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Synopses & Reviews
John Reader, author of the seminal book Africa: A Biography of the Continent, now brings us Cities: A Magisterial Exploration of the Nature and Impact of the City from Its Beginnings to the Mega-Conurbations of Today?an eye-opening journey from the earliest settlements in Mesopotamia to the sprawling megalopolises of today?Tokyo, Mexico City, and Sao Paolo. Reader reveals how cities came to be, what made them thrive, how they declined, and how they remade themselves. He debunks long-held theories and shows that the first cities actually preceded and inspired the growth of farming; that trees grow better in cities; and that even though three thousand years separated Imperial Rome from the Sumerian cities, their everyday lives were quite similar and share commonalities with our lives today. Focusing as much on Baron Haussman?s creation of the Paris sewers as on his plans for the grand boulevards, on prostitution as on government, on human lives as on architecture, on markets as on cathedrals, Reader gives us a humanistic work fit to stand alongside Lewis Mumford?s classic, The City in History. Throughout this stimulating survey, Reader proves a marvelous tour guide to what he calls ?the brightest stars in the constellation of human achievement.?
"In his often captivating treatise on the city, Reader (Pyramids of Life) squelches the notion that country living is preferable to urban living, explaining in detail how cities actually maintain civilization and have done so since Sumerian times. More than half the world's population now lives in cities, compared with less than 10% in the 1700s. Cities provide more economic opportunities, and more intellectual and social stimulation than nonurban life. But the demands of their populations must be met from outside the city itself. (Cities cover only about 2% of the world's land mass, but require nearly three-quarters of its resources.) Thus, posits Reader, cities will need to improve for the quality of life of their inhabitants to improve — and to sustain themselves without damaging the rest of the planet with their heavy ecological footprints. He explores cities' historical and anthropological elements, focusing particularly on Europe and Africa (one of the book's flaws is the short shrift given to Asia, where overcrowding is phenomenal). Although heavy on statistics, this thorough and readable look at urban growth will interest historians, anthropologists, sociologists and urban dwellers. Illus. Agent, Jane Kirby. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Charting the emergence of cities from the world's first cities in Mesopotamia to the megapolises of today (Tokyo, Mexico City, Sao Paolo), the author reveals how cities came to be, what made them grow and thrive, how they declined, and how they remade themselves.
A magisterial exploration of the nature of the city from its beginnings to contemporary Cairo, the largest city the world has known.
In his new book, an exploration of the city's functions and forms, John Reader grounds his work in broad-based research into the city's achievements and problems and makes extraordinary and thought-provoking connections as to the nature of cities, old and new.
From the ruins of the earliest cities to the present, Reader explores how they develop and thrive, how they can remake themselves, and how they can decline and die. He investigates their parasitic relationship with the countryside around them, the webs of trade and immigration they inhabit, how they feed and water themselves and dispose of their wastes. He focuses as much on Baron Haussman's creation of the Paris sewers as of his plans for the grand boulevards, on prostitution as on government, on human lives as on architecture, on markets as on cathedrals.
In this sweeping exploration of what the city is and has been, The Anatomy of the City is fit to stand alongside Lewis Mumford's 1962 classic The City in History.
"From the Hardcover edition.
Awe-inspiring in its scope and detail, Reader's Cities charts the emergence of cities from the world's first cities in Mesopotamia to the megapolises of today (Tokyo, Mexico City, Sao Paolo). He reveals how cities came to be, what made them grow and thrive, how they declined, and how they remade themselves. He scrutinizes cities from the ancient times up to the modern era, providing a genealogy of the world's first cities in Mesopotamia, examining Imperial Rome's rise and London's emergence as the capital of an economic empire. He looks at the design challenges presented by today's megalopolises, and refutes the conception that cities are essentially "artificial." His panoramic gaze captures the geographical and architectural forms of cityscapes as varied as industrial London, neo-classical Paris, and postmodern Los Angeles.
The New York Times called John Reader's Africa "awe-inspiring?a masterly synthesis." Cities is a work of equally ambitious scope?erudite and accessible.
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