Relevant to our society, City is one of the best books we have laid eyes on this year. Inspired by a traditional guidebook layout with sections like 'history', 'customs' and 'money', the work takes us back into the past from the beginning of time, giving us a better standpoint from which to observe our urban future more clearly.
The best part about this book is that you don't have to be an urbanist or architect to understand its subject-matter; and light enough to carry easily, you won't be mistaken for an Einstein-wannabe showing off the equivalent of an encyclopaedia on the tube. Accessible, clear, well illustrated, informative and enjoyable, reading City is time well spent.
As the reader jumps from city to city and from era to era, the rise of the urban age becomes clear and the frightening non-negilible fact that by the year 2050, 75% of the world's population will live in cities, compared to 50% today, no longer brings apprehension but fascination.
While most of us urbanites seek to flee the fumes and foray of the city, the author of City, PD Smith, asserts that 'Cities are our greatest creation'. And admittedly so, the city has an irresistible draw to its saturated and wrenching bowels. But the practical aspect aside, cities also 'embody our ability to imagine how the world might be and to realise those dreams in brick, steel, concrete and glass', said Smith.
Putting the city forward as a pioneering endeavour, Smith attempts to explain the magnet effect of the world's greatest cities in a language that is within reach of the lay-person, no matter which part of the world they come from. From exploring key elements of a city, any city, we learn the significance of 'The Central Station', street language, city squares, carnivals, to places of worship, the hotel, cultural enclaves, transport, skyscrapers to apartment blocks, cultural hotspots, green areas until we reach the outskirts, the suburbs of the thriving metropolis held tightly within its stretching belt. An overwhelming yet enticing journey through the winding streets of the overcrowded home we love to hate, that we strive to leave for wide open spaces and that we miss as soon as we step over the threshold that will be sure to bring clarity and purpose to mind in moments of that dark lonesome despair the city-dweller knowns all too well.
Publisher: Bloomsbury (£25.00 for the hardback format)
Average price: £14.99