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.
“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