I majored in history because I found history interesting. Okay, maybe not all history, but I like learning how people lived hundreds to thousands of years ago. Those of you who aren’t history buffs might think, “What possible interest could I have in people who died a long time ago?” We tend to think of history in terms of dates and names we attach vague meaning to. History is so interesting when you dig below the dusty covers and expose the dirty, scandalous underbelly of history. If this sounds intriguing, Bizarre London by David Long could develop your history appreciation.
Bizarre London explores the funny, dark, dangerous, and quirky parts of London’s history that the average person probably isn’t aware of. Each chapter includes tidbits about a certain facet of the city’s history, such as serial killers, odd buildings, food and beverage, riots, holidays, parks, eccentric Londoners, and ghosts. Instead of disseminating information in full chapters, Long divides his chapters into lists with a short paragraph per item, and short asides. This makes the information easy to read. You can quickly skim through the information if you’re looking for something specific, and it’s not overwhelming if you’re reading the book straight through. Meanwhile, you’re learning about history through the back alleys and infamous figures of London.
Bizarre London could appeal to fans of history, travel, royalty, food, serial killers, and other topics. There’s something in here for everybody. The book covers many topics related to London’s history, but is written in a user-friendly way. The information isn’t overwhelming because each section is brief and interesting. You’re guaranteed to learn something you’ll never forget. I learned that royal elephants drank wine in the summer because it was believed that elephants couldn’t drink water during that season, and I didn’t have to read through a heavy, musky tome to learn this.
Some of the information is light and quirky, but other bits are disturbing and depressing. Quite a few descriptions of relics mentioned in the book end with the information that they were blown to smithereens during WWII, when Germany frequently bombed London. There are stories of animal cruelty, dismemberment, and moldering corpses on display. I love these kinds of stories, but they aren’t for everyone. The book maintains British spelling and references things only people who are familiar with the United Kingdom would recognize, which might be off-putting to some readers. If you enjoy casual looks at underappreciated stories from history, this book is for you.
Rating: 4 out of 5 rampaging elephants