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Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier Hardcover – Feb 10 2011

4.3 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Press (Feb. 10 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 159420277X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594202773
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 2.9 x 24.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 590 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #157,875 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


"If you live in a city, if you're planning on living in a city, if you ever lived in a city-this is a great book to read to give yourself a nice feeling of what you're accomplishing. It's a tremendous book."
-Jon Stewart, Host of "The Daily Show"
"Edward Glaeser is one of the world's most brilliant economists, and "Triumph of the City" is a masterpiece. Seamlessly combining economics and history, he explains why cities are 'our species' greatest invention.' This beautifully written book makes clear how cities have not only survived but thrived, even as modern technology has seemingly made one's physical location less important."
-Steven D. Levitt, co-author of "Freakonomics" and "SuperFreakonomics"; professor of economics at the University of Chicago
"If you would like to improve slums, turn poverty into prosperity, or get a grip on urban sprawl, read this thoughtful and thought-provoking book."
-Simon Johnson, author of "13 Bankers"; professor of entre

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

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

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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Format: Paperback
Glaeser is worth reading on several topics: the economic and environmental benefits of urban living in general; Detroit's decline; the history of Paris and New York; urban racial segregation in the United States; and the demographics of suicides and accidents (i.e., as rural phenomenon).

The bad stuff: as an economist, Glaeser often seems compelled to express ideas and frame facts in the most insensitive, crass, or otherwise inappropriate manner. For example, contrasting urban riots in the 1960s in Detroit with the lack of them in the South, Glaeser uses the slogan "repression works." He is also given to long asides about everything under the sun (e.g, Shakespeare, Thoreau). Under the rubric of simply meandering or not really paying attention to what he writes, Glaeser asserts that Dwight Eisenhower was eager to expand the nation's highways in the 1950s and that Americans were "happy" to pay the taxes for them. Eisenhower was, in fact, reluctant to build new roads (or do anything else) and on the subject of taxes -- well, the joke pretty much writes itself.
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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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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