Londonopolis by Martin Latham
Best for: Those who enjoy trivia about cities, or like learning more about London.
In a nutshell: Historian provides a hodge podge of fun facts and bios of important people, organizations, and shops in London history, from literally hundreds of thousands of years ago through the 20th century.
Line that sticks with me: “Turning carpentry into philosophy, he had made his own coffin, which he knelt in nightly to pray.” p114
Why I chose it: I lived in London a few years ago, and love the city. This little book caught my eye.
Review: This is a fun little book. It’s clearly well-researched, with some randomness thrown in. It is organized by era, but it sometimes jumps around outside of the time frame if the topic connects across, say, medieval and Tudor times.
It’s only about 200 pages long, and a pretty quick read. I found the section on the East India Company a bit questionable – Mr. Latham addresses the issues of colonialism and racism, but suggests they really started after the EIC shut down. I’m not that familiar with that time period, but that seems … suspect.
The earlier parts of the book didn’t draw me in quickly, although there were definitely fun nuggets in there. But the later parts, where perhaps there was more information available to choose from, kept me interested.
My favorite part is the section on bookshops of London. I mean, I love a good bookshop, and this section was like a dream. I’m excited to get back to London to check out the stores that are still in business.
There was one thing I thought was kind of odd. I realize the subheading is “A Curious History of London,” so perhaps Mr. Latham wanted to stay away from common knowledge, but there was nothing about the great fire of 1666. That seems like a pretty big part of the history of the city to not be able to find a curious fact about.