Book Review: Londoners by Craig Taylor

Book Review: Londoners by Craig Taylor

Pub. Date: 3rd November 2011 (UK) 21st February 2012 (US)
Publisher: Granta (UK) Ecco (US)
Pages: 400 (UK) 448 (US)
Genre: Non-fiction, travel

Synopsis via Goodreads: Here are the voices of London witnessed by Craig Taylor. From the woman who is the voice of the London Underground to the man who plants the trees along Oxford Street; from a Muslim currency trader to a Guardsman at Buckingham Palace; from the marriage registrar at Westminster Town Hall to the director of the biggest Bethnal Green funeral parlour – together, these voices and many more, paint a vivid, epic and wholly fresh portrait of Twenty-First Century London.

I knew I’d love Londoners as soon as I read the introduction, written by the author – a Canadian who moved to London – telling the reader about his first time in London and what he experienced. And then the prologue, ‘Former Londoner’, written by someone who has nothing but negative, bitter things to say about the city. I thought it was hilarious (‘There’s too many people fighting for space on the Tube, everyone’s in a rush, everyone’s in a bad mood’). Londoners like to complain about London, and I couldn’t wait to see whose story I was going to read next.

The subtitle of the book, The Days and Nights of London Now, As Told by Those Who Love It, Hate It, Live It, Left It and Long for It, suggests that we’ll read colourful stories from a variety of Londoners – and that’s exactly what we get. The book is divided into sections (e.g. Arriving, Seeing the Sights, Making a Life, Keeping the Peace, etc) so that we hear stories from people from all sections of society – different ethnicities, sexualities, ages, religions, and classes, from the street cleaner to those in the top positions of the financial industry. Craig Taylor thought of everyone. Each story is fascinating and there’s a fantastic mix of sadness, joviality, and hilarity; political statements to honest confessions, but they’re all extremely enjoyable.

It is likely that I enjoyed the book especially as I am a Londoner myself; I recognised many of the places that were mentioned, and I giggled to myself at the type of comments you’d see on a Facebook group called ‘You know you’re a Londoner when…’. You get the sort of quotes about London than you wouldn’t find anywhere else. It’s definitely one of my favourite non-fiction titles. I shared specific interviews with my family when I thought they’d find them funny or interesting, and I’ll be buying a few copies as gifts.

If you have even the slightest interest in London, in finding out what’s beyond Big Ben or Buckingham Palace, Londoners a wonderful book both to dip in to now and again, or sit read for hours on end, immersed in each person’s experience. It’s an intimate, revealing, honest, and witty book that you’ll be desperate to share with others.

7 thoughts on “Book Review: Londoners by Craig Taylor

  1. I really want to read this book now. I want my dad to read it too since London is one of his favourite cities:). Thanks for the Great Review!

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  5. I’m reading Londoners right now and it’s one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. You’re exactly right, you can read just one story at a time (they’re only 2-8 pages each, or so) or just devour the whole thing at once. I love it so much, and I wish Craig Taylor would do more on other cities, too, it’s such a great concept of getting to learn about one of the most famous cities in the world through the opinion of the locals who truly know each nook and cranny, and not just what the government or a travel brochure writer wants you to see. This book is just genius.

  6. […] Londoners: The Days and Nights of London Now – As Told by Those Who Love It, Hate It, Live It… by Craig Taylor Get to know the real London. Londoners is an intimate, revealing, honest, and witty book that you’ll be desperate to share with others. […]

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