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42 of 46 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating facts related with humour
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...
Published on 14 July 2011 by Shazjera

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
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. Throw in a bit of map trivia and Tube trivia and what could go wrong?

Well, for a start, you could find that most of what you saw was not very interesting. Just endless housing estates and main...
Published 5 months ago by MisterHobgoblin


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42 of 46 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating facts related with humour, 14 July 2011
By 
Shazjera (Bournemouth) - See all my reviews
(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. I think I would probably be fazed if he rang my doorbell but would recover and invite him in for a cuppa!

My navigational skills are dire and I've always detested maps. However, reading this book has given me a different perspective. I don't think I will ever feel the same again when I look at a map!

If you like Bill Bryson's books then you will certainly enjoy this book.

I would like to thank Random House Books for sending me a copy to review.
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29 of 33 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.
I have to say I think his wife is very tolerant of what may seem like a pointless endeavor, I loved the interaction between them, and all the fabulous people he met on his journey brought a whole new perspective.
As a non-fiction book it took me slightly longer to read than fiction, but I thoroughly enjoyed it, and was glad I read it.

Stand back Bill Bryson, you've got competition, Mark Mason is on the scene.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Walk On By, 27 Mar 2014
By 
MisterHobgoblin (Melbourne) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
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This review is from: Walk the Lines: The London Underground, Overground (Kindle Edition)
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. Throw in a bit of map trivia and Tube trivia and what could go wrong?

Well, for a start, you could find that most of what you saw was not very interesting. Just endless housing estates and main roads threading through industrial estates – interspersed by visits to the same central London locations you have visited on your previous three lines. You might fail to meet interesting people and instead have to pad out an entire line’s narrative with the planning guy from the City of London. Or you might find the top of the NatWest Tower a bit disappointing.

You see, these types of travelogue books depend so much on the geniality of the company. I would trek every mile of the Andes with Michael Palin because he is an all round entertaining guy who observes without judging. Or I might walk along the River with Iain Sinclair whose depth of knowledge of local historic arcana is unparalleled. Or I could walk along the Irish Border with Colm Toibin, whose flawless use of language is used to show, not tell.

But Mark Mason is no Palin, Sinclair or Toibin. He is prissy and judgemental; his trivia is superficial and probably came out of Schott’s Miscellany; and his writing is clunky. He tries so hard to be wry but it falls flat. He finds irony where there is no irony; he finds meaning where there is no meaning. And most of all, it is so repetitive. Each walk starts out with earnest but dull observation of the tiniest details of his surroundings. No shop is too small to mention; no station too bland to describe.

After taking half the chapter to travel the first four stations, then a long conversation, the remaining stations are barely mentioned. Whitechapel to Upminster in half a page. This is a big failing since most readers will be Londoners looking for some kind of namecheck for their own station. And after reading pages of loving description of Wimbledon or Morden, it’s a bit galling to find your own Bromley-By-Bow or Totteridge & Whetstone dismissed as a passing mention, sharing a sentence with other stations. It’s as though Mark Mason has bored himself with the walk. And as line after line is paraded, Mason feels the need to inject novelty for its own sake. The Circle Line is done as a pub crawl – in which he is abandoned by his travelling companion. The Jubilee Line is done at night, thereby guaranteeing that nothing of interest will be seen and nobody of interest will be met. The final line – the Metropolitan – was done at Christmas, in the snow.

Mark Mason keeps namechecking Geoff Nicholson’s novel, Bleeding London, which was about a man who wanted to walk every street in London. Indeed, Nicholson flies in from Los Angeles to meet Mason on one of the walks. It is clear that the Underground project was inspired by Bleeding London, but the frequent name checks just make Mason’s book look two dimensional. Nicholson’s novel may have mentioned maps and walking, but it was about people, not buildings. It was the story that mattered, and Walk The Lines has no story.

The high point of the book, such as it is, is the appearance of Bill Drummond, erstwhile member of the KLF. Drummond is a conceptual artist who has more ideas in his little finger than Mason packs into a book – and his concept of a Cake Circle is really quite wonderful. If Cake Circles appeal, then this is your book. Otherwise, try Bleeding London. Or Pole to Pole. Or Lights Out For The Territory.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It's "Ho-bun," not "Hol-born.", 10 May 2014
By 
Joseph Haschka (Glendale, CA USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)   
"There's no one place where you can stand and say, 'This is it ‒ I've found London.' Never stops you looking, though." ‒ from WALK THE LINES

"Yes, London is a great anvil on which to hammer out the truth, but eventually you realize it's the truth about what you're not rather than what you are. London, you see on a Sunday evening, isn't going to add a magical ingredient to your personality ... As I traipse yet more deserted streets to Olympia station, where an empty train pulls in to collect passengers who aren't there, and then back through a quietening Earl's Court to my hotel , all those 'face the truth' London Sundays fill my memory. God, I hate this place sometimes." ‒ from WALK THE LINES

Ok, ok. I love London more than any city I've ever lived in or visited. And riding The Tube embodies, for me, the essence of being there. Yet Mark Mason, the author of WALK THE LINES, herein does something I'd never want or attempt to do on my best days even if I was decades younger ‒ walk between the stations on each of the Underground's lines (Victoria, Bakerloo, Central, Hammersmith and City, District, Northern, Circle, Piccadilly, Waterloo and City, Jubilee, and Metropolitan.) As a purist, he ignored the DLR (Docklands Light Railway), which, like London Overground, comes under the umbrella of London Rail rather than London Underground.

That's 269 stations visited ‒ some more than once, e.g. King's Cross with six visits on six lines and Holborn ("Ho-bun") twice on two lines ‒ and 403.2 miles walked in 174 hours and 50 minutes spread over the period June through December, 2010.

The armchair traveler might think that WALK THE LINES is chock-a-block filled with interesting information and trivia about places passed and sights seen along the way. Granted, many of the streets and roads Mark travels are necessarily dull. I mean, how much can you say about residential areas or various combinations of chemist, estate agent, Indian take-away, bank, Tesco or Sainsbury, pub, launderette, and post office? At times in the narrative, he positively sprints past station after station. But, still. When passing down Queen Victoria Street approaching Bank station, he remarks on the juxtaposition of buildings from widely separated eras but doesn't mention the foundation ruins of the Roman Temple of Mithras there on the right. And, when sauntering down Charing Cross Road between Charing Cross and Tottenham Court Road stations, he completely ignores Foyles, that most iconic of bookstores, over on the left. And he's a writer by profession! Yes, there is narrative fill, but sometimes the omissions are just too glaring to ignore.

Realizing, perhaps, that there was a certain sameness to his approach for walking each line, Mason does do the Jubilee Line at night, and he and a friend turn the Circle Line circuit into a pub crawl that has the author imbibing "4 halves of bitter, 1 of mild, 1 of IPA, 2 of cider, 8 of lager, 3 bottles of lager, 1 gin and tonic, 5 vodka and tonics, 1 vodka, lime and soda, and 1 Pimm's."

But, that's not to say that WALK THE LINES is not without nuggets. Perhaps two of the best are Mark's conversations with Rachel, who's studying the mind-boggling Knowledge (of London's streets) that will allow her to become a licensed cabbie, and with Tim Bentinck, who for 15 years was the Piccadilly Line's "mind the gap" voice.

For me, the successful travel narrative compels me to either want to visit or positively avoid a place. Of course, I need no excuse to visit London. However, WALK THE LINES adds little to what my past experience with the city has been or what I hope future experience will be. That said, however, I must still award Mason's book four stars simply for documenting a stiff upper-lip achievement. How can one not but admire the determination to finish a self-assigned project that, at its lowest point, would cause him to write (on the Piccadilly Line):

"The final few miles are hard work, harder with every step. Well past 30 miles for the day now. That seems to be the figure at which the endorphin-high begins to wear off, its place taken at first by a neutrally vacant feeling, then actual depression. Everything is viewed through this new prism ... Between North Ealing and Ealing Common a couple sit on opposite sides of a table in their front room, each staring silently at a laptop. They're probably just catching up on emails, but I insist on seeing an imminent divorce."
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bringing Harry Becks map to life, 20 Jan 2012
By 
Bantam Dave (Bradford, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
One year I had a diary which included a map of the London Underground. I must have passed hours studying this map in an attempt to pass the time as my bus dawdled its way back home after work. It wasn't the names of the famous stations that drew my attention; places like Oxford Street, Piccadilly Circus and Marble Arch held no mystery to me having visited them many times in the past, but it was the more obscure destinations like Theydon Bois, Dollis Hill, Osterley, Arnos Green and Perivale that really fired my imagination. I pictured a burnt oak at Burnt Oak and Alps reminiscent of Switzerland at Alperton. Thankfully, I can't remember what I imagined there would be at Cockfosters. I knew then that it was unlikely that I would ever visit those places and twenty or so years on I still haven't. Having just finished this book though, I feel like I have just done the next best thing.

Mark Masons recounting of his project to walk the entire 400 mile length of the London Underground makes for a truly fascinating book that works brilliantly well. Not only is it a story of a great adventure - Mason walks one of the lines in deep snow, another in the early hours of the morning and one in the form of a giant pub crawl - but it is also extremely informative, containing hundreds of facts that you never knew about London. It is well written; generally light hearted and amusing but never shying away from taking a serious turn when the situation (or district covered) warrants it. The thing that I enjoyed about it most though, was that it allowed me to read about those strange sounding places first brought to my attention by Harry Becks iconic Underground map.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unmissable, 8 Jan 2012
By 
Timothy Gowen "Tim Gowen" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I got this book for Christmas and I loved it so much! Everyone who's lived or does live in London will get something out of looking up the author's walk through their area. But as a picture of modern London, with historical context as the Underground expanded the size of the city, it's an essential read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A different persepctive on London, 21 Sep 2011
By 
Robert Ward (Leeds, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
The network diagram of the London Underground system has achieved iconic status and has been much emulated. It boasts of being the oldest and second largest system in the world and to transport a billion passenger journeys a year (give or take a few). Trying to visit all the stations in one day is an intriguing challenge for those so inclined. Mark Mason takes a different perspective however. He travels the various routes of the Underground system at ground level, describing the various places and communities he encounters en route. And they're pretty varied! It's a fascinating book, especially for Londoners who are familiar with Underground warren but rarely, if ever, venture above ground. London is famously a collection of villages, whose residents don't often go outside their home territory. So this is a good book for Londoners to find out something about the parts they don't normally reach, and find out whether there really are dragons there!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A delighful journey, 8 Sep 2011
A delightful read, those readers who love London and love its eclectic history will enjoy this book by Mark Mason. Not a book for transport and trivia geeks this book is full of interesting anecdotes and is an excellent insight into the history and development of London through its transport network. A great concept and a very easy read.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it., 3 Dec 2012
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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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7 of 9 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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