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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A book for the 21st century, 15 April 2008
Ian Shine (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Cities (Paperback)
While this book is about the city and its role in history, if you want a deeply historical account you may be a little disappointed, as this book is firmly rooted in the present day.
It works chronologically, going from ancient cities of Egypt and Roman times up to present day London and New York, but the present day city is really the guidiing light behind the book, which is in no way a bad thing. Despite the fairly heavy subject, the book reads well (which isn't always the case with historical tomes) and provides a good balance between catering to the layman and the more knowledgable reader.
I found the parts about the 12th to 16th centuries most enlightening, as the author looked at the rise of notes of exchange in Italy and the problems that arose from the choice of Madrid as the capital of Spain.
For any lovers of Rabelais out there, you won't be disappointed in how much attention is paid to human waste in this book, and the author's coverage of the development of sewage disposal is frankly gripping. Bizarre as that might sound, it sheds a lot of light on the general trends behind the development as the city of a whole, and the trial and error procedures that have lead to many of its most successful developments.
The book ends with a nod to the future and a note on global warming, and as such it contains within its 300 pages something about every era of the city, which is no mean feat, and as a result of this book I'm now buying books about the periods in it that interested me the most, which in its way is more than a recommendation for any book.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Essential City Reader, 7 Feb 2006
lewism "lewism" (Helsinki, Finland) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Cities (Paperback)
John Reader takes us on a historical trip through the city starting in Mesopotamia 6,000 years ago and finishing at the present day taking a quick view at the usual suspects, London, Rome, Venice, New York and a few others. I agree with the author that this book is needed as the city is 'the defining artifact of civilisation', and by 2030 two thirds of us will be living in one. So the concept of the book is clear, better understand the city, how it works and how they differ and you will better understand civilisations and the forces at work in cities that even shape the outcome of wars and empires themselves. In answering the problems of the city we may be able to solve some of the environmental issues that face humanity now. Its optimistic and upbeat and demonstrates a love for the city,command of the subject and is full of interesting facts. Its pulled together very well too, and is eminently readable which is no small advantage. While perhaps the conclusion could draw from the whole book more clearly it is an excellent book and should be on every ones 'city reader' list.
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Cities by John Reader (Paperback - 1 Sep 2005)
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