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Walk the Lines: The London Underground, Overground [Hardcover]

Mark Mason
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
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Book Description

14 July 2011

As a lifelong fan of London, Mark Mason embarks on a mission to 'conquer' the capital once and for all. The only way to truly discover a city, they say, is on foot. Taking this to extremes, Mark sets out to walk the entire length of the London Underground - overground - passing every station on the way.

Over the course of several hundred miles, he comes to understand a sprawling metropolis that never ceases to surprise. In a story packed with historical trivia, personal musings and eavesdropped conversations, Mark learns how to get the best gossip in a City pub, how the Ritz made its female guests feel good about themselves, and why the Bank of England won't let you join the M11 northbound at Junction 5. He has an East End cup of tea with the Krays' official biographer, discovers what cabbies mean by 'on the cotton', and meets the Archers star who was the voice of 'Mind the Gap'.

On a broader level, Mark contemplates London's contradictions as well as its charms. He gains insights into our fascination with maps and sees how walking changes our view of the world. Above all, in this love letter to a complicated friend, he celebrates the sights, sounds and soul of the greatest city on earth.

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Walk the Lines: The London Underground, Overground + Do Not Alight Here: Walking London's Lost Underground and Railway Stations + London's Lost Rivers
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 376 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Books; 1st edition (14 July 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847946534
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847946539
  • Product Dimensions: 14.4 x 22.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 60,111 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Crammed with delightful facts, it's a constantly fascinating journey" (Shortlist)

"Mason, a lifelong Tube enthusiast, rediscovers the Underground by walking its routes overground" (The Times)

"Endlessly fascinating" (Spectator)

"This engaging foot puts its best foot forward with fascinating detail about both the Underground and its part in London's history" (Independent)

"Mark Mason's Walk the Lines follows his mission to walk overground the routes taken by the London Underground. In doing so he uncovers some surprising insights into the capital and its inhabitants" (Choice)

Book Description

An obsessive walks the entire London Underground system overground

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
41 of 45 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating facts related with humour 14 July 2011
By Shazjera TOP 1000 REVIEWER
The synopsis is exactly what you get on this journey walking the streets that run alongside the London Underground - but above ground.

There is so much interesting information shared - I found it fascinating. It's not just historical information (which I love) but insights into the businesses, shops, architecture and residents that populate those streets that the author walks. He can tell how affluent an area is and how much a part of the hub of London a place is. In a way, this book reminds me of the work of Charles Booth - Charles Booth completed a survey into life and labour in London dating from 1886 to 1903.

Another fascinating thing I found was the psychology of walking and map-reading that the author explores. As his journey progresses, he is affected on a deeper level and he finds insights into why he enjoys walking and why he needs this challenge. There is a lot of philosophy on what the journey actually means to him.

Mark Mason writes with humour - it is not a long drawn-out read. I found myself saying to my husband, `do you know why .....................?' and when he said no, telling him he would have to wait to read the book to find out!

It's not always Mark Mason walking on his own. Geoff Nicholson who is the author of Bleeding London and The Lost Art of Walking joins him at one point. They walk together from Camden Town to Highgate. His mate Richard joins him for the part of Harrow-to-Uxbridge and he also completes a pub-crawl on the Circle Line with another mate.

I was intrigued by the Cake Circle created by the ex-pop musician, Bill Drummond. I love the reason why he started this - again, there is a philosophy behind this.
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28 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Walking glory - brilliant 12 July 2011
I was contacted by Random House with the offer to review this book. As I love going to London, i thought this book sounded really interesting so I accepted. I received a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
Mark Mason decides the best way to conquer London would to be to walk the entire Tube system overground. Dividing the lines up he walks from station to station. Picking up conversations, observations and facts about his surroundings.
Each Line is a new chapter and has a map of that line at the start of the chapter, so you can follow his progress throughout the walk. I settled in to read this book and found myself thoroughly enjoying it. Mark has a witty sense of humour and makes some great observations on his walk, filled with sarcastic comments, thought provoking discussions and interesting facts. This book had me laughing along with it and my feet itching to go back to London. Some parts in London I have visited so I could picture exactly where he was, other parts were new to me, but I could picture where he was and what the area was like from his observations.
I took this book to work with me to read in my lunch break and I already have three people waiting to read it. I would sit there giggling or going 'ooh' at certain facts so my colleagues would ask 'what's that about then' and just from sharing snippets and talking about the book, they are as fascinated as I was.
The writing style flows well and takes you into the heart of the book. I felt like I really was walking along with him (without the sore feet and aching legs on my part!)
If you love London or just want to know more about this great City I really would recommend this book. It will make you see London in a whole new light and give you the urge to explore.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it. 3 Dec 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I love this style of writing, a mixture of diary telling and informative history. It's a subject that's close to my heart. I feel like I have got to know the author while reading the book and now feel its an undertaking I'd like to try myself, all be it in shorter stages. It reminds me of a "Wainwright" book. I recommend this book to anyone who likes maps, following maps, walking and trains. A great read.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thorough, but with a light touch 19 Dec 2011
I bought this book largely for sentimental reasons, as I was brought up in London, and visit from time to time.

Having said that, I did buy it with an element of apprehension, because a lot of ' clever travel literature ' can just sneer at places, because it is an easy thing to do. With a light & innovative touch, this book avoids that pitfall.

The other thing that makes this book pleasurable is, that it is that rare thing for a travel book, ' unputdownable '.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Highly enjoyable 15 April 2014
This book is a travelogue about walking the length of all eleven London Underground lines. In other words, London – and a fair bit of its outskirts – by foot. It’s undoubtedly an eccentric challenge, but it presents us with a very insightful view of modern London in all its forms – suburbs, industrial estates, open fields, the inner city and the point at which a poor area ends and an affluent one begins.

It’s not just about the places, mind you. On the way, Mason meets an interesting range of people, including the City of London planning officer, a novelist, a trainee cabbie and an actor from The Archers who did the ‘mind the gap’ announcements for part of the Piccadilly Line. He gets to climb up the NatWest Tower and Barnet Church. And he even manages to walk to Heathrow Airport.

As one would expect, there are some great pieces of Tube trivia here – for example, when the Metropolitan Railway opened in 1863, the Prime Minister (Lord Palmerston, who was 78 at the time) refused to attend on the grounds that at his age, he preferred to spend as much of his time above ground as possible. There is also an explanation for the convention of standing on the right on escalators. On a wider note, there’s a useful definition of what constitutes a modern-day high street from a man who, over the course of this book, has walked along rather a lot of them: “A high street ain’t a high street unless it can sell you a rawlplug.” (By this definition, I am pleased to report that High Road in East Finchley meets his requirement.) There is also plenty of food for thought for people who like maps, and in this sense Mason goes beyond the ‘I went to Stanfords to buy my maps’ travel-writer cliché.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars So interesting
As a daily tube traveller this is very interesting and I can bore all my colleagues (and my wife) with tube trivia
Published 9 days ago by Stephen Tross
2.0 out of 5 stars Walk On By
A great premise – walk every London Underground line in its entirety, on the surface, and report all the weird and wonderful sights you see and people you meet. Read more
Published 23 days ago by MisterHobgoblin
5.0 out of 5 stars Really interesting!
This book appealed to me as I have often thought that as a tourist to London, if you use the tube, you lose the sense of how one place connects to another above ground. Read more
Published 28 days ago by Elainedav
5.0 out of 5 stars Me? A Londoner? Gosh! I didn't realise!
Well I did really, but this mans unusual journey,with its quirky perspectives on London and the indispensable Tube system makes you realise the magic that is London, and the often... Read more
Published 1 month ago by S M DIX
2.0 out of 5 stars walk the line
not what I had anticipated. It was difficult to find locations and did not give me the travalogue experience that I sought. Disappointing.
Published 3 months ago by J. O. Mclean
5.0 out of 5 stars getting beneath things
A great book where information sneaks up on you, passes by and yet a few moments later you realise what you have read. Read more
Published 4 months ago by safety99
5.0 out of 5 stars Book kindle
Just started reeding so can't give review but find kindle very handy would recommend kindle to friends and family one of the best things I bot
Published 6 months ago by dez
5.0 out of 5 stars new discovery
this is a brilliant idea walking above the ground og the london underground
i liked the book and idea so much im going to walk the vivoria line in 2014 and hopefully other... Read more
Published 7 months ago by john whitehead
5.0 out of 5 stars Good
I ordered this book for my husband's birthday. It arrived swiftly and he is really enjoying reading all about the underground.
Published 8 months ago by Mrs. Nicolette J. Coleman
5.0 out of 5 stars An Inspiration
An inspirational and highly amusing book detailing Mark's walk along and around London's underground railway. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Dr Strangepants
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