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City: A Guidebook for the Urban Age Hardcover – June 19, 2012
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“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
“P.D. Smith takes a thorough and engaging look at the urban lifestyle more than half the planet has now embraced - for better or for worse.” ―Christian Science Monitor
“[City] is a magnificent achievement, broad in scope but absent the kind of stuffy academicism that sometimes afflict such books.” ―Design Observer
“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
“An erudite but lively exploration and celebration of humanity's greatest creation--the city. This one's a must read for history geeks.” ―Shelf Awareness
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
Top Customer Reviews
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.
Smith gives a fascinating overview of the past, present, and possible future of the city. We learn about a time when the most advanced cities in the world weren’t New York, London, or Tokyo, but instead were Sumer, Tenochtitlan, or Angkor. (A nice feature of this book is how much ground it covers geographically. Smith brings in examples from ancient Alexandria to modern-day Mumbai in addition to those from cities--such as New York, Tokyo, and Paris--that might first pop to mind when one thinks of a city.) The reader is shown a city as an organism that has to get food and workers to its heart while expelling a massive accumulation of wastes. Cities require homeostasis as much as does the human body.
The book has eight chapters that discuss topics such as the rise of the city and how it was tied to human endeavors more generally (e.g.Read more ›
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.
Note: Kindle edition endnote references are not activated. -_-
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I bought this for our son who recently completed a masters in urban planning, and I've decided not to give it to him but will donate it to our local public library. Read morePublished 4 days ago by Pete Bogg
I had to get this for class and ended up unexpectedly reading the whole thing.Published 12 months ago by Gregory
Note: after rereading a chapter I decided to rewrite this review. I still have reservations as noted below, but the book also has some strengths, also added below. Read morePublished 17 months ago by lyndonbrecht
Some good historical stuff but lack of overall message. Last charger on the future of the city was very good.Published 18 months ago by C
Not much learned, but presented nicely. Most of the material borders on the obvious. Requiring a minimum of words for this critique is nonsensical and boorish.Published 20 months ago by Brad F
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.Published on July 27, 2014 by Daniel Gamber
Some great history and views of current urban developments, but little in the way of recognizing the threat of increased urban living, except the last three paragraphsPublished on February 9, 2014 by Surveyor
What a pompous ass. The subject matter is fascinating but the graduate student writing leaves much to be desired. Read morePublished on January 31, 2014 by JBA
As a textbook it would be ok; as a guidebook, it isn't. Some interesting factoids, but not enough meat to really give you a good lesson on our cities and how they developed.Published on January 20, 2014 by R. Patrick Baugh