Mayor's breezy read still aches with love for London

Chances are you remember Boris Johnson from the days leading up to, and during, the London Olympics.

He was the wild-haired, slightly mad-looking bloke who famously described the beach volleyball players as "glistening like sea otters". Oh, and his day job is mayor of London. Yes, that guy.

Johnson is London's flag-waver of flag-wavers, spokesman No 1 for "the city that made the world", and this collection of individual portraits is his attempt to shed some light on why the place has been so influential.

His scene-setting chapter points out the many people, products and ideas that were produced by, invented in and developed in the great city.

What follows is a chronological series of bios of the great and the good, and some analysis of why they mattered.

It is, technically, old ground being covered again but Johnson has a lovely touch and, for most readers, each story will have plenty of fresh elements.

Tales of well-known figures (Shakespeare, Florence Nightingale, Winston Churchill) blend with yarns of more obscure lives (inventor Robert Hooke, artist J.M.W. Turner, journalist W.T. Stead), and there are also mini-chapters focusing on everything from flush toilets to ping pong.

It's a breezy read but that doesn't mean it lacks substance. Johnson, while a genuine entertainer, also aches with love for London and ensures the reader gets a thorough education in some of her greatest figures.

But, Keith Richards as the final subject? Really?

• Hayden Meikle is the ODT sports editor.


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