For the first time in the history of our planet, more than half the population - 3.3 billion people - is now living in cities. City is the ultimate guidebook to our urban centers - the signature unit of human civilization. With erudite prose and carefully chosen illustrations, this unique work of metatourism explores what cities are and how they work. It covers history, customs and language, districts, transport, money, work, shops and markets, and tourist sites, creating a fantastically detailed portrait of the city through history and into the future.
The urban explorer will revel in essays on downtowns, suburbs, shantytowns and favelas, graffiti, skylines, crime, the theater, street food, sport, eco-cities, and sacred sites, as well as mini essays on the Tower of Babel, flash mobs, ghettos, skateboarding, and SimCity, among many others. Drawing on a vast range of examples from across the world and throughout history, City is extensively illustrated with full-color photographs, maps, and other images. Acclaimed author and independent scholar P. D. Smith explores what it was like to live in the first cities, how they have evolved, and why in the future, cities will play an even greater role in human life.
If you have ever loved a city and felt that you belong downtown somewhere, whether in the hot, fragrant roads of Bangkok or the buzzing streets of New York, there's something in PD Smith's City for you. Smith identifies what is unique and beautiful about many cities, providing both reasons for hometown pride as well as curiosity about foreign, lesser known places. This exploration builds up to a discussion about present and future urban life, but this aspect is tiny in comparison to the rest of the book's heft. City is a historical project, and the history that it uncovers is an exotic world that is both ancient and modern. Subsequently, readers see how cities have given birth to practices that are fundamental to humanity, such as writing, economics, and trade... This makes for a fun, optimistic read that is also highly informative and one that I'll return to as both a reference and for the pleasure of its photographs and curious anecdotes. (Reviewed by Elizabeth Whitmore Funk).
Discursive, imaginative, and comprehensive, [Smith's] analysis of everything from the Hanging Gardens of Babylon to skateboarding and graffiti should be savored.
The Washington Post
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.
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.
Starred Review. Smith composes a polyphonic paean to our urban past, present and future... As exciting, sprawling and multifarious as a shining city on a hill.
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.
The Guardian (UK)
[A] richly packed, colourful and well-written primer on the role the city plays in our lives.
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