Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

London: The Biography by Peter Ackroyd

London: The Biography (2000)

by Peter Ackroyd

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,275362,810 (3.96)152

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 152 mentions

English (35)  Spanish (1)  All languages (36)
Showing 1-5 of 35 (next | show all)
I have no words for this book - it's just amazing. I've read it three times now, once before I moved to London as a student, once just because and once before I moved to London permanently, and I will read it again. For a 800 page book thats pretty impressive.

Ackroyd personifies London. Its not just this city with some nice buildings and history, its a living breathing thing. I feel it so much more every day that I commute into the city because of this book.

Ackroyd splits up the massive history of London into easy to read and facinating tidbits. Its a book that you could read in small pieces - if the sheer weight of it is too much. I find that I mean to read just a bit and end up half way through the book before I know it.

If your a lover of London read this book - there are no excuses. ( )
  sscarllet | Nov 20, 2014 |
I can't believe I finally finished this, about 2 years in the reading, I think. I lost track of the many times I started it. It was interesting and easy to dip into but did get very scattered at points and tended to repeat itself. I think he needed an editor with a firmer hand, it was worth reading but perhaps not for 760 pages (and I skipped the Essays on the Sources.) I also found some of his conclusions a bit far reaching and the part about Modern London strained credulity. But I enjoyed it and it didn't suffer from the years of reading approach. However, I am glad to place it back on the shelf and move on.
  amyem58 | Jul 15, 2014 |
Atrociously bad. It could be turned into a drinking game -- drink any time Ackroyd uses fallacious logic or uses a completely unrelated and non-universal example to "prove" an absurd point. Of course, then you'd have alcohol poisoning by the end of the first chapter.

If his thesis were that London, as a city, has a particular culture unlike other cities in Britain, then this book might be an interesting amble through different elements of that culture. However, his thesis is that the city itself, in its pavement, sewer systems, buildings, etc., literally speak to the residents and dictate their ways of life.

Yes, that is exactly as crazycakes as it sounds. Up to including his claim that the actual tarmac of the street told the poor, nonwhite protestors to riot against their white oppressors. Also, there's the constant impossible superlativing, making ridiculous claims that London was the first city ever to do ______ in all of history. As if Rome and other ancient metropolises had never been. Calling it shoddy scholarship is generous.

This book IS kind of interesting as an adjunct to Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London series, if you pretend London is actually fiction. I only made myself finish the book because the anecdotes he paraphrases are fascinating. Sadly, there are no footnotes or endnotes, and he doesn't list his sources for particular stories, so this book is pretty useless as a diving off point into something better.

So...yay badly quoted anecdotes? ( )
  sageness | Feb 7, 2014 |
Wow, this thing is massive! I got the hardback used, not realizing that I could use it to do weight lifting. So I was probably silly not to get the ebook (it was a cost thing). Still I can't wait to start this, as I've had a long love affair with the city. If I can finish this by December this is just the sort of thing my father would love as well - but finishing it in that time seems a bit of a stretch.
  bookishbat | Sep 25, 2013 |
First, let it be said, that at almost 800 pages, this book is, perhaps, 500 pages too long. In spite of its curious subtitle "The Biography", there is almost no chronology here. Rather, it is more of a pageant, parade, or slideshow, with each chapter covering a small topic in turn. Within the chapters there is a prodigious amount of information. Ackroyd wants to stress the continuities of London and his presentation is aggressively non-chronological, sometimes skipping forward and backwards by centuries multiple times within one paragraph. One can almost see the thousands of note cards stacked in order, each one waiting for its little commentary. Indeed, if something can be said once, Ackroyd is likely to say it three or four times with a portentousness that outweighs the analysis. While very interesting, I don't know what this book is: it's too rambling and chaotic to be history, not analytic enough to be sociology, and not personal enough to be memoir. ( )
1 vote sjnorquist | Sep 5, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 35 (next | show all)
London is what was meant to be, secured across the centuries in a multiplicity of races, ways and tongues. You could not re-create it; you cannot destroy it. This London is our London, and if you want to know it better, to see it with eyes wide open, then Ackroyd is your indispensable companion.
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
For Iain Johnston and Frederick Nicholas Robertson
First words
If you were to touch the plinth upon which the equestrian statue of King Charles I is placed, at Charing Cross, your fingers might rest upon the projecting fossils of sea lilies, starfish, or sea urchins.
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language
Book description
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385497717, Paperback)

Here are two thousand years of London’s history and folklore, its chroniclers and criminals and plain citizens, its food and drink and countless pleasures. Blackfriar’s and Charing Cross, Paddington and Bedlam. Westminster Abbey and St. Martin in the Fields. Cockneys and vagrants. Immigrants, peasants, and punks. The Plague, the Great Fire, the Blitz. London at all times of day and night, and in all kinds of weather. In well-chosen anecdotes, keen observations, and the words of hundreds of its citizens and visitors, Ackroyd reveals the ingenuity and grit and vitality of London. Through a unique thematic tour of the physical city and its inimitable soul, the city comes alive.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:00:53 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

A chronicle of the city from the time of the Druids to the beginning of the twenty-first century discusses its ability to grow and change, and describes stories of London's wealthy streets and impoverished alleys.

» see all 3 descriptions

Quick Links

Swap Ebooks Audio
178 wanted4 pay1 pay

Popular covers


Average: (3.96)
1 7
1.5 1
2 16
2.5 3
3 43
3.5 9
4 117
4.5 21
5 85


An edition of this book was published by Audible.com.

See editions

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


Help/FAQs | About | Privacy/Terms | Blog | Store | Contact | LibraryThing.com | APIs | WikiThing | Common Knowledge | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | 99,019,623 books! | Top bar: Always visible