A City Reads “Rivers of London”

“Good afternoon. My name’s Peter Grant, I’m from the police and this is my colleague Beverley Brook, who’s a river in south London.”

Rivers of London, p146

April in Libraries means CityRead, a London-wide book club, and this year’s book is the aptly named ‘Rivers of London.’ Part police procedural, part high fantasy complete with wizards, ghosts and vampires, Rivers of London is above all grounded in its setting – the grand, gritty, sprawling mass of London.

Rivers of London, by Ben Aaronovitch
Get a copy free from your local library

On Monday, author Ben Aaronovitch visited Kensington Central library as part of his tour of ALL the London boroughs (do check out his highly entertaining blog, wherein he charts this heroic journey). The event was a roaring success and it was followed later in the evening by the Central Library Reading group, who met to discuss the book.

Ben Aaronovitch at Central Library
Ben Aaronovitch at Central Library

It’s still not too late to pick up a copy at your local library – we even have some free copies to give away – and join the biggest book club in London. If you missed your local reading group, you can always share your thoughts about the book with us in the comments below.

I canvassed my colleagues – many of whom read and loved Rivers of London – for their quick reviews and thoughts.

Mike, Director of Libraries, wrote:

Harry Potter grows up and joins The Bill. Subterranean excitement, with murder and supernatural goings on along London’s lost rivers… whilst Rivers of London isn’t something I’d have chosen for myself I was very glad I read it and can also see exactly why it works so well as a CityRead title.

Librarian Sandeep, said:

A gripping series of books with great touches of London which you must get round to reading. Surely the TV series cannot be far away where Peter Grant and co would be brought to life! Also, look out for the graphic novel, which Ben is drip-feeding via his blog and Twitter.

Community Development Manager Chris, said:

It’s the best fiction book I have read in a long time. Ben’s love of the West End, where a lot of the book is set, and of London generally underpins the book and sets the scene, but the main joy of the story is the fascinating characters he has created and who develop as the books progress through a  series of supernatural mysteries. When I first heard of the books I was doubtful I would enjoy them (I never liked Harry Potter for instance) but once you try them you are hooked!

Stock Librarian Sally said,

What I loved the most about Rivers of London was how, as a Londoner, I recognised so many of the places the story takes us – from Covent Garden to Wapping; the old school glamour of J. Sheekey Oyster Bar to the Bow Magistrates Court – but all with added little nuggets of history I never knew or suspected. This is a great book for Londoners; it made me love and appreciate my home city a little bit more.

And lastly, Adewale wrote:

A misleading title! I thought it was going to be a about the rivers of London! Was disappointed that  neither the Rivers Quaggy nor Ravensbourne were mentioned – very good read, though!

Click here for more information about what’s on this month at your local library.

The Cityread London website has more information about what’s going on around London, and how you can get involved.

Top 10 reads of 2014

We asked library staff what their favourite reads of 2014 were, and received a wealth of replies to choose from! Here’s our top 10, in no particular order…

We all completely beside ourselves
We all completely beside ourselves

We are all completely beside ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

“Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and winner of the 2014 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, it begins with a young lady called Rosemary in college who is eager to start out on her own and put to her past her bizarre family life. This starts off as a slow-burner. Suddenly there is a massive shock on page 77 that is like a blow to the stomach, it is that visceral. I read this with a varying range of emotions: happiness, anger, heart-ache and sheer wonder. At its heart it is a great novel about the American family, albeit set in a period of time when liberal academia was king and experimentation on your loved ones was the done thing. This is a tremendous read and will remain with you months after you have read it!”


The Knight who saved England
The Knight who saved England

The Knight Who Saved England: William Marshal and the French Invasion, 1217 by  Richard Brooks

“I will start by saying I am no history buff but I found this to be a great read. I knew little about Richard Marshal or this period in history. I found the machinations and bloodthirsty behaviour of medieval society fascinating.

A bit dense in parts, or maybe I’m just a bit dense….Recommended.”


Love Nina
Love Nina

Love Nina by Nina Stibbe

“…is a wonderfully funny and refreshing read that would make a great Christmas present as it is so lighthearted .

In the form of letters written to her sister, Nina writes about working as a au pair in North London for children in the slightly eccentric household of the editor of the London Review of Books. She too , is slightly eccentric – finding herself cooking regular suppers for the likes of next door neighbours , Alan Bennett and Clare Tomalin…..”



Foster by Clare Keegan

“A short but immensely powerful story of a little girl from a hard household, who discovers a new intensity of feeling as she grows in personality under the ‘fostering’ of an aunt and uncle in the Irish countryside.”



Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys.

Clothes, clothes, clothes, music, music, music, boys boys boys by Viv Albertine

“An ex member of The Raincoats , she writes a really good autobiog that covers british punk 70s and follow-up 80s in a truthful and engaging way….”



The Goldfinch
The Goldfinch

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt 

“2014 was a good year for novels beginning with Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, a spectacular return to form (I was one of those readers who never got on with The Little Friend). After so many years since the Secret History it was marvellous to have another immersive narrative from Tartt which took its protagonist from childhood to maturity and from New York to Las Vegas and Belgium.”



Consumed by David Cronenberg

“The Peripheral would have been my book of the year if I hadn’t just read Consumed by David Cronenberg. When a film director turns to writing a novel at the age of 70 you might be expecting a novelty item. I started reading and was pleased to note how skilled he was as a writer (the opening reminded me of Gibson’s Pattern Recognition) but wasn’t expecting anything startling. Then the narrative started to get just like a Cronenberg film and when the weird medical procedures and bizarre sexual encounters really got going I was hooked. So for sheer unexpectedness Consumed is my book of the year.”




KP The Autobiography by Kevin Peiterson

“Few cricketers have divided opinion like Kevin Peiterson. Despite being the highest run scorer in international cricket history with over 8,000 test runs and 23 centuries, he was unceremoniously dumped by the cricket management at the beginning of this year. Capable of flamboyant stroke play and a match winning ability he was able to enthral and entertain like few cricketers could.

This book provides the inside story of the saga of his rather turbulent England playing years and, through a description of a series of colourful accusations and revelations. His grievances, such as when he suggests there was a bullying culture in the dressing room, are well aired in the book and targeted directly at the England captains, the coaches, his fellow players as well as the English management. Throughout, the sheer vanity and egotism of the player is revealed, but even so, there is a surprising vulnerability about the man both on and off the field as a he sets about to defend himself as what he sees as injustices.

Love or hate Peiterson, this book is totally absorbing and his outspoken views on the state of English cricket provide a real insight into ­the shape of the game. However, if there is one word that for me best describes Peiterson and comes clearly out of reading this book, it is that the man is a troublemaker.”


Foxglove Summer
Foxglove Summer

Foxglove Summer by Ben Aaronovitch

“The one that got away which I’ll be reading as soon as my wife finishes it is Foxglove Summer by Ben Aaronovitch, the fifth book in his excellent series about the magical division of the Metropolitan Police. The first book in the series, Rivers of London, is the Cityread book for next year. I hope to meet the author and get some copies signed!”