Triumph of the City

Monday, February 21, 2011

Title: Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier
Author: Edward Glaeser
Pages: 352
Genre: Non-Fiction
Publisher: Penguin Press
Pub. Date: February 10, 2011

Synopsis from

A pioneering urban economist offers fascinating, even inspiring proof that the city is humanity's greatest invention and our best hope for the future.

America is an urban nation. More than two thirds of us live on the 3 percent of land that contains our cities. Yet cities get a bad rap: they're dirty, poor, unhealthy, crime ridden, expensive, environmentally unfriendly... Or are they?

As Edward Glaeser proves in this myth-shattering book, cities are actually the healthiest, greenest, and richest (in cultural and economic terms) places to live. New Yorkers, for instance, live longer than other Americans; heart disease and cancer rates are lower in Gotham than in the nation as a whole. More than half of America's income is earned in twenty-two metropolitan areas. And city dwellers use, on average, 40 percent less energy than suburbanites.

Glaeser travels through history and around the globe to reveal the hidden workings of cities and how they bring out the best in humankind. Even the worst cities-Kinshasa, Kolkata, Lagos- confer surprising benefits on the people who flock to them, including better health and more jobs than the rural areas that surround them. Glaeser visits Bangalore and Silicon Valley, whose strangely similar histories prove how essential education is to urban success and how new technology actually encourages people to gather together physically. He discovers why Detroit is dying while other old industrial cities-Chicago, Boston, New York-thrive. He investigates why a new house costs 350 percent more in Los Angeles than in Houston, even though building costs are only 25 percent higher in L.A. He pinpoints the single factor that most influences urban growth-January temperatures-and explains how certain chilly cities manage to defy that link. He explains how West Coast environmentalists have harmed the environment, and how struggling cities from Youngstown to New Orleans can "shrink to greatness." And he exposes the dangerous anti-urban political bias that is harming both cities and the entire country.

Using intrepid reportage, keen analysis, and eloquent argument, Glaeser makes an impassioned case for the city's import and splendor. He reminds us forcefully why we should nurture our cities or suffer consequences that will hurt us all, no matter where we live.

Thoughts: I feel pretty bad about this, but I couldn't get into this book and ended up only reading it in parts. I thought I would try it because I've been really into non-fiction lately, and the topic of cities and where people live and why is interesting to me. And it's not just that I adore NYC... I love living in cities in general. I'm pretty happy in Orlando considering all the perks I have living here. It's ironic because I have more of an independent, reserved, personality but the thought of living out in the country far from people is horrifying to me! I prefer to live in heavily populated areas with lots of people that I don't know (LOL). In fact, I was really sad when my next door neighbors recently moved out even though we didn't say more than hi if we saw each other.

Well, I found this book chock-full of information and containing examples from cities all over the world. To be honest, that's something I don't think of that often. I am blindly naive sometimes at realizing how industrialized so many other countries are in addition to the States.

But, alas, even though I've been into non-fiction lately, I think I'm still leaning more towards the human interest stories, and this was too fact based and economic for me. (For a semester in college I thought I would be an accounting major... long story... but economics is what did me in).

So, while I found this book to not be for me, it definitely is the highly informative and thorough book on urban economics that it purposes to be.

Follow the rest of the tour here.


Juju at Tales of said...

Such a bummer when that happens. Thanks for your honest take :)

Zibilee said...

Oh, I am sorry that this book didn't work for you. I have to be honest and say that I probably wouldn't have liked this one either. I am extremely picky when it comes to nonfiction and don't really like things that have to do with economics or heavy science. I really appreciate your honesty in reviewing this book. Thanks.

Aarti said...

Oh, I'm bummed you didn't like this one as I think it sounds fascinating! Hmm... I might give it a go but like you, read it in bits and pieces. Thanks for the honest review!

heathertlc said...

Being less of a city girl myself (though definitely NOT a country girl ... more like a suburbs girl maybe) I can't imagine living in a big city. Maybe this book would convince me?

I'm glad you gave this book a try and I'm sorry it didn't turn out to be a great read for you, but I do appreciate you being on the tour regardless!

Ash said...

Sorry this one didn't work out for you. I was totally into it! I could see that the info could be a little daunting, it definitely wasn't a sit and read for hours book.

Booksnyc said...

I read an article based on this book recently, I think. I thought it was an interesting premise - the cities are usually depicted as the source of health and environment problems so I thought it was interesting to look at it from the opposite perspective.

Saying that, I am not sure I could have read an entire book on the topic - the article may have been enough :)

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