London is one of the largest and most sprawling capitals in the world, but there is one thing that connects us and keeps this wonderful city moving – the Tube.
So get your diaries out and pencil in an important date. On 9 January London Underground will celebrate its 150th anniversary. That’s right, a century and a half since the first underground journey took place between Paddington and Farringdon on the Metropolitan Railway. A range of events are planned for 2013, starting on 13 January with a recreation of that first journey.
But if trainspotting isn’t your thing, consider marking the occasion another way. In fact, what better to way to celebrate the Tube’s big birthday than by burying your head in a book about the Underground?
Penguin is the official publisher for the event and will mark it with the release of several tie-in titles. There are short paperbacks themed on individual lines, with the authors offering a personal reflection or a piece of inspired fiction; a definitive history of the Tube; a new collection of Poems on The Underground and a book charting the evolution of London Underground’s iconic design.
Already out is:
- Underground: How The Tube Shaped London by David Bownes and Oliver Green: From the London Transport Museum curators and archive comes an official history of the Underground, which is described as a rich work of social, design and engineering history.
- Poems on the Underground by Judith Chernaik, Gerard Benson and Cicely Herbert: A new collection of the much-loved series, including poems not previously published in other anthologies.
- London Underground by Design by Mark Ovenden: Since the 1920s, the Underground’s design – its maps, carriages, posters – has been a part of Britain’s culture and design history. Available from 31 Jan
The specially commissioned Penguin Lines are:
- A Good Parcel of English Soil – The Metropolitan Line by Richard Mabey
- Drift-The Hammersmith and City Line byPhilippe Parreno
- What We Talk About When We Talk About The Tube - The District Line by John Lanchester
- Heads and Straights – The Circle Line by Lucy Wadham
- A Northern Line Minute by William Leith
- Waterloo-City, City-Waterloo byLeanne Shapton
- The 32 Stops – The Central Line by Danny Dorling
- The Blue Riband – The Piccadilly Line by Peter York
- Earthbound – The Bakerloo Line by Paul Morley
- Mind The Child – The Victoria Line by Camila Batmanghelidjh
- A History of Capitalism According to the Jubilee Lineby John O’Farrell
- Buttoned-up – the East London Line by Gert Jonkers and Jop van Bennekom
There are of course many other existing books on the subject. Journeys on the Tube offer fantastic people watching opportunities and so make for extremely fertile ground for fiction too. Here are a pick of the many publications already available:
- Underground, Overground: A Passenger’s History of the Tube by Andrew Martin. The author blends reportage, humour and personal stories in this engaging history. He attempts to untangle the Northern Line, visit every station in a day – and find out which gaps to be especially mindful of.
- Underground London by Stephen Smith. An alternative tour around London, as seen from below. Stephen Smith uncovers the secrets of the city by walking through sewers and tunnels under such places as Hampton Court, ghost tube stations, and long lost rivers like the Fleet and Tyburn.
- 253 by Geoff Ryman. This novel tells the stories of the 252 passengers and one driver on a seven-and-a-half minute journey from Embankment to Elephant and Castle. Each character has a page devoted to their stories.
- Mr Becks’ Underground Map by Ken Garland. This contains illustrated colour diagrams of the various maps issued from 1908 to 1964 and also diagrams from Harry Beck’s original sketch in 1931 until his last diagram in 1964.
What’s your favourite book about the Tube?