Author: Alex Day
Released: 1 September 2014
What would happen if the London Underground ceased to exist?
When I visited Wales to find the oldest passenger train in existence, I discovered it wasn't there. Faced with the idea that this could happen t the Tube, I set off to visit every station - al 270 of them - to see what stories they had to share and preserve them forever. This is the tale of my obsession and of the human stories that are only a train ride away.
The premise sounds weirdly interesting - a book about some British guy travelling to each Tube station and writing down his thoughts on what he sees. It sounds weird, but it totally works.
That is what YouTuber Alex Day's The Underground Storyteller is - a book with a weird premise that works and makes a great read. I admit, I only bought the book because I'm a huge fan of Alex, but, now that I've read it, I'm sure I would have found it interesting had I seen it in a bookstore and not known who Alex was.
What makes The Underground Storyteller different from other non-fiction books is that is combines the history of London and the Tube with Alex's own history and musings, and going off on tangents that Alex manages to somehow relate back to trains. It's literally as if Alex is talking to you about his day on the Tube, telling you about the people he's seen and the sites he's come across.
Those familiar with Alex day and his videos will completely understand his train (pun intended) of thought and how he can be talking about trains one minute and Pokemon the next, and how all this relates to the point he was making about a Tube station. It sounds weird I know, but it just seems to flow and make complete sense.
Alex set out to ride each of the eleven Tube lines and stop at each of the 270 station, taking in the sites, delving into Underground history, and sharing his own anecdotes about the area. We are really reading his train diary. Each chapter focuses on one line, as Alex tries to make every station before the day is out (which he succeeds for all but two lines).
Pros: Alex's anecdotes combine history, trivia, philosophy, social commentary, general musings and words of wisdom, which provide a very interesting read about British culture, life on the Underground and living in the 21st century.
Cons: As someone who watches Alex's videos, I have become accustomed to his mannerisms, way of thinking, sarcasm and storytelling, so I understand his style of writing and storytelling within the book. However, I feel that someone who hasn't seen Alex's work may have trouble following Alex through the numerous tangents he goes off on, and how he describes his experiences. In saying that, I feel that if they push through and finish the book, they will come out the other side with a sense of understanding and enjoyment with what they have read - stick with it and it will be great.
This book definitely takes you on a journey, making you feel by the end that you have travelled alongside Alex and witnessed everything he has.
Overall, I highly recommend people checking this book out and giving it a go. You can read the first chapter over on Alex's website to get a taste of what it's all about.