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Cities Paperback – International Edition, October 3, 2005

6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In his often captivating treatise on the city, Reader (Pyramids of Life) squelches the notion that country living is preferable to urban living, explaining in detail how cities actually maintain civilization and have done so since Sumerian times. More than half the world's population now lives in cities, compared with less than 10% in the 1700s. Cities provide more economic opportunities, and more intellectual and social stimulation than nonurban life. But the demands of their populations must be met from outside the city itself. (Cities cover only about 2% of the world's land mass, but require nearly three-quarters of its resources.) Thus, posits Reader, cities will need to improve for the quality of life of their inhabitants to improve—and to sustain themselves without damaging the rest of the planet with their heavy ecological footprints. He explores cities' historical and anthropological elements, focusing particularly on Europe and Africa (one of the book's flaws is the short shrift given to Asia, where overcrowding is phenomenal). Although heavy on statistics, this thorough and readable look at urban growth will interest historians, anthropologists, sociologists and urban dwellers. Illus.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“A superb historical account of the places in which most of us either live or will live.”
Condé Nast Traveller

“Vastly entertaining.”

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Books (October 3, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 009928426X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099284260
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 1 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,036,404 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on February 7, 2006
Format: Hardcover
With a subject as broad and diverse in its scope, and is as potentially weighty as humanities' urban complexes, one would think a book of the same name would cover over 500 pages and be detrimental to simple leisure browsing -- not so: Cities is a lively, engaging, and vigorous revelation of just how cities evolved, what made them thrive or decline, and how they transformed themselves to cultural centers over the centuries. Contrary to popular belief, cities actually fostered the growth of farming and hold a symbiotic and close relationship with the countryside and trade routes: John Reader's Cities provides a map of changes and the social, political and economic connections between cities and country around the world. The lively format the author John Reader created for Cities makes for an exceptional historical coverage which lends particularly well to leisure reading.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By L. Berlin on January 5, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This book seems to be getting good reviews, and to be honest I am not completely sure why. Let me begin with the good. It is an easy read and the story told is interesting. However this is not particularly a history and there are parts of the book that left me wondering what the point was. On the positive side, Mr. Reader begins the book with a particularly fascinating account of early cities beginning in Turkey and going to Sumaria.

From here though he gets lost. He devotes very little time to Greece and Rome and then seems to gloss through history. Some of what he relates, while interesting sheds little light on cities or their development. His chapter on Francesco deMarco Datini comes to mind first. It is an interesting story and I am sure he has something to do with the development of cities or lives in them, but I was left unsure what. Much could be told about the rise of Renaissance Italy and its city-states such as Florence, Venice, Genoa, and Milan. But little is offered.

Then there is his attempt to make political points. Sometimes it is pro-free market, sometimes pro-environment, sometimes it seems he is off to fight a battle against poverty that while maybe worthy, seems out of context. In fact at the end of many chapters he tries to bring in a modern point all too often. For example there is a chapter on the plague. It is interesting, but he never really explains how it was defeated in Europe. Instead we get some point on doctors and hospitals that seems to be a call for medical reform of some type. There is also a chapter on Hiroshima, which begins well enough and promises to hold interest. Questions like how did people live there after the bomb or how was the city rebuilt pop into my mind. From there he goes into a discussion of solar energy.
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By Brosamj on January 27, 2008
Format: Paperback
When I picked up this book, Cities by John Reader, I wasn't sure what I was going to think of it. I mean, c'mon, its a book about cities. But, I was pleasantly surprised. It is engaging book and one that tells interesting stories.

I really enjoyed the early portions of the book as it looks over the ancient cities and discusses how they were formed. My historical knowledge of ancient cities is sorely lacking, so it was interesting to read how organized these cities were and the structure that made up these cities.

The biggest complaint though that I had was that the story seemed to not quite know where to go from chapter to chapter. You begin by thinking the book would flow from ancient times and just progress to present time but it does not. It bounces back and forth from what goes into making up a city to plagues in a city to how to feed cities, etc. It often seemed disjointed.

The story telling though is very good. The facts and figures are interesting (it was interesting to read of the difficulties to get food/grain into Rome 2000 years ago and that there were over 6 million individual loads taken from the shores to downtown Rome to be able to feed the Romans). I wish the organization was a bit better, but the book was enjoyable nonetheless.
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