cover image Imagine a City: A Pilot’s Journey Across the Urban World

Imagine a City: A Pilot’s Journey Across the Urban World

Mark Vanhoenacker. Knopf, $30 (416p) ISBN 978-0-525-65750-7

Gazing through the windshield of his 787, commercial airline pilot Vanhoenacker (Skyfaring) conjures the beauty of cities around the globe in this moving reflection on the meaning of home. After recalling his childhood in 1980s Pittsfield, Mass.—when his yearning to escape home for “skyscrapers, glittering lights, sweeping roads, a busy harbor, an airport (or three)” first took off—Vanhoenacker takes readers on a dazzling trip through hundreds of locales he’s traversed in his past two decades as a pilot. Rome and Cairo, “cities of beginnings,” prompt Vanhoenacker to muse on the power of origin myths, and the wolves that connect his New England home with the Eternal City. Other cityscapes, like those of Liverpool and Brasília, recall engineering diagrams of airplanes; while urban planner Lúcio Costa’s intention in the late 1950s was to design Brasília’s two axes like a cross, Vanhoenacker writes that Costa’s blueprint’s aeronautical allusions—particularly its name, Plano Piloto, which translates to Pilot Plan—have been a source of fascination among historians. Elsewhere, poetry beats at the heart of such cities as Delhi, London, Fargo, and Venice, while roiling rivers give Seoul and London, among others, their defining features. As he marvels at the locales he’s visited, Vanhoenacker offers a taste of the high life that informs and awes in equal measure. Jet-setters will be enthralled. (July)