Book Review: City: A Guidebook to the Urban Age

P.D. Smith

Review by: Maureen Atkinson, J.C. Williams Group

In the past year, the major urban event that has happened is that 50% of the world’s population is now estimated to live in cities. This event seems to have brought on the publication of a number of new books celebrating the city. “City: A Guidebook for the Urban Age” is one of these publications that seeks to help the reader really understand the city. It covers the great aspects about cities such as culture, learning and sociability as well as the bad things like crime and income disparity.

Written by P.D. Smith, a contributor to “The Guardian” and “The Times Literary Supplement” in the UK, it is a wide ranging looking at all elements that make up a city, from culture to infrastructure. In each section, Smith goes back in history to unearth where certain features like towers or hotels emerge and how they manifest themselves now. It is a truly exhaustive look at where we have come from and where we are likely to be going.

This is a book for those who love cities. It may never help downtown managers do their jobs better, but it certainly will give them a perspective on the past that helped shape cities. It undoubtedly is a great place to find quotes for speeches with its 40+ pages of endnotes. Smith is clearly an advocate for dense, liveable cities rather than the spread-out/suburbanized model. The book will help managers learn from what has worked and has not worked by documenting the unintended consequences of what seemed like a good idea.As the world heads toward a 70% urbanized population by mid-century, we will certainly need these guidebooks.

As the author says “But no matter how technologically advanced they are, one thing is certain about the cities of tomorrow: to be successful they will need to satisfy many of the same demands and desires that city dwellers have had for millennia. The urbanites of the future will still want to walk through parks, grab a bite to eat from a street food vendor, marvel at a display in a museum, try on the latest fashion or simply sit in a café and watch people walking by on the street.”

Click here to order the book from Amazon, or search for your local bookstore.