the crucial role each played in the making of London. Some are familiar names of whom we learn more about their contributions to London and others are names we have never heard of but should.

From chapter to chapter we read of Boudica, the native woman whose attack convinced the Romans to reestablish their authority, Hadrian, the Emperor who made London the capitol of the province of Britain, Melitius, the Sixth Century missionary who brought Christianity back to London, and Alfred the Great, the Anglo-Saxon king who restored London only to have it taken by William the Conqueror who made his new city a center of trade.

A city is not built only of bricks and masonry. It needs a life of the mind, of arts and letters that was provided by the five of the subjects: Geoffrey Chaucer, William Shakespeare, Samuel Johnson, J. M. W. Turner and Keith Richards. What I found to be most interesting is the way that these chapters go beyond the artistic veneers to introduce the reader to the men behind the legends, those who contributed more to his city than is apparent to the general public.

Any great city needs money and two titans of finance are featured. The first is a London Giant about whom I had never heard, Richard Whittington, who made a fortune, served as mayor and endowed a foundation that, 600 years later, continues to support the needy in the city he helped shape.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An indulgent romp through London's history 27 Jan 2012
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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and educational book on the history of London
Boris Johnson loves London and this book is a tribute to his favourite city ever. He shows us how well he knows it, and selects and portrays historical charactes that have helped... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Langevin Lucie
4.0 out of 5 stars great fun and interesting
Boris isnt just a pretty face. Clearly he wants to become, possibly is, Winston Churchill re incarnated. A pleasure to read
Published 3 months ago by Pennysail
5.0 out of 5 stars johnsons life of london
This interesting and informative book is written in a lively style which makes it a deliciously easy read. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Timelady
5.0 out of 5 stars A positive look at why we must continue to invest in London.
I really enjoyed this summary look at the development of London. The way it has been written makes it fun to read as well as being so informative across a wide range of subjects. Read more
Published 14 months ago by V. Simpson
5.0 out of 5 stars wow
Boris Johnson's talent for writing about interesting people shows through - excellent stuff, A really good read, Stuff we all know and stuff nobody knows - wonderful.
Published 14 months ago by Susan
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth the price
This is one of the funniest histories of London I have ever read!

Boris knows his stuff and writes like he talk so takes you on a very visual guide of famous londoners... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Tigger1326
1.0 out of 5 stars Wrong book
Apparantly there is an updated version of this book called the Spirit of London which I thought I was ordering. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Mr. Peter C. Dobson
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully crafted story of the Londoners who changed everything!
I could not pout this book down as I was entertained, educated and enthused about this great city and those who made it that way. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Budd Margolis
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting
Not being a particular fan of Boris Johnson, I had originally bought this book for my father who then said he had already bought it. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Beads11
5.0 out of 5 stars As good as the Doctor
Boris writes this as if he's in the room chatting to you. He makes some pretty heavy content accessible and humorous...a pleasure to read.
Published 16 months ago by Sapper
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