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City: A Guidebook for the Urban Age Hardcover – June 19, 2012


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Editorial Reviews

Review

Half a century ago, Lewis Mumford published The City in History, a hugely influential and in some ways controversial book that has been the Bible for students and lovers of city life. But that was half a century ago, and around the world the cityscape has undergone enormous changes. A new look at this great subject has for some time been needed, and in City: A Guidebook for the Urban Age, P.D. Smith provides it. A British scholar connected to University College London, Smith is less philosophical and more empirical than Mumford, but if anything this is welcome, as City is wholly accessible to the serious general reader. (Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post)

[A] richly packed, colourful and well-written primer on the role the city plays in our lives. (Guardian (UK))

It's a wonderful book: BldgBlog meets Italo Calvino. Gorgeous, smart, fun, and full of surprises, like wandering all the world's great cities at once… Irresistible (David Dobbs, Wired.com)

The book...is a rich kaleidoscope celebrating urban life in all its aspects … consistently well-written and researched - and impressively eclectic … a hugely enjoyable read and an inspiring vision to aim for. (The Spectator (UK))

The result is a sort of high-quality, unusually rigorous coffee-table book, designed to be dipped into rather than read from beginning to end … Mr. Smith's book serves as an excellent introduction to a vast subject. (Economist)

Effortlessly flitting from the surprisingly modern grid plans of ancient Chinese cities to the hauntingly timeless-looking ruins of contemporary Detroit, City represents a pain-free - in fact, joyful - survey course on nine millennia (at least) of urban history. (Taras Grescoe, Globe and Mail (Toronto))

Smith is an engaging and curious docent to the museum of urban history (Irish Times)

An energetic tribute to the city (Icon)

Smith is especially adept at capturing the incessant human interaction which characterizes city life, from carnivals to street demonstrations and graffiti. Readers can virtually smell the pho sold by a street vendor in Hanoi, or marvel at acrobatics of skateboarders along the Thames. An absorbing and timely book. (The Plain Dealer)

Impressively comprehensive…Smith's book is a fascinating look at [the city's] evolution through the many physical and cultural facets that we see all around us. (The Atlantic Cities)

City: A Guidebook for the Urban Age is a well-written ramble, a delightful book for dipping into for new discoveries. It is a love song to cities, large and small. So who is the audience for this wildly entertainment book? Anyone with an inquiring mind. It might be a good summer reading book for children who have an interest in science, history and connections. Good for adults too. (McClatchy Newspapers)

An exhaustively researched but thoroughly entertaining history of the city told in the form of a guidebook by one of Britain's leading cultural historians. There is no aspect of the city that Smith does not cover, from cemeteries to skyscrapers to street food. Reading it is like being seated next to the most-informed, and most charming guest at your dream dinner party, someone with an endless font of facts enlivened by quirky and often hilarious anecdotes. (Mark Lamster, Designers and Books)

An engaging guide (Saul Austerlitz, The National (UAE))

Discursive, imaginative, and comprehensive, [Smith's] analysis of everything from the Hanging Gardens of Babylon to skateboarding and graffiti should be savored. (Publishers Weekly)

As exciting, sprawling and multifarious as a shining city on a hill. (Kirkus Reviews)

Like any great city, this is a book to get lost in, to try out new areas, to sample to savor, to enjoy … Highly recommended for readers across many subject categories, including urban studies, cultural history, and travel. (Library Journal)

About the Author

P. D. Smith is an independent researcher and writer. He has taught at University College London where he is an Honorary Research Fellow in the Science and Technology Studies Department and has contributed to the Guardian and writes for other publications including The Times, Independent and the Times Literary Supplement and regularly contributes to the acclaimed website 3 Quarks Daily. His books include Doomsday Men: The Real Dr Strangelove and the Dream of the Superweapon.

Author's website: www.peterdsmith.com

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Press (June 19, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1608196763
  • ISBN-13: 978-1608196760
  • Product Dimensions: 7.2 x 0.9 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #753,374 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

P.D. Smith is an independent researcher and writer (www.peterdsmith.com). His guide to the past, present & future of cities will be published by Bloomsbury in 2012. His previous book was "Doomsday Men: The Real Dr Strangelove and the Dream of the Superweapon" (2007, Allen Lane/Penguin), described by the Daily Telegraph as "chilling" and "irresistible". He regularly reviews books for the Guardian, and has also written for the Independent, the Financial Times and the Times Literary Supplement. His previous books include a biography of Einstein and "Metaphor & Materiality: German Literature & the World-View of Science, 1780-1955". He is an Honorary Research Associate in the Science and Technology Studies Department at University College London where he used to teach. He lives in Hampshire.

Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Jaime Andrews on June 22, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I'm a sucker for books that play on the mythical city in the mind -- the primordial blueprint that resonates through every real city. A sort of concentrated, logical daydream on the subject of the "city," this book will thrill any armchair "urban studies" enthusiast -- (the humanities sort, not the statistics sort). City: A Guidebook takes the form of a travel guide. But instead of looking at a particular city, it looks every city, the universal city. The book covers the mythical, philosophical and theological histories of the city. Highly recommended for writers looking for story concepts, partygoers looking for conversation topics, and anyone looking to understand exactly what are these vast, sprawling organisms that so much of humanity calls home.

A similarly intriguing work is City Shaped by Kostof. Its focus, however, is more topological. Those who are as interested in the reflexive play of language as they are in the sprawl and labyrinths of urban settings might want to check out THE Book of Word Games: by David Parlett.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By L. J. Clayson on November 27, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This book is half love letter, half guidebook. It takes you through from the earliest cities in modern-day Iraq to plans for cities not yet built, focusing on similarities rather than differences. The format is similar to actual tourist guidebooks, but instead of focusing on the points of interest in a single city, the author writes about train stations or carnivals or walls or graffiti across the ages and continents. Highly recommended!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By SilverBabs on April 11, 2013
Format: Paperback
City is not an academic work, but a book to provoke discussions and thoughtful reflection, and the occasional "Hey listen to this!" It also sends the reader to Google Map for a good look at the sites mentioned. I borrowed it from my public library on Kindle, but I think I will have to buy a hard copy to keep and scribble pencil notes in, it's that kind of book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By KiloTango on June 1, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Liked this as it wasn't some typical urban planning treatise on the perfect city. Provided some intriguing insights and an evolutionary story (actually several different threads about what makes a city and how those elements have evolved) and is well told. I'm an architect and most urban planning texts are heady eye-glazing stuff, but not this.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By J. Foley on February 14, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
We have here a man who believes, as I do, that cities are the motor of civilization, that cities are humanity's best hope of avoiding the slings and arrows of misfortune and deliberate stupidity. The book treats the history of the common parts of cities, the markets and the jails, the entry ports and the neighborhoods that make up life for two billion modern people. His discussion of the evolution of each part is interesting, his conclusions of what needs to be done is elegant.

I am a citydweller, born in Chicago, spending all of my controllable life in Chicago, New York and LA. I love cities even the grimy parts and it seems to me Mr. Smith does too.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Lantz L. Powell on December 6, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
If you want to know a complete overview of the city, how they started, problems they solved and how they survived then this is the book for you. I was hoping for a better vision of the future on where they might go from here but alas, was not to be. But what was told was very good.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By David S. Wellhauser on June 8, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Great intro to the city and urban life. This is a hymn to urban life and urbanity....so don't look for doom and gloom here. great book.
Note: Kindle edition endnote references are not activated. -_-
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Gamber on July 27, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
An excellent survey - a text for a beginning urban studies course. And a refresher for us older students, who left school decades ago to live around the world.
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