March 6, 2012

Book Review: Londoners

Some people say true Londoners are born within the circle of the M25 motorway. Others say you're a Londoner if you've lived there for a "great deal of time." In search of 'true' Londoners, Craig Taylor spent five years interviewing scores of people, then turned those interviews into essays for Londoners: The Days and Nights of London Now--As Told by Those Who Love It, Hate It, Live It, Left It, and Long for It. It may have a long subtitle, but Londoners is a fast read, a collection of reflections on London from an astounding array of people. An interpreter, paramedic, artist, plumber, squatter, city official, illegal immigrant and a black cab driver are just a few of those represented. Some talk for pages, others for only paragraphs, but each gives us a glimpse of their London. Some hate London for its grime, its overcrowding and its impersonality. Others love it for its vibrancy and endless possibilities. Many have lived there for decades, others a few months. Love it or hate it, these people are all passionate about London.

Unlike Paris or Washington, D.C., London is an unplanned city, always changing as new mingles with old. Taylor's interviewees reveal that evolving nature; their perspectives will cause your impression of the city to deepen and change as you read. A must-read for lovers of London (or for those who have always longed to go), Londoners is a beautiful portrait of a one-of-a-kind city.

 I may be a little bit biased, because I adore London so much, but this book was a lot of fun. Reading it brought back vivid memories of the months I spent there (and made me wish desperately that I could afford a plane ticket right now!) If you like London, or if you want to armchair-travel there, I highly recommend this book.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Should I recommend this to my grandma? Mostly. There are one or two interviews with a lot of profanity, but most of it is fine, and she could always skip those!

Have you been to London? Or read other travel books set there?

This review was originally written for Shelf Awareness and this post contains Amazon affiliate links.

P.S. If you want to read another review of Londoners, check out this great one from the New York Times, which I found thanks to Katie of Cakes, Tea and Dreams.