Christmas books

It is almost Christmas, and inevitably you are still wondering what to give to the man in your life. So let me suggest some rather eccentric books about London full of useless trivia or curious tales.

Mr Foote’s Other Leg: Comedy, tragedy and murder in Georgian London by Ian Kelly

Samuel Foote was a friend and colleague of David Garrick, but while Garrick became the most famous London actor of his generation, Foote who specialised in satirical mimicry has largely been forgotten. The book reveals a multitude of historical facts, gay life in Georgian London, its theatres and their owners, and Foote’s leg amputation which was lost partaking in a bet. It is the story surrounding the death of the actor who became the most famous Drury Lane ghost.

Walk the Lines: The London Underground, Overground by Mark Mason

From visiting every postcode to walking every Underground route, Mason specialises in the trivial. To prove the adage that the only way to truly discover a city is on foot, taking this to extremes, he sets out to walk the entire length of the London Underground – overground – passing every station on the way. He discovers why the Bank of England won’t let you join the M11 northbound at Junction 5; what cabbies mean by ‘on the cotton’; and meets the Archers star who was the voice of ‘Mind the Gap’.

M25: A Circular Tour of the London Orbital by Ray Hamilton

Anyone who has followed me @cabbieblog knows I love a bit of trivia. This small book is jam (or should that be traffic jam?) packed with titbits about the M25’s 33 junctions and the 11,000 lights to help you find your way. Sage advice on how to save £35,040 a year on Dartford Crossing tolls, counting how many assassins were buried in concrete within its environs, and why North Ockendon must declare itself independent from Greater London at the earliest opportunity.

Curiocity: In Pursuit of London by Henry Eliot and Matt Lloyd-Rose

This huge tome is a must for the nerdy Londoner, resembling a cross between an encyclopaedia and an artwork. Each chapter within its 464 pages has an original hand-drawn map, charting everything from the city’s international communities, underground spaces and children’s dreams, to its unrealised plans, erogenous zones and dystopian futures, its street cries to earthstars. An object of beauty in itself.

When did Big Ben first bong? 101 Questions Answered About the Greatest City on Earth by David Long

Which top Nazi was locked up in the Tower? Or what runs through the more than 50 miles of train-size tunnels which ring the city, stretch further than the Channel Tunnel and lie deeper than the Tube. The world’s first celebrity chef, its oldest club, the worst ever mockney accent, a chapel full of prizefighters and the last Prime Minister to challenge a rival to a duel with pistols. From the truth about Handel’s ears to hippos living in Trafalgar Square, and just When Did Big Ben First Bong?

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