Cities Are Good for You: The Genius of the Metropolis

Leo Hollis, Author
Leo Hollis. Bloomsbury, $28 (416p) ISBN 978-1-62040-206-1
Hardcover - 384 pages - 978-1-4088-2662-1
Open Ebook - 416 pages - 978-1-4088-2663-8
Hardcover - 416 pages - 978-1-4088-2661-4
Hardcover - 407 pages - 978-1-4088-4348-2
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Forget the title; London-based writer and historian Hollis (The Stones of London: A History in Twelve Buildings) doesn’t make a solid case for the superiority of cities over suburbs or countryside. But having spent time in places as varied as Manhattan, Bangalore, and Venice, and having researched his subject, he has much to say about urban dynamism. He is particularly engaging when writing about slums, such as in a detailed profile of Mumbai’s Dharavi district (including its insufficient water supply and lack of public toilets); as well as on technologically sophisticated bus systems in Curtiba, Brazil, and Bogota; and on the construction of new “eco-cities” like Masdar, Abu Dhabi, and Tianjin Eco, China. However, Hollis sometimes flits from topic to topic and devotes too little attention to such megacities as Jakarta and Lagos. He also tends toward abstraction, as when describing the August 2011 London riots (“the city turned in on itself with extraordinary violence”), and can flood the reader with meaningless statistics (the millions of square feet of planned residential and commercial space in Songdo, South Korea), all of which make parts of the book read like urban studies–lite. However, these shortcomings are balanced by passages that colorfully demonstrate, through anecdotes and data, how particular cities are “extraordinary economic engines of wealth and innovation.” 55 b/w illus. Agent: Patrick Walsh, Conville and Walsh. (Aug.)
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