^^Merseypride: Essays in Liverpool Exceptionalism, by John Belchem, professor of history at Liverpool University. It's a collection of essays on Liverpool's (mostly C19th) history and, I expect, these essays were journal papers originally.
It's worth a read and can be bought at it's publisher's (L'pool Uni Press) website. As Tony says, its essays are dense and academic treatment of Liverpool's history. Not easy reading.
Edit: a quick scope of the Liverpool uni press website indicates that a second edition of this book has just been released (http://www.liverpool-unipress.co.uk/html/publication.asp?idProduct=3353)
With a new introduction that takes account of the extraordinary renaissance that Liverpool is currently enjoying, the second edition of this collection by one of the leading scholars of the city’s history offers a timely and perceptive examination of the origins and persistence of Liverpool’s exceptionalism.
Professor Belchem is the editor of the upcoming Liverpool 800: Culture, Character & History, a new collection of chapters written by Liverpool University historians on the city's history and culture. The book will be out in September this year. The book is scheduled coincide with the 800th anniversary of Liverpool's charter from King John and the idea of a book to mark this was inspired by another Liverpool University professor, Ramsay Muir's "History of Liverpool", which was commissioned to mark Liverpool's 700th birthday.
I'm a little bit disappointed that Belchem didn't attempt a single-authored history of the city, in the manner of Muir or the earlier Picton, as this is what I thought this project was to be about when I first heard of it. Multi-authored books can sometimes fail to hand together. Still no one person could perhaps cover all this book tries to and Belchem should do a good job in editing the work together.
And Liverpool: Wondrous Place by Paul Du Noyer is the other book Tony has mentioned - a history of Liverpool's pop music scene from the end of the 50s onwards. Not a bad book either.
A more accessible and succinct distillation of Liverpool's history and what makes the place unique can be found in Liverpool: City of the Sea (also Liv Uni Press) by Tony Lane, a former sociology lecturer (and merchant seaman before that!) at Liverpool JMU. Lane's take on the "Liverpool character" is interesting. The typically Liverpudlian (at the risk of stereotyping) character - egalitarian, disliking of snobbism, heirarchies and pretension, a spendthrift attitude to money and hedonistic attitude to life - a collection of characteristics often described as being owed to Liverpool's Irish heritage is explained by Lane as being typical of seamen. A massive proportion of Liverpool's working class were or had been at some part of their lives sailors and this affected the character of the time.
Lane's description of Liverpool is very partial - he is clearly in love with the city, and (as a south Walian protestant, perhaps?) he seems to be at pains to downplay the Irish Catholic aspects to Liverpool's history - but its a decent enough and informative read.
I've mentioned this book before, but Liverpool 8, by John Cornelius (another LUP book!) is worth an afternoon of anyone's time - it's a slim volume of recollections of living an impoverished and bohemian life in Toxteth during the 70s. Very funny in parts.
Last one, I've just finished the Independent journalist, Charles Nevin's "Lancashire: where women die of Love", a humorous but knowedgable Bill Bryson-ish book on what makes the old county Palantine (including Liverpool and Manchester) unique and different from the rest of the country. The chapter on Liverpool is perfectly acceptable. Nevin, who was born in StHelens and spent some time working for the LDP&E seems to "get" the city and his description of it is affectionate and, I expect, eye opening for those with a prejudice against the city, as he admits himself.
Cilla Black in panto at the Empire: "How shall be kill the big, nasty giant, children?"
Audience: "Sing to 'im, Cilla!"
Also in Nevin's book is a whole chapter on Southport, and, in particular, the late Quentin Hughes' mischievious theory that Hausmann's grand plan for Paris and the French capital's grand boulevards were inspired by Southport. The later Emperor Louis Napolean, who commissioned the great reworking of central Paris, may (may!) have stayed in Southport as a young man. Therefore, although Souey has been described for many years as the "Paris of the North", actually Paris would be more accurately be described as "the Southport of the South"! There's a funny section in the book where Nevin stops Parisians in the street and informs them of this eye-opening revelation, expecting to be met with snorts of derision, but is pleasantly surprised by the Frenchies' agreeable reactions of "Well, why not?"