Harry Mount's "How England Made the English: From Why We Drive on the Left to Why We Don't Talk to Our Neighbours" is packed with astonishing facts and wonderful stories. Q. Why are English train seats so narrow? A. It's all the Romans' fault. The first Victorian trains were built to the same width as horse-drawn wagons; and they were designed to fit the ruts left in the roads by Roman chariots. For readers of Paxman's "The English", Bryson's "Notes on a Small Island" and Fox's "Watching the English", this intriguing and witty book explains how our national characteristics - our sense of humour, our hobbies, our favourite foods and our behaviour with the opposite sex - are all defined by our nation's extraordinary geography, geology, climate and weather. You will learn how we would be as freezing cold as Siberia without the Gulf Stream; why we drive on the left-hand side of the road; why the Midlands became the home of the British curry. It identifies the materials that make England, too: the faint pink Aberdeen granite of kerbstones; that precise English mix of air temperature, smell and light that hits you the moment you touch down at Heathrow.
Praise for Harry Mount: "Highly readable, encyclopeadic, marvellous, illuminating. Mount portrays England via dextrous excavations of its geography, geology, history and weather". ("Independent"). "Fascinating. Mount's an intelligent, funny and always interesting companion". ("Daily Mail"). "Charming and nerdily fact-stuffed". ("Guardian"). Harry Mount is the author of "Amo, Amas, Amat and All That", his best-selling book on Latin, and "A Lust for Window Sills - A Guide to British Buildings". A journalist for many newspapers and magazines, he has been a New York correspondent and a leader writer for the "Daily Telegraph". He studied classics and history at Oxford, and architectural history at the Courtauld Institute. He lives in north London.