24 February 2012

Imprint Friday: Londoners by Craig Taylor

Welcome to Imprint Friday and today's featured imprint: Ecco books. Stop by each week to be introduced to a must-read title from one of my favorite imprints. I know you'll be adding many of these books to your wish list.

Back in 1974, when I was in college, a book about Americans at work was taking the reading world by storm. That book was Working by Studs Terkel, and it consisted of interviews of hundreds of people employed in every kind of job imaginable and from all over the country. I bought it, even on my undergrad budget, and I still have my original copy.

When I heard Craig Taylor had written Londoners, a similar book about modern London, I knew I had to have it. Not only because I loved Working but because I spent some time in London finishing up my doctoral research at the Natural History Museum. I lived well east of South Ken, and for the first and only time in my life, I became a big-city commuter who rode the tube at least twice a day, every day.

Enough about me, take a look at the publisher's summary.

Five years in the making, Londoners is a fresh and compulsively readable view of one of the world's most fascinating cities—a vibrant narrative portrait of the London of our own time, featuring unforgettable stories told by the real people who make the city hum.

Acclaimed writer and editor Craig Taylor has spent years traversing every corner of the city, getting to know the most interesting Londoners, including the voice of the London Underground, a West End rickshaw driver, an East End nightclub doorperson, a mounted soldier of the Queen's Life Guard at Buckingham Palace, and a couple who fell in love at the Tower of London—and now live there. With candor and humor, this diverse cast—rich and poor, old and young, native and immigrant, men and women (and even a Sarah who used to be a George)—shares indelible tales that capture the city as never before.

Together, these voices paint a vivid, epic, and wholly original portrait of twenty-first-century London in all its breadth, from Notting Hill to Brixton, from Piccadilly Circus to Canary Wharf, from an airliner flying into London Heathrow Airport to Big Ben and Tower Bridge, and down to the deepest tunnels of the London Underground. Londoners is the autobiography of one of the world's greatest cities
Londoners is not the kind of book you necessarily need to read from cover to cover, in order. Because it consists of short accounts told in the words of people who live or spend time in the city, you can dip in and out of the collection as fits your mood.

Whether you've been to London or not, you'll be entranced by the personal stories. Some of the pieces I particularly liked are these:
  • The black ballerina turned plumber who gets a kick out seeing clients' reactions when they open the door to "a black woman with dreadlocks, . . . me in overalls with a headscarf and my locks sticking out."
  • The director of markets in the City, who feels quite personally the history of the markets he supervises: the fish market that has been around since Roman times and the meat market that was established early in the Middle Ages.
  • The rhyming slang of the market traders.
  • The young barristers who discuss the best place to buy a wig and whether one should spring for a traditional wig tin.
I also love the fact that Taylor chose to bookend the interviews with the thoughts of a commercial airline pilot, who describes flying into the city at the beginning of the book and leaving the city at the end.

Londoners is a must for anyone who has visited or lived in the city, who dreams of visiting the city, and who is interested in the opinions of the public. Brew yourself a pot of tea or pour yourself a pint, open Londoners, and be transported to the streets of one the most interesting cities in the world.

BBC news did a short video piece on Londoners and author Craig Taylor, which you can view here. For more news and information, like Taylor's Facebook page.

Beth Fish Reads is proud to showcase Ecco books as a featured imprint on this blog. For more information about Ecco, please read the introductory note from Vice President / Associate Publisher Rachel Bressler, posted here on July 15, 2011. Find your next great read by clicking on Ecco in the scroll-down topics/labels list in my sidebar and by visiting Ecco books on Facebook and following them on Twitter.

Londoners at Powell's
Londoners at Book Depository
These links lead to affiliate programs.

Published by HarperCollins / Ecco, 2012
ISBN-13: 9780062005854


Sandy Nawrot 2/24/12, 6:30 AM  

Early in my career, I had a two month temporary stint in London, and what a wonderful experience! A colleague that was also a personal friend was with me, and she and I made every day count. There wasn't an inch of that city (or the surrounding area) that we didn't cover. I would LOVE to read this! It would bring back good memories.

Molly 2/24/12, 7:18 AM  

I have visited London twice - and have the goal of spending an extended period of time there sometime in (hopefully) the not-too-distant future. I look forward to reading this book in anticipation of that dream vacation.

Alex 2/24/12, 8:23 AM  

I loved all those Studs Terkel books, including Working, so Londoners sounds right up my alley. I loved all the time I spent there visiting family, but that is still a visitors POV. I am definitely going to look for this one.

Beth Hoffman 2/24/12, 8:31 AM  

Ah, I've always loved London. This is definitely going on my list!

Daryl Edelstein 2/24/12, 8:52 AM  

My one trip to London is still very much in my memory and I want to go back before I am too old to enjoy all the walking

Julie P. 2/24/12, 8:57 AM  

Sounds like a perfect read for you!

Barbara 2/24/12, 10:19 AM  

Like Daryl I've only been to London once but I loved it and can hardly wait to go back. I want to read this book. One of our favorite things was to sit on a bench or a wall to rest and people watch - London is a superb people-watching city.

Zibilee 2/24/12, 11:46 AM  

I read Aarti's review of this one, and was very intrigued. I think that after reading yours I need to find my way to the bookstore and pick this one up. It sounds excellent and eclectic, and like something that I would really love. I also got a kick out of the ballerina turned plumber story!

bermudaonion 2/24/12, 12:39 PM  

I finally made it to London last year and just loved the city. I look forward to exploring its citizens with this book.

Bookfool 2/24/12, 1:58 PM  

This sounds right up my alley. I adore London and will be leaving for my 7th visit, soon. It's one of my favorite cities. I've added this one to my wish list. Thanks!

Margot 2/24/12, 2:49 PM  

I enjoyed reading of your experience in London and with Working. I too read the book in the 70s. It helped me change careers and move into Human Resources. I'm looking forward to my first visit to London, hopefully, this year. This one looks like required reading.

Libby Rodriguez 2/24/12, 5:24 PM  

Hey, it's Libby from Weekend Cooking lol! I LOVE books like this. I always loved sociology and ended up being an urban planner. Btw I had no idea you had a doctorate in Natural History! If you ever get a chance to go to my other site, literally called libbysotherblog.blogspot.com. I found these old (Hopwell?) stone tools and now I am on a big kick to learn about them and I am reading about the pre-Clovis controversy. Anyway your work may be in a completely different area... Also I am sorry I wandered pretty far off topic. :/

Serena 2/27/12, 8:22 AM  

This sounds excellent...thanks for the highlight.

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