May 26

Book Review: City: A Guidebook for the Urban Age

City: A Guidebook for the Urban AgeCity: A Guidebook for the Urban Age by P.D. Smith

I got this as an audiobook, and in the introduction he mentions that it’s not meant to necessarily be read end to end, but rather that you can skip around, much as you would in a city. Perhaps that would have made it a better experience.
This book does provide an in-depth discussion of urban life, from antiquities to the future. It covers everything from shopping and ampitheaters to sewage and city walls. The examples focus mostly on the United States, London, and Mesopotamia. He talks about the first cities, how and why they were formed, the challenges they faced, and why they were abandoned (or more often, just had new cities built on the rubble.)

My main problem with the book is that it seemed repetitious. Even at 1.25X speed, it dragged on, and the last three hours felt interminable. I learned a few new things, and it made me think about cities in a new way (valuable for world-building) but after about the midway point none of it felt new anymore. After a certain point, it was like he’d gone beyond his research and was just kind of talking about the subject in an “most moderately well educated people would figure this out” sort of way. You know, like an article online.

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