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Category Archives: Books on Cities

Books on Cities: Sam Anderson, Boom Town (2018)

When I fantasize about living in Oklahoma City, I mentally install myself in the Regency Tower, a 24-story downtown apartment building put up in the late 1960s. By comparison to the surrounding built environment — newer, for the most part, than even the city’s mere 131 years would lead one to expect — the Regency […]

Books on Cities: Jan Morris, Hong Kong (1988/1997)

When Jan Morris died this past November, her fellow writer of place Pico Iyer saluted her on Twitter as “the kindest, shrewdest and most indefatigable master portraitist of cities.” Most of this portraiture she executed in the form of essays: “The Know-How City,” to name just one example, a 1976 Rolling Stone dispatch on Los Angeles from which I’ve […]

Books on Cities: Roman Mars and Kurt Kohlstedt, The 99% Invisible City: A Field Guide to the Hidden World of Everyday Design (2020)

When a podcast hits it big, it becomes something else: ideally a streaming television series, that most prestigious of all 21st-century cultural forms. But rare is the podcaster able to resist a book deal, and rarer still the podcaster who proves as skilled with the spoken word as the written one — or rather, whose […]

Books on Cities: Mark Kingwell, Concrete Reveries (2008)

We who write about cities obviously have an interest in the city as a subject. But I suspect we value it even more as a nexus of subjects, an ostensibly concrete object of focus that in practice allows us to write about anything at all. History, architecture, cinema, technology, politics, society, fashion, food: these are […]

Books on Cities: Lawrence Osborne, Paris Dreambook (1990)

“You can’t have Bach, Mozart and Beethoven as your favorite composers,” Michael Tilson Thomas once declared. “They simply define what music is.” By the same token, we might say you can’t have New York, London, and Paris as your favorite cities, collectively defining as they do the standard against which we measure — and usually […]

Books on Cities: Michael Sorkin, All Over the Map (2011)

When the coronavirus pandemic arrived in the United States, Michael Sorkin became one of its earliest high-profile casualties. He died in New York City, where he’d lived since 1973 and about which he’d written since at least the early 1980s. Throughout that decade he was the architecture critic for the also-late Village Voice, a position in […]

Books on Cities: Jason Horton, Abandoned and Historic Los Angeles (2020)

When you hear something described as “only in L.A.,” rest assured of its being neither unique to nor representative of Los Angeles. Take, mundane though it may be, the definite article preceding freeway numbers — “the 10,” “the 5,” “the 405” — a linguistic tic mythologized, by a kind of soft cultural conspiracy, as unheard […]

Books on Cities: Rem Koolhaas, “Delirious New York: A Retroactive Manifesto for Manhattan” (1978)

When Rem Koolhaas published Delirious New York in 1978, he hadn’t yet built his best-known work. Central China Television Headquarters was 35 years away, the Seattle Central Library was 26 years away, and even the Maison à Bordeaux (subject of the documentary Koolhaas Houselife) was 20 years away. In fact he hadn’t yet built anything at all, having established his Office of Metropolitan Architecture […]

Books on Cities: Jeff Speck, Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time (2012)

Anyone with an interest in American cities today has heard of Walk Score. Launched in 2007, the web site calculates the proximity of any given address to various necessities and amenities — grocery stores, schools, restaurants, hospitals, movie theaters — and assigns it the eponymous numerical rating. When I first heard of it, I naturally punched […]

Books on Cities: Andrei Codrescu, “New Orleans, Mon Amour: Twenty Years of Writings from the City”

Andrei Codrescu moved to New Orleans in 1985, and Hurricane Katrina followed two decades later. “New Orleans will be rebuilt, but it will never again be the city I know and love,” he declares in the final chapter of his anthology New Orleans, Mon Amour: Twenty Years of Writings from the City, published the year after […]