Johnson's Life of London: The People Who Made the City that Made the World

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Overview

The exhilarating story of how London came to be one of the most exciting and influential places on earth—from the city’s colorful, witty, and well-known mayor.

Once a swampland that the Romans could hardly be bothered to conquer, over the centuries London became an incomparably vibrant metropolis that has produced a steady stream of ingenious, original, and outsized figures who have shaped the world we know.

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Johnson's Life of London: The People Who Made the City that Made the World

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Overview

The exhilarating story of how London came to be one of the most exciting and influential places on earth—from the city’s colorful, witty, and well-known mayor.

Once a swampland that the Romans could hardly be bothered to conquer, over the centuries London became an incomparably vibrant metropolis that has produced a steady stream of ingenious, original, and outsized figures who have shaped the world we know.

Boris Johnson, the internationally beloved mayor of London, is the best possible guide to these colorful characters and the history in which they played such lively roles. Erudite and entertaining, he narrates the story of London as a kind of relay race. Beginning with the days when “a bunch of pushy Italian immigrants” created Londinium, he passes the torch on down through the famous and the infamous, the brilliant and the bizarre—from Hadrian to Samuel Johnson to Winston Churchill to the Rolling Stones—illuminating with unforgettable clarity the era each inhabited. He also pauses to shine a light on innovations that have contributed to the city’s incomparable vibrancy, from the King James Bible to the flush toilet.

As wildly entertaining as it is informative, this is an irresistible account of the city and people that in large part shaped the world we know.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“A sparkling blend of history, biography, and geography… Johnson’s exuberant paean makes a persuasive case that genius breeds genius.” –The New York Times Book Review

“Flush with anecdotes on everyone from Queen Boudica to Keith Richards…by another unique London personality, the tow-headed, bicycle-riding Mayor Boris Johnson.” –Vogue

“[A] chummy, chatty history... [Boris] has a flair for describing personalities.” –Smithsonian

“[Johnson’s] knowledge of London is wide and deep, and he dispenses that history with intelligence and affection.” –The Chicago Tribune

“With the wit and wisdom for which he is famous, Boris Johnson tells the story of the vibrant city he fell in love with long before he grew up to run it.” –Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg

“Boris Johnson is Britain's most popular politician. He is also its wittiest—and most erudite. In this book he turns his love for London and his stint as its mayor into an edifying and entertaining romp. There is no voice on the international political stage, and few within the pages of any book, as eclectic, learned, hilarious, and wonderful as his. Not since Winston Churchill has a future Prime Minister of Britain written so well.” –Michael Wolff, Vanity Fair

“Engaging... a highly entertaining work of popular history.” –Publishers Weekly

“A lively thematic guide…the author shows that there is much more to London than Big Ben, London Bridge and William Shakespeare.” –Kirkus

“An entertainingly irreverent take on a powerhouse city.” –Library Journal

UK Praise for Johnson's Life of London

“[Johnson] exudes excitement and wonder about the city he grew up in and which he now leads. He loves London in all its frantic, grubby, creative glory, and wants to make us feel that way too. … Revealing anecdotes go far beyond familiar guidebook tales [and] Johnson’s unerring eye for detail catches your attention but also moves his story on.” –The Daily Mail

“Here’s Boris, pedaling madly through the history of the capital… Through portraits of its famous residents… Johnson gives us his very own London, and we can’t but be glad that he did.” –The Times

“The stories of both the subjects and the city are brilliantly told [and show] an eye for detail that would do Savile Row proud… Resist[s] easy caricature to paint complex pictures of flawed humans." –The Spectator

Michael Wolff
Boris Johnson is Britain's most popular politician. He is also its wittiest—and most erudite. In this book he turns his love for London and his stint as its mayor into an edifying and entertaining romp. There is no voice on the international political stage, and few within the pages of any book, as eclectic, learned, hilarious, and wonderful as his. Not since Winston Churchill has a future Prime Minister of Britain written so well. (Michael Wolff, Vanity Fair)
Kirkus Reviews
The mayor of London demonstrates that understanding his city requires an acquaintance with key historical personages, from Alfred the Great to Keith Richards. On the eve of the 2012 Summer Olympics, the author provides a lively thematic guide to the city's historical evolution as represented by the legacy of notable Londoners, ancient and modern, from the Romans who overran the city to the great statesman who staunchly defended it from attack, Winston Churchill. Johnson has served as mayor since 2008, previously the editor of The Spectator and thus a trained, amiable journalist. With an engaging, felicitous tone, the author obviously enjoys offering his account of what the English have done best, from spreading the good word in the form of the King James Bible to parliamentary democracy and habeas corpus to the marvels of the English language. Johnson pays tribute to numerous illustrious Londoners, some better known than others--e.g., the early avenger Boudica, the first in a tradition of powerful female leaders; a previous mayor, 15th-century financier Richard Whittington; a fabulously inventive, now-forgotten genius of the 17th century, Robert Hooke; eccentric civil libertarian John Wilkes; Samuel Johnson and his lexicographic wit; saintly nurses Florence Nightingale and Mary Seacole, who challenged notions of hygiene and ventilation in the treatment of disease; and W.T. Stead, inventor of tabloid journalism with his work on the Pall Mall Gazette in the mid 19th century. Along the way there are shorter bios of some incredibly important innovators and inventors, such as Sir John Harington, godson of Queen Elizabeth I and fashioner of the flush toilet of which she was so fond; Beau Brummel and his now-ubiquitous men's suit; and Denis Johnson and his significant modifications on the bicycle in 19th-century London. In this amusing, rah-rah pep rally for the imminent crush of summer tourists, the author shows that there is much more to London than Big Ben, London Bridge and William Shakespeare.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594631467
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/7/2013
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 208,170
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Boris Johnson is the very popular and internationally known Mayor of London. Educated at Oxford, he began his career as a journalist, writing for the Times and the Telegraph (for whom he still contributes a regular column), and working his way up to editor of the Spectator. He is the author of Johnson’s Life of London (Riverhead, 2012) and The Churchill Factor (Riverhead, 2014). He was elected to the House of Commons in 2001 and served there until he was elected Mayor in 2008. Johnson is a regular on British television and radio. He lives in London with his wife and four children.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 6 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 18, 2012

    Vada 1940

    Conversational style, lively, erudite.
    Highly recommmmended.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 29, 2012

    Who Else But Boris?

    Who else but the mayor of London, Boris Johnson, to discuss its world-famed sons and daughters? This is an intelligent, decidedly pleasant summer read. And if you're going to London for the Olympics, it's a splendid introduction to the city, ranging from the ancients, such as Boudica and Hadrian, to a swinging contemporary like Keith Richards. Now that's range for "The People Who Made the City That Made the World."

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 1, 2012

    Terrific book from the Mayor of London

    This was from beginning to end a real treat. Informative, but not dry and dusty. The writer is very skilled and also very funny. It's a great read. I have no reservation recommending it everyone - and in fact I have.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 14, 2012

    History textbooks should be written this way

    If Boris Johnson had written the history textbooks I encountered in my early school years, I would have fallen in love with the subject much earlier. Now I must go to London to see the places he describes, although many of the buildings no longer exist. His words had me on-site through many of the events in the lives of the city's most famous residents. This book would make a wonderful gift because it is so entertaining.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 1, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 14, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews

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