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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
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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. on the agricultural front), the development of neighborhoods, the challenge of transportation in an ever-growing community, how cities manage to be exemplary of both wealth and poverty at the same time, how the masses are entertained given the free time that arose from specialization and regulation of the labor market, and what the future of cities might bring. It’s topically, rather than chronologically arranged (though the discussion of the rise of the city is early in the book), and the organization works though it’s not necessarily what would spring to mind if one were outlining such a book.
I found this book fascinating. It’s full of interesting information and uses graphics and sidebars to good effect. If it can be called a micro-history (the subject of the urban world being so encompassing), it’s among the most interesting micro-histories that I’ve read. Whether it’s churches, Chinatowns, or coffee houses, this book lends insight into the nooks and crannies of the modern metropolis. The sections on subway systems and skyscrapers are among the most fascinating subchapters. (It just occurred to me that the last sentence could be taken in some sort of freaky, sexual way. That wasn’t my intention. I just find the engineering challenges of such infrastructure to be intriguing.) From gladiatorial combat to the birth of libraries, there’s something in this book to pique a reader’s interest.
I’d highly recommend this book for readers of non-fiction, and in particularly those who enjoy micro-histories.
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. -_-
A retrospective look at the "how and why" of city life, along with it's development throughout the world at corresponding times in history, and man's continued migration to the urban environment.
An anthropological, environmental and financial analysis of the urban environment, including transportation, design,architecture, culture, consumerism and every other aspect that plays a role in everyday city life.
So full of facts it's rather difficult to follow at times as the author jumps fron India to China to England and the United States and back in the same paragraph, citing figures on top of figures until your head is spinning....
It's obvious he has a passion for his subject, and it really shows. The images and the charts help keep your interest,
I enjoyed it,but tended to skip over some of the more tedious sections.
As a "Downtown" ( you will learn the origin of this word) Chicago resident, I did appreciate the look into this fascinating area of study, but feel like this should probably been a series of books.......