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on 30 July 2006
As a London Cabbie I pride myself on the knowledge I have not only of routes through and around London, but also the many interesting and different places hidden away or just not thought about as we pass along the busy thoroughfares of London. I think that the cabbies will like this one.

This is a book about London and its peculiar architecture, which we pass everyday in the cab without so much as a second glance. One hundred buildings are identified as being the strangest and enigmatic. The introduction describes London as lacking an urban masterplan and is shown in contrast to Nazi Berlin, Paris or even Babylon. London's chief glory lies not in the theatrical effect of triumphant avenues aligned along carefully drafted axes, or meticulously planned grid of street and square, but rather in its many historic and often highly individual buildings.So the introduction goes.

The book is full of excellent black and white photographs, that show the buildings in a light, which could not be done justice in colour strange as though they might seem. With each photograph most of which are full page, the author gives a brief pen portrait of each location, which includes a history.

The book has ten chapters and each section deals with a specific aspect of architecture. For example, in the first chapter entitled "Tudor Manor Born" the author introduces Abbot's House, Deans Yard, Westminster moving on to Albany and Piccadilly. Crosby Hall features and once we have read through the text we discover that Crosby Hall was moved brick by brick from the City to its current site in Chelsea in 1908. You will pass it on Cheyne Walk just after Danvers Street. There always seems to be something going on there and it looks as though the builders will be there for a while longer.

Not only does the book describe and illustrate interesting buildings within central London, the author also brings to our attention many other buildings which we might only know about if we lived in a particular locality. For example Severndroog Castle? Who? you might say. This is located in Castlewood Park, SE18. Many of us cabbies who did the knowledge will probably have seen the tower at Clock Tower Place N7. The story associated with this tower is that after several hundred years of cattle slaughter in the city it was decided to transfer the trading of livestock to Islington. The story goes that this market attracted the ne'er do wells and there was a large illegitimate trade attached to the market with thieves running alive. After the war it was knocked down for development and the more legitimate traders moved to Bermondsey. Hence the New Caledonian Market, which still exists today in Bermondsey Street by Long Lane.

There are many other illustrations and descriptions and the book would be an interesting addition to the bookshelves of those cab drivers who are interested in the aspects of London presented here. Most enjoyable and worth the purchase.
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on 29 September 2006
If you thought you knew London, think again. David Long's book combines in-depth research, with a talent for quirky anecdote. Such human-interest brings the tasteful black and white photos to life and distinguishes Spectacular Vernacular from other, sometimes fusty, architectural manuals. It's easy to dip into as it deals with one building at a time - text facing photograph - so there's no need to flip back and forth between pages. Once your curiosity is piqued, however, it is hard to put down. Will appeal to Londoners, and visitors alike.
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on 28 April 2006
The trouble with most London books is they cover the same old ground as all the others. This one really doesn't though, being instead packed with intriguing facts about people and places most of us should know about but don't along with lots of buildings most of haven't noticed but should have, and then dozens more which, whilst we all recognise them, we probably haven't a clue what they are or what goes on in there. The only pity is that its large, copiously illustrated format makes it way too big to stick in my pocket whilst walking round these fascinating corners of this great capital city.
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on 6 August 2006
One of THE most imaginative books on the capital, which really does reach the parts other books don't. Ignores the obvious, and goes straight for the stuff you never even knew you wanted to know about. Lovely pics as well
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on 17 July 2006
An honest and real guide to the buildings that makes London what it is and isn't. It's also a partial explanation for why the English are who they are. Long's book in main avoids the standard tourist and more recognisable buildings but instead studies the buildings that really are unique and different. In short the 'extraordinary' buildings.

The interesting thing is that so many of the buildings in this book are those that you might have walked past once or twice or more and not realised just how unique or important they are.

If you want a tour of what London is really about architecturally and do it from your couch then this is a wonderful place to start. Or get off the couch and take it with you.

A fascinating insight.
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on 14 May 2006
If like me,you have spent endless hours tramping the streets of London ,looking through the doors and gates of buildings, wondering, what goes on there?Who works or lives there?What did it start out as?

Then David Long's book is the answer to your prayers.It provides the answers to many of the secrets behind London's buildings.

The book, to quote Forrest Gump is, ' A BOX OF CHOCOLATES'.

As you work your way through the layers you start off with some old favourites,which you never tire of. The real treat is finding something that either you never knew existed or more importantly as you begin to unwrap it you find a little gem.'Spectacular Vernacular' has them all.It does not disappoint!

The author clearly knows his subjects and like a good raconteur adds to our knowledge in an easy and witty style.Beautifully photographed,the book is a real delight,

So as opposed to a box of chocolates open up this book's pages and savour the experience,
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on 16 June 2013
I was introduced to this book when staying in a hotel recently - it was lying on the coffee-table and looked interesting so I picked it up and started reading. Three hours later I finally put it down, have been taken on a trip through London that was both fascinating and informative. I now want to look out for these buildings on my next trip to the capital, having used the book to remind myself of their history first.
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on 28 April 2006
Ever walked past a strange-looking or secretive building in the centre of London, meaning at some point to find out what it is - only then you get home and forget all about it til the next time? Then this is the book for you. Detailing 100 of the strangest, full of unexpected information and fascinating anecdotes about the people who built or live in them, it'll tell you everything you need to know.
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on 1 June 2006
I've lived in London for 30 years, but I must have spent most of that time walking around with my eyes closed. David Long's fabulous book has made me take greater stock of my surroundings and made me look behind the familiar.

Spectacular Vernacular is a wonderful 'dipping' book. Keep it by the bed or in the loo and dip when the fancy takes you. Roll on volume two.
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on 21 May 2013
Just when you think that you have read everything you need to know about our capital city, along comes a book like Spectacular Vernacular. Splendid, informative read on London's 100 most extraordinary buildings, and a must for anyone who revels in this kind of book.
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