Askew's book is essentially an edited volume that nicely brings together historical material, as well as findings from very diverse studies he carried out in Bangkok during several periods in residence during the 1990s. The book will not be of interest to the casual traveler. However, it should be of interest to long-term expats and frequent visitors who want to know more about Bangkok, in terms of its social and economic history.
The book is scholarly but only veers into the more tedious kinds of academic writing in a few places such as the chapter on female sex workers. That chapter contains far too much of the tortured, convoluted prose associated with cultural studies and related fields. Because different projects related to the book were carried out at different points in time, the literature varies in terms of its completeness and timeliness. The section on sex work oddly makes little mention of HIV or the government's 100% condom program and neglects important references like Boonchalaksi & Guest's overview of sex work in Thailand. There are some neglects in other sections, such as the inattention to Bangkok's new transportation infrastructure and its implications, especially for neglected areas like Phayathai. These shortcomings keep this from being a "5-star". Nonetheless, the author impressively has brought together more information from disparate disciplines and perspectives than I've seen in other books about Bangkok. Heretofore, books about Bangkok have tended toward coffee table books or have covered very specific subject matter, often treated in the worst kind of academic prose. Furthermore, the author has generally been able to provide fresh perspectives and to question (sometimes too gently) the often superficial and self-serving views of Thai culture that have been common in much recent Western scholarship. Askew has lifted the bar and, hopefully, this will spur more efforts to thoughtfully write about Bangkok's development into a significant world capital.