Current Mayor of London, active journalist and prominent politician Boris Johnson takes American readers on a breathless bicycle ride through his favorite city--the source of many of his columns and articles in Britain's print media. Amusingly titled 'Johnson's Life of London,' the book suggests that other famous Londoner--Dr. Samuel Johnson, the wit and lexicographer. Certainly, his work shares the zest for life and for words found in the earlier Dr. Johnson. Boris Johnson introduces us to London while walking his bicycle across London Bridge; thus bridging many a gap in history and culture and beginning as he means to go on.
Americans will love this book if they have any interest in the city or any plans to visit it. London's citizens should feel that their mayor has 'done them proud' in this warm appreciation for the major personages, buildings, ideas and movements that make this city--in his eyes--the most vital in the world and the 'nest' out of which so many fine things have hatched. Johnson's scope is vast but not necessarily superficial. His learning is large and, one senses, that this account of his is selective and that he could have told many more equally compelling stories. Bridging the past and present, Boris Johnson takes us back to the first Roman foundations of London and its early tribulations under the onslaught of the furious Queen Boudica. He brings us up-to-date on archeological findings from the Roman era, including an appreciation of the Emperor Hadrian and the beginnings of Christian worship in London and the precursor of St. Paul's Cathedral. He has zippy chapters on Alfred the Great, William the Conqueror, Goeffrey Chaucer and a myth-debunking sketch of the early financier-Lord Mayor of London, Dick Whittington. William Shakespeare and London's role in developing the world's public theaters, the importance of the English language to world history (as exemplified in the King James Bible, as well as through Chaucer and Shakespeare) also come in for Johnson's thoughtful and upbeat treatment. One even gets the mayor's take on the importance of Keith Richards to the music of the Rock and Roll era and the role of London in 'giving back' some musical traditions to the United States. (The Beatles, being from Liverpool, are secondary to his chosen topic.)
This book is a marvelous blend of fact and opinion that only the 'quirky' type of English writer could have produced and it will go on my bookshelf along with other important works about British culture and travel to London.