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Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier [Hardcover]

Edward Glaeser
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 15 2011
A pioneering urban economist offers fascinating, even inspiring proof that the city is humanity's greatest invention and our best hope for the future.

America is an urban nation. More than two thirds of us live on the 3 percent of land that contains our cities. Yet cities get a bad rap: they're dirty, poor, unhealthy, crime ridden, expensive, environmentally unfriendly... Or are they?

As Edward Glaeser proves in this myth-shattering book, cities are actually the healthiest, greenest, and richest (in cultural and economic terms) places to live. New Yorkers, for instance, live longer than other Americans; heart disease and cancer rates are lower in Gotham than in the nation as a whole. More than half of America's income is earned in twenty-two metropolitan areas. And city dwellers use, on average, 40 percent less energy than suburbanites.

Glaeser travels through history and around the globe to reveal the hidden workings of cities and how they bring out the best in humankind. Even the worst cities-Kinshasa, Kolkata, Lagos- confer surprising benefits on the people who flock to them, including better health and more jobs than the rural areas that surround them. Glaeser visits Bangalore and Silicon Valley, whose strangely similar histories prove how essential education is to urban success and how new technology actually encourages people to gather together physically. He discovers why Detroit is dying while other old industrial cities-Chicago, Boston, New York-thrive. He investigates why a new house costs 350 percent more in Los Angeles than in Houston, even though building costs are only 25 percent higher in L.A. He pinpoints the single factor that most influences urban growth-January temperatures-and explains how certain chilly cities manage to defy that link. He explains how West Coast environmentalists have harmed the environment, and how struggling cities from Youngstown to New Orleans can "shrink to greatness." And he exposes the dangerous anti-urban political bias that is harming both cities and the entire country.

Using intrepid reportage, keen analysis, and eloquent argument, Glaeser makes an impassioned case for the city's import and splendor. He reminds us forcefully why we should nurture our cities or suffer consequences that will hurt us all, no matter where we live.

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"You'll...walk away dazzled by the greatness of cities and fascinated by this writer's nimble mind." ---The New York Times --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

About the Author

Edward L. Glaeser is the Fred and Eleanor Glimp Professor of Economics at Harvard University. He studies the economics of cities, housing, segregation, obesity, crime, innovation and other subjects, and writes about many of these issues for Economix. He serves as the director of the Taubman Center for State and Local Government and the Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston. He is also a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1992.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant but Unripe June 27 2011
By Pierre Gauthier TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This work is sadly uneven. It does include refreshing, well supported, original ideas concerning the crucial role of urban life in our economies and civilizations. The outlook is international and discusses cities on many continents. Fascinating analogies are made through time and space, for instance between 21st century Rio and 19th century New York and Boston.

Unfortunately, some frequent repetitions and an imperfect structure show that indeed this book is largely a collage of opinions published previously in blogs and articles, as the author admits in the acknowledgements section.

Worse, certain positions are very poorly founded. For example, the book presents a naive and simplistic view of zoning based on supply and demand that excludes realities such as corruption and speculation.

Though the author tries to temper things with historical research and his own field observations, there is generally too much reliance on statistics and numerical data. This is often more confusing than convincing as illustrated by statements such as : `Holding family income and size constant, gas consumption per family per year declines by 106 gallons as the number of residents per square mile doubles'.

The author includes many self-deprecating comments, describing himself for instance as socially awkward and athletically incompetent. He does not avoid however a certain degree of narcissism and recounts his youth in New York (at 69th Street and 1st Avenue), his current suburban life in Massachusetts, his great grandmother's prayers in Trinity Church, his grandfather's emigration from Germany in 1930, etc. This does not succeed in humanizing the book but rather diminishes the objectivity expected from a Harvard professor.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great! Nov. 7 2011
I am a university student studying urban planning and this book is great. We are reading it for an economics class and it is the first time I can actually say I read an entire econ book. Glaeser made this book easy to read and sprinkles in some interesting historical facts. I strongly recommend this book for anyone interested in urban planning, housing, the environment, or transportation.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Read! April 23 2011
By Jason
Triumph of the City is a really fascinating and straightforward read. The book provided solid arguments in favour of urban development and urban density, most notably the increased productivity and innovation that come from increased human closeness, the environmental benefits of density, and the social benefits of keeping housing in large economic centres affordable to middle class citizens and the poor.

Although this book provided a lot of solid technical analysis, it was still a really great casual read. My favourite aspect of the book was some of the great history and analysis provided on cities like New York, Detroit, Singapore, Paris and London. There was even a short discussion on the history of Vancouver and the positive impact of Canadian multiculturalism that I enjoyed.

Overall I found Triumph of the City to be a great read and if you enjoy subject matters like economics, history, politics, and obviously, urbanism, I definitely recommend that you check it out!
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply Amazing Sept. 4 2012
By Brandon
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Urban Planners, students, matter your experience level...this book provides insight to key issues and challenges theory as the author provides new ideas.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
While I really enjoyed the idea of the book (that cities are about people, not the buildings), I'm a bit concerned about this infatuation with the city. Despite the fact that city seems like a greener and more progressive option than population sprawl and country living, the proposed-by-the-author idea to increase concentration of people in the cities might give some wrong incentives and have some unforeseen consequences as well.

If people were encouraged to flock to the cities more and more, wouldn't that be an incentive to abandon traditional farming? And if yes, do we really have a safe and healthy alternative to the current industry of agriculture? (Even Dickson Despommier in his book "The Vertical Farm" (p.127-128) admits that we'll need to increase the research and development of GMOs, genetically modified organisms, in order to bring the farming into the cities.) Are people capable of radically changing their food production and consumption to keep up with the encouragement for urban concentration?

Second, with people being heavily taxed for their traveling impact on the environment, would not that be an incentive for the transportation industry to deteriorate? And if yes, will not that result in highly-concentrated urban islands isolated from each other. Will not it lead to deglobalization and thus stymie the exchange of ideas and resources on international level?

Third, with the proposed increased concentration of people in the cities, will not the living space per person shrink and thus negatively impact the quality of life? I mean despite all the current ingenuity in construction and building, the sky is the limit.
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