'London experience' outlined in Tube books

03.12.12 | Joshua Farrington - The Boookseller

Authors William Leith and John O'Farrell and the children of London charity Kids Company are all contributors to Penguin's publishing to mark 150 years of the London Underground in 2013.

The publishing house is celebrating the anniversary of the world's oldest underground system with a whole range of books dedicated to different aspects of the Tube, with a schedule of titles reaching into next year.
At the project's centre will be 12 Penguin paperbacks released on 7th March, one for each Underground line, each specially commissioned from a different author. The books will be sold as a boxed set as well as individually at £5. Titles include The Blue Riband: The Piccadilly Line, a study of London's elites by The Sloane Ranger Handbook author Peter York, and Earthbound: The Bakerloo Line, a study of music, modernism and cultural change by journalist Paul Morley.

In A Northern Line Minute-The Northern Line, journalist and author William Leith examines how the black line intersects with his own personal history, being a mainstay while he loses jobs, girlfriends and football matches. Meanwhile, John O'Farrell has written a short story for A History of Capitalism According to the Jubilee Line-The Jubilee Line, with a carriage of passengers trapped underground while the economy above them collapses. Mind the Child-The Victoria Line is written by the children of Kids Company along with Camila Batmanghelidjh, and discusses how the line approaches some of the most deprived areas in the capital yet stops short of seeing what is really there.

Helen Conford, publishing director at Penguin Press, said: "It was really fun seeing what the different authors would come up with. It's impossible to sum up the various aspects of the London experience, but we picked people who could represent it in as many ways as possible.
"Designing the books has also been a real joy, finding ways to make the design fit the text. One great one is Leanne Shapton's book on The Waterloo & City Line which can be flipped over and read from the other side to represent how the line runs from one station to the other and straight back again."

She added: "Penguin's association with the Underground actually goes back a very long way. Back in the 1930s, a lot of the designers who worked for Penguin were also doing work for the Underground, so they share a common heritage."
The iconic designs of the Tube, from the map created by Harry Beck to the familiar blue and red logo, is the subject of another book in the project, London Underground by Design by Mark Ovenden. The £20 paperback, with flaps, is published on 31st January by Penguin imprint Particular Books.
Penguin Classics has already released a themed collection of Poems on the Underground, with Allen Lane tackling the history and impact of the Tube in Underground: How the Tube Shaped London, by Sam Mullins, director of the London Transport Museum, David Bownes and Oliver Green.