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The End of the Suburbs: Where the American Dream Is Moving Paperback – June 24, 2014
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The Amazon Book Review
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“This book is a steel fist in a velvet glove. Beneath Leigh Gallagher's smooth, elegant prose there is a methodical smashing of the suburban paradigm. When all is done, a few shards remain—but only because she is scrupulously fair. This story of rise and ruin avoids the usual storm of statistics—nor is it a tale told with apocalyptic glee. The End of the Suburbs is the most convincing book yet on the lifestyle changes coming to our immediate future.”
— Andres Duany, founding partner of Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company and co-author of Suburban Nation
“The book is loaded with fascinating detail wrapped in a vivid story Gallagher creates from behind the scenes of America’s greatest promotion: the suburbs.”
—Meredith Whitney, author, Fate of the States: The New Geography of American Prosperity and founder, Meredith Whitney Advisory Group
“Leigh Gallagher asks all the right questions and comes up with surprising conclusions in this sweeping discussion of the future of the suburb. Spoiler alert - it's a bleak future for the burbs, but don't panic: Gallagher foretells a new world order where the conveniences of the urban lifestyle rewire our understanding of the American Dream. You'll never look at a cul-de-sac the same way again after you enjoy this book, which is simultaneously entertaining and informative, breezy and analytical.”
—Spencer Rascoff, CEO, Zillow
“The End of the Suburbs is a compelling, insightful must-read on what author Leigh Gallagher calls the ‘slow-burning revolution’ re-mapping the shape of America and its future. Her masterfully-argued case springs to life with both impressive research and empathetic portraits of those seduced and often betrayed by suburbia's promise of a more livable life. Now, where's my moving truck? Oh, right. Stuck in commuter traffic.”
—Linda Keenan, author and resident of Suburgatory
“No one knows how American residential preferences will change in the 21st century. But Leigh Gallagher’s well-researched and provocative The End of the Suburbs makes a persuasive argument that is difficult to refute. Required reading for anyone interested in the future of the United States.”
—Kenneth T. Jackson, professor of history, Columbia University and author of the prize-winning Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States
“I couldn’t put this book down. My readers often ask me, ‘What will happen to suburbia once we’ve all right-sized our homes and communities?’ Leigh Gallagher provides the data that I’ve been looking for, and makes the powerful assertion that our suburbs are permanently changing, not because of the Great Recession, but because of new attitudes about where and how we want to live—which is great news, both for the near term, and for generations to come.”
—Sarah Susanka, the author of The Not So Big House series, and The Not So Big Life: Making Room for What Really Matters.
"The end of Suburbia is timely and important. We should hope it is prophetic, because Leigh Gallagher shows suburbs as we know them are unsafe for our species."
—Eric Klinenberg, Professor of Sociology at New York University and author of Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone
"Through compelling expert interviews, data and trends analysis, Leigh affirms the notion that we've hit 'peak burb.' This book presents a strong case for America's increasing preference for higher density lifestyles and the resulting trend to manage our lives via the information highway, not the paved kind!"
—Scott W. Griffith, former chairman and CEO, Zipcar
"Have you ever wondered whether the Great Recession will halt the process of gentrification in major American cities? Or what will happen to the empty suburban sprawl that is the result of the housing boom and bust? Or how most of us will live in a world where oil is expensive? Leigh Gallagher's crisp, entertaining, and fact-filled new book answers these questions and many more."
—Bethany McLean, coauthor, The Smartest Guys in the Room and All the Devils are Here: The Hidden History of the Financial Crisis
About the Author
Leigh Gallagher is an assistant managing editor at Fortune and a frequent guest on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, among other national television and radio news shows. She lives in New York City.
Top customer reviews
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The most interesting parts were the discussion how we got here and some of the challenges presented for the future by the current housing stock. The introduction to New Urbanism was also very interesting, as I'm familiar with, but could never name these distinct communities.
I think the discussion around future drivers of change in housing demand lacked much support, however. We get a massive amount of detail around the creation of suburban communities thanks to GM-inspired futurism, how they no longer encourage "neighborliness" because there are less children around, and how their street designs discourage human contact while encouraging traffic accidents etc etc. But besides these "negative" innate characteristics of suburban communities (which are likely considered positives when viewed differently by many of the residents of these homes), the author doesn't really suggest more than one reason why everyone will be abandoning them which she strongly suggests will happen.
That one reason? Gas prices.
This seems like an massive over-simplification. There was no discussion of the major technological changes happening to automobiles a this very moment. Gas prices are likely to be much less important to consumers 20 years from now than they are today. Even more critically, the author does not mention the massive technological revolution that has changed how many, many people work. The requirement to actually go and sit in a physical office day in and day out is on the decline in most every industry. Cheap telephony and the rise of the internet enable people to stay in communication wherever they are and fewer and fewer people are making the trek into the office each day. Additionally, many of these offices are no longer in the urban core as companies move closer to where their employees live. This will expand, rather than contract, some people's choices on housing. I was really quite surprised at the omission. Sometimes key data or perspectives appear to be left out because they would conflict with the author's overall message and personal opinion.
Finally, I was disappointed that there was no discussion on what's next for suburbs other than to suggest that farther flung ones will be abandoned and will turn into ghettoes. This is not terribly helpful. If the author believes that the suburbs do not provide the housing stock people of the future will want, I'd love to hear ways people have for transforming the already built environment into something that WILL be what people want. There is limited amounts of land around metropolitan areas and most of it has been developed. And much of it is suburban housing stock. These homes cannot be just discarded if people want to avoid all this driving, as the author suggests they do. It is likewise not possible to simply bulldoze them and re-zone the land. Homes in these communities will remain desirable because of where they are located particularly in pricey coastal cities, even if the community's character is not people would design today. So what can we do to revitalize these places for the future Ms. Gallagher?
I recommend this--it seems to have some missing pieces--but it made me think a lot before I would agree or disagree with each premise proffered. That is the sign of a good book.
The book sometimes reads as advice and explanations to housing developers, sometimes as a study of historical forces and sociological trends. It is a good overview for the casual reader who is interested in our changing society and the shift that happened after the housing meltdown.
— from Mrs. CyberDad
The first half of the book is an interesting account of the rise of traditional American suburbs and it's continuing factors. Mainly the post war population boom, mass produced building materials, and the beginning of America's obsession with the automobile. Then, predicabely, the author takes us through the housing boom of the 90s and 2000s, setting us up for the fall we have all experienced: The perfect storm of rising gas prices, overproduction, and questionable investment practices that created the housing crisis and largest recession since the great depression.
It is from this point, that Gallagher begins detailing recent changes in the housing market (driven mainly by the changing tastes of millennials). People of this age are now renting, buying smaller homes, and placing a premium on a more walkable and social way of life. The term Urbanism or "New Urbanism" is used over and over again. I have had very little exposure to the term, but not being a novice to the principals of city planning it's not hard to understand the concept. Urbanism we are told, is a return to traditional methods of designing homes, cities, and neighborhoods. Where residents are live where they work and walk to and from both. It's a focus on a more communal way of life. It has home builders scared to death and young couples frothing at the mouth.
I can't disagree too much with the author's account. My wife and I are in the process of selling a suburban property we purchased in 2005 and moving closer to downtown in a small, comfy home. When my realtor asked what I'm looking for in a new house, the top on my list were something more walkable and near friends. But this is my experience and after listening to the authors description of these new urbanists it's hard not to come to the conclusion that the migration back to city centers is really only for yuppies and the well-to-do. Indeed, it's hard not to roll your eyes when you hear the author describe one couple who moved from an affluent suburban neighborhood in Mass to a "fixer-upper" in Cambridge. The father is so excited that he can ride his bike to Google (where he works) and the wife can walk right around the street to Whole Foods. When the author speaks to her, she's in her car (which is likely not your dad's Pontiac) and is so embarrassed that she was caught driving. The book also details the tastes and clothes of other such "urbanists." Toward the end, it's a little hard to take.
The larger issue to me, and one that wasn't addressed sufficiently, is if this new urban reset is going to leave the majority of America behind. It's not like the suburbs will be empty. The thing that made the suburban movement profound in the first place was that it was that the homes were accessable to nearly anyone. How can the new urban renewal be just as impactful if the only people who move there are the young and wealthy?