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Johnson's Life of London: The People Who Made the City That Made the World    by Boris Johnson order for
Johnson's Life of London
by Boris Johnson
Order:  USA  Can
Riverhead, 2012 (2012)
Hardcover, Softcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Bob Walch

Although his public antics and bird's nest coiffeur may make many people dismiss him as a bit of an eccentric clown, Londonís mayor, Boris Johnson, is far more erudite than he at first appears.

As you read his latest book, Johnson's Life of London: The People Who Made the City That Made the World, you'll quickly realize that this former journalist knows how to craft a highly readable and entertaining book. Since he is the mayor of the city, one can understand Johnson's pride of place, and there are times when it is probably well to make allowances for his unabashed ardor.

Admittedly the city does have a rich history and this is an excellent way of learning about it without plowing through a dry, historical tome. With Johnson as your guide you'll meet some of the famous and not so famous colorful personalities that called London home.

The story begins with relatively short chapters on Boudica, Hadrian, Mellitus, Alfred the Great and William the Conqueror before they lengthen out with folks like Geoffrey Chaucer, Richard Whittington and William Shakespeare.

Since the focus is London, it makes sense that as the city grows in size and stature over time, we also begin to know about its famous inhabitants. While readers on this side of the Atlantic may be familiar with Samuel Johnson , J.M. Turner, Florence Nightingale, and Winston Churchill, other individuals, such as Robert Hooke, John Wilkes, Lionel Rothschild, Mary Seacole and W.T. Stead, may not be so easily recognizable.

I found the short, two and three page biographies of other notable Londoners Johnson sprinkles throughout the book especially interesting, since these individuals made contributions to society or the city that are often overlooked.

Among these vignettes are pieces on the Bow Street Runners, who were the forerunners of the city's modern police force, how George Bryan Brummell changed the way men dressed in the early 1800s, and the way Joseph Bazalgette created a sewer system that is in use up to this very day.

Whether he is discussing innovations, famous personages, or just the ways London has changed over the centuries, Boris Johnson makes this light-hearted tour of his favorite city one that anyone will find interesting. Even if you pride yourself on knowing a lot about London and British history, I dare say you'll still probably find quite a few tidbits you weren't aware of until you read this book.

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