Books

The Phoenix: St Paul’s Cathedral and the Men Who Made Modern London

Opening in the 1640s, as the city was gripped in tumult leading up to the English Civil War, THE PHOENIX charts the lives and works of five extraordinary men, who would grow up in the chaos of a world turned upside down: the architect, Sir Christopher Wren; gardener and virtuosi, John Evelyn; the scientist, Robert Hooke; the radical philosopher, John Locke and the builder, Nicholas Barbon.

At the heart of the story is the rebuilding of London’s iconic cathedral, St Paul’s. Interweaving science, architecture, history and philosophy, The Phoenix tells the story of the formation of the first modern city.

What makes this book so fascinating, though, is not just the rich detail, but also its explanations of the emergence of the new thinking that so profoundly shaped the spirit of the age * INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY *


His book is a tour de force of biography, history, politics, philosophy and experimental science * ECONOMIST *


A fascinating picture of the rebirth of London after the Fire and the men who made it happen, combining the history of ideas, architecture and the life of the city in a riveting narrative — Jenny Uglow


An ingenious and fluent overview of extraordinary men at an extraordinary moment, with St Paul’s standing as its symbolic heart * SUNDAY TELEGRAPH


This is a superlative book. Leo Hollis has that rare gift of making the complex, such as the nature of light and the complexity of national finance, comprehensible to the most lay of readers, whom he rewards – with no dumbing down – with fascinating details and characters — Liza Picard

In this fascinating, richly detailed account of how St Paul’s rose from London’s ashes after the Great Fire, Leo Hollis unravels what he calls this “puzzle in stone” to describe not just the new cathedral and its design and construction but also the complex politics, science and philosophy of the day and the ambitions of the extraordinary men who created the first truly modern city — Lucy Moore

In a vivid and engaging narrative, rich in detail, he describes the history of england from thr outbreak of the civil war to the birth of the empire, describing cultural and intellectual change as well as political and constitutional events * BBC HISTORY MAGAZINE

An enjoyable read — Lisa Jardine * GUARDIAN

Hollis weaves a lively tale of modern London’s birth, beginning with a riveting street-by-street account of the fire as it spread from Thomas Farriner’s bakery in Pudding Lane * SUNDAY TIMES

This ambitious and thought-provoking study provides the general reader with a valuable introduction to seventeenth century life and thought. * LONDON SOCIETY JOURNAL *

Buy the book here.

Cities are Good for You: the Genius of the Metropolis

The 21st century will be the age of the city. Already over 50% of the world population live in urban centres and over the coming decades this percentage will increase. Blending anecdote, fact and first hand encounters – from exploring the slums of Mumbai, to visiting roof-top farms in Brooklyn and attending secret dinner parties in Paris, to riding the bus in Latin America – Leo Hollis reveals that we have misunderstood how cities work for too long.

Upending long-held assumptions and challenging accepted wisdom, he explores: why cities can never be rational, organised places; how we can walk in a crowd without bumping into people, and if we can design places that make people want to kiss; whether we have the right solution to the problem of the slums; how ants, slime mould and traffic jams can make us rethink congestion. And above all, the unexpected reasons why living in the city can make us fitter, richer, smarter, greener, more creative – and, perhaps, even happier.

Cities Are Good for You introduces dreamers, planners, revolutionaries, writers, scientists, architects, slum-dwellers and emperors. It is shaped by the idea that cities are the greatest social experiment in human history, built for people, and by the people.

Buy the book here.

The Stones of London: A History in Twelve Buildings

In a sweeping narrative, from its mythic origins to the glittering towers of the contemporary financial capital, THE STONES OF LONDON tells the story of twelve London buildings in a kaleidoscopic and unexpected history of one of the world’s most enigmatic cities.

From the Roman forum to the Gherkin, Regent Street to the East End, the Houses of Parliament to Greenwich Palace, London’s buildings are testament to the richness of its past. Behind the facades of these buildings lie the stories of the people, ideas and events that took place within them and that caused their creation. They all have very human stories, of the men and women who dreamed and lived their lives in London, leaving their imprint upon the fabric of the capital.

Hollis’s absorbing ability to conjure and flesh each period he explores…Stories within stories tumble out like Russian dolls. By the end one has met many interesting characters and almost inadvertently absorbed vast amounts about the creation, buildings and streets of London. A beguiling device; a stalking horse of Palladian proportions * SUNDAY TELEGRAPH


Hollis has a fine eye for architecture, and engagingly describes neo-classical marvels as well as the Labour government’s dockside folly of the Millennium Dome… Hollis is good company * SPECTATOR


Nothing but geography connects Wembly Stadium and Westminster Abbey; or the Georgian elegance of Home House in Portman Square and a postwar block of flats such as Keeling House… But Hollis holds these disparate elements together with skill, constructing with the stones of London a story that is much greater than the sum of its parts. He switches perspectives effortlessly, moving from local to national to international and back again in the space of a few paragraphs * LITERARY REVIEW


Leo Hollis has found a clever way of framing the story of our city, and in his examination of the architectural fabric of London fascinating detail springs from every page. ‘The Stones of London’ presents micro-histories of 12 constructions that defined periods of urban change…Hollis uses the social context of each structure’s conception funding design, construction and changing function to illustrate how buildings have defined London and therefore England, Britain and the empire * TIME OUT


Finding new ways to tell the story of 2,000 years of London is not easy, but Hollis has found an elegant solution by focusing on 12 buildings that exemplify 12 periods in the development of the city…Hollis has chosen his building well: their stories present an original perspective on London’s complex history * SUNDAY TIMES


Hollis is excellent on history…this is an imaginative book that finds a convincing new way to tell the story of one of the most written-about cities in the world * INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY

Buy the book here

Cities Are Good for You: the Genius of the Metropolis [US edition]

Reviews:

From Mumbai to Shanghai, Hollis is the perfect guide to the art, science and even maths of what makes cities so great * Marcus du Sautoy *


Extremely timely … There are, though, some fascinating and thoroughly researched passages. Hollis’s eludication on the garden city movement is a beautifully crafted study of the purpose-built, self-sufficient towns that sprung up in the 20th century as a riposte to unchecked urban sprawl * Financial Times *


In Cities Are Good for You Leo Hollis aims to set the record straight on the places where more than half the world’s population now lives. He does so with gusto … An intriguing book * The Times *


Leo Hollis has written an eloquent, nuanced, and learned account of the ways in which cities can serve as conduits for happiness. His wide-ranging and acute observations of the interaction of the social and the formal map an optimistic and incisive vision of an emergent – and indispensable – urbanism predicated on sustainability, equity, imagination and trust * Michael Sorkin *


There’s a persuasive energy to this optimistic celebration * Metro *


Combing a wealth of info on cities the world over with anecdote and experience, Hollis’s fascinating book touts the theory that our path to salvation is the city itself – ultimately justifying our unwavering desire to skip the mud for the metropolitan * Fabric Magazine *


A useful counterpoint to those who would argue that the big bad city is to be escaped at all costs * Observer *


Leo Hollis’s book makes a persuasive case for thinking more about how we plan cities * The Times *


Offers a surprisingly positive perspective on urban living * Traveller *


Beautifully written and absorbing book … This is an inspiring, richly illustrated, and thoroughly enjoyable read * Good Book Guide *

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