- Hardcover: 336 pages
- Publisher: Bloomsbury USA (February 16, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 163286360X
- ISBN-13: 978-1632863607
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 48 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #666,973 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Road Taken: The History and Future of America's Infrastructure Hardcover – February 16, 2016
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"Petroski provides valuable historical context to inform today’s policy debates." ―New York Times Book Review
"A thorough account of how our highway system got to be what it is." ―New York Review of Books
“A characteristically eye-opening look at America's infrastructure . . . Anyone with an interest in the way things work will want this book--and will doubtless emerge as a fan of the ever curious author.” ―starred review, Kirkus Reviews
"[Petroski] excels at revealing the origins of everyday, utilitarian things. His previous books include histories of the toothpick and the pencil, and his latest contribution bristles with fascinating details about the elements of road design we often overlook." ―Los Angeles Times
"Mr. Petroski . . . cherishes roads and bridges, and his book is a loving look at everything--materials, expertise, politics, money, culture--that goes into their creation and maintenance. It is also a passionate appeal to Americans to accept responsibility for keeping their infrastructure safe and viable. . . . A labor of love [by] a lucid writer." ―Wall Street Journal
"[Petroski] has a clear eye, a mellifluous prose style and a knack for spicing deep research with personal anecdotes." ―Washington Post
"This is vital reading." ―Booklist
"Public infrastructure is often deemed interesting only to policy wonks, but Petroski (The Pencil: A History of Design and Circumstance), a professor of history and civil engineering at Duke University, proves that he can make it accessible and fascinating for a wider readership. His goal is to create a more informed electorate that will weigh in with political leaders about long-standing safety issues posed by obsolete and decrepit infrastructure. But the book is more than a laundry list of trouble spots; Petroski offers historical context for today’s challenges . . . His book may well move readers to lobby their elected officials." ―Publishers Weekly
"Petroski’s goal is to ask how, given the importance of the car to the US economy and mobility, federal and state governments have allowed the country’s infrastructure to reach crisis point. But he goes beyond hand wringing. With an engineer’s technical knowledge and a historian’s eye, he offers a nuanced argument about the political, financial and engineering calculus that contributes to failures." ―Nature
"One of the clearest (and most entertaining) cases yet for why we must improve the network of roads, bridges, and highways we take for granted." ―Science
"A compelling work of history written by a guy with a feeling for the humanities and the grit of a practical engineer. (Where did people like him go?) . . . This book is your entry into revitalizing where you live by bringing politicians to task." ―The Buffalo News
"In The Road Taken: The History and Future of America’s Infrastructure, Henry Petroski, Duke professor of civil engineering and the reliably fascinating author of books about how stuff gets to be stuff, provides the backstory to the American system of roads, streets, interstates and highways. The book is never less than interesting and is often fascinating." ―Raleigh News & Observer
"Petroski brings welcome exposure to processes that, like infrastructure itself, too often hide in plain sight." ―New Yorker
"Timely and insightful . . . Petroski’s book offers a rare engineer’s perspective on a debate too often dominated by economists and politicians." - Foreign Affairs
About the Author
Henry Petroski is the Aleksandar S. Vesic Professor of Civil Engineering and a professor of history at Duke University. He is the author of eighteen previous books, including The Pencil: A History of Design and Circumstance, To Engineer Is Human: The Role of Failure in Successful Design, Engineers of Dreams: Great Bridge Builders and the Spanning of America, and The Essential Engineer. He lives in North Carolina.
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There is probably a particular interest for everyone who reads it in any one given chapter, but I was particularly fascinated by early road development, (macadam vs. concrete) the planning of the 1950s Interstate Highway system, and why bridges are so vulnerable to decay and collapse. With it all is a side story...that of politics and how it plays a significant role in the funding of our infrastructure. One surprising tidbit....you will discover who actually places weight limits on bridges....uh-oh!
At times, "The Road Taken" becomes too mired in facts and figures, interrupting an otherwise good narrative. But because we are so closely related to infrastructure in our everyday lives, there's more than enough here to keep the reader's interest. This book is a good addition to our knowledge of how we get from place to place and what may lie ahead in our future.
There are suggestions this was a bit "written to order" by highway or transportation interests. Not sure of that, but it would explain much.
Not a bad read, really, but not up to Petroski's standards IMHO.
This topic of infrastructure is a bit more complicated it seems because it is a huge topic and prone to political diatribes (though that doesn't happen here) and minutiae.
Here the book delves through the topic with as much an ability to discuss the topic in general terms. Historical aspects, the need for trying to maintain what is happening and why the nation should be more concerned about what should be done going forward. The need is immense, but of course there is huge disagreement over how to fund these projects and what takes priority.
I found the book a but disappointing perhaps because this is such an interesting topic and so important to the macro economy and this is something that I wanted a much more major treatment perhaps that is because Pertroksi makes the topic vital and interesting.
Is this his best book? Not necessarily. But it is well worth reading and absorbing and this topic will continue to become a major topic. In many ways the country is surviving on seed corn and investments from years ago.
The book sets up the topic well, particularly in its exposition of the long-held and publicly communicated but largely ignored expressions of concern from the professional civil engineering community. As is always the case in Petroski's writings, where it touches on the technical it remains approachable for the non-technical reader. But in focusing to the degree it does on specific case studies, it doesn't effectively communicate that there are many cases just like them going on simultaneously. It might have helped if Petroski had retold the story of "The Hundred Year Old Shay" and added that our infrastructure can be seen similarly. It is there to be inferred, but it should have been made explicit.
Still, the book can inform ithe public and its conversations on this crucial topic. I would also recommend it for high school and college level introduction to engineering courses.