A Northern Line Minute : The Northern Line, Paperback

A Northern Line Minute : The Northern Line Paperback

Part of the Penguin Underground Lines series

4 out of 5 (2 ratings)


William Leith, author of The Hungry Years and Bits of Me Are Falling Apart, tells, in A Northern Line Minute, the darkly humorous tales of his escapades on the Tube - part of a series of twelve books tied to the twelve lines of the London Underground, as Tfl celebrates 150 years of the Tube with Penguin.

IT is also available in a boxset. "The nervy prose of William Leith could not be more apt for the rather fraught Northern line, and his manic, anxious account ...is probably the most addictively readable thing [in the series]". (Observer). "Phobic about tunnels, Leith renders his panic and chagrin brilliantly". (Evening Standard). "Authors include the masterly John Lanchester, the children of Kids Company, comic John O'Farrell and social geographer Danny Dorling.

Ranging from the polemical to the fantastical, the personal to the societal, they offer something for every taste.

All experience the city as a cultural phenomenon and notice its nature and its people.

Read individually they're delightful small reads, pulled together they offer a particular portrait of a global city". (Evening Standard). "Exquisitely diverse". (The Times). "Eclectic and broad-minded ...beautifully designed". (Tom Cox, Observer). "A fascinating collection with a wide range of styles and themes.

The design qualities are excellent, as you might expect from Penguin with a consistent look and feel while allowing distinctive covers for each book.

This is a very pleasing set of books". (A Common Reader blog). "The contrasts and transitions between books are as stirring as the books themselves...A multidimensional literary jigsaw". (Londonist). "A series of short, sharp, city-based vignettes - some personal, some political and some pictorial ...each inimitable author finds that our city is complicated but ultimately connected, full of wit, and just the right amount of grit". (Fabric Magazine). "A collection of beautiful books". (Grazia). Known for his personal writing and humour, William Leith is a journalist and author of, among others, The Hungry Years.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Literary essays
  • ISBN: 9781846145315



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Showing 1 - 2 of 2 reviews.

Review by

Q: What IS a "Northern Line Minute"? A: When you're standing on the platform and the screen says that the next train will arrive in one minute, it invariably takes longer. The author uses this phrase throughout the book to refer to something that you expect to take a minute but in reality takes longer. Or something that takes longer than it should. This is a phrase that I think I might find useful.William Leith, or the narrator of this book named William Leith, is a trembling mass of anxiety. When it comes to transportation, he's afraid of all forms of it, but in particular he's afraid of the London Underground. As you can imagine, this makes life cumbersome for someone who lives in London. In the opening we see the narrator tackling his fear and taking the Tube. As the doors of the carriage close, he smells smoke and launches himself into a stream of consciousness anxious monologue just to get himself through this journey. On the way from Belsize Park to Camden Town (that's two stops if you're not familiar with the Northern Line), he goes off on all sorts of tangents in an effort to distract himself. But he keeps coming back to the burning smell. Is it all in his head?This 73 page book, which is pretty much one long paragraph, was fairly humorous and for the most part, interesting. Although it won't make my Top Five List for the year, I know that it will stay with me, and that the next time I'm in London and inevitably on the Northern Line, I will remember this book in detail.Recommended for: it's very short and not much of a reading commitment. If you think it sounds like it might have potential, give it a try. Cover comments: This sat on my counter yesterday and my daughter and husband separately both picked it up and said, "What an ugly cover!". I actually think the blurred picture of the roundel (that's the official name of that red and blue circle, btw) effectively expresses the author's existential angst.

Review by

Like many people who live in London I prefer not to use the Underground, though sometimes it is unavoidable. When i do have to resort to travelling by Tube it is normally the northern Line that I find myself on, so I was particularly interested to see what William Leith had to say about it. Leith makes it clear from the start of this short book (another in the Penguin series about the various London Underground Lines) that he is a nervous underground passenger , and it emerges that he had actually gone several years without travelling on the Tube. For the journey that he describes ion this book he forces himself to board the train, unsure whether he can smell something burning or whether he is imagining it. As the journey continues he becomes more convinced that there is something wrong. His anxiety isn't assuaged by the fleeting memories that come, uninvited, into his mind, all of them recounting a traumatic episode from his earlier life that was associated, to a greater or lesser degree, with a station on the Northern Line. He captures the sense of paranoia that every Norther Line habitue occasionally feels, and I certainly recognised a lot of his neuroses - I almost wish I hadn't read this.!

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