The City: Humanity’s Greatest Invention?

triumph of the citywalljasper

In the past few years there has been several books that highlight the often-neglected green qualities of cities. The logic of these books is hard to dismiss. More than two-thirds of Americans live on 3% of land that we describe as urban, a clustering of the human population that preserves even more open space. Also, city dwellers, on average, use 40% less energy than suburbanites.

Edward Glaeser has written the latest such challenge to any easy thoughts we’ve ever had about urban living: Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richar, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier. Glaeser, a Professor of Economics at Harvard University, argues that our success as a country, and as a species, depends of the health and wealth of cities. Triumph of the City is an extremely important and thought-provoking book, no matter where you live. Edward Glaeser is familiar with the pitfalls of history, as we teeter between urban squalor and urban splendor, yet he still shares this hopeful vision:

If the future is going to be greener, then it must be more urban. Dense cities offer a means of living that involves less driving and smaller homes to heat and cool. Maybe someday we’ll be able to drive and cool our homes with almost no carbon emissions, but until then, there is nothing greener than blacktop. For the sake of humanity and our planet, cities are — and must be — the wave of the future.”

And, if the urban future is to be bright, it needs to shine at the neighborhood level, and that’s why we especially love Jay Walljasper’s book The Great Neighborhood Book: A Do-it-Yourself Guide to Placemaking (pictured above) — a volume full of practical solutions for the continued revitalization of the urban landscape.

You all know that the Land Library has thousands of volumes on rural lands, farms & ranches, along with the wilderness reaches of the Rockies, Africa, Tibet, and beyond. But, for a multitude of reasons, we have a strong affection for our books on city life. Here’s a few more titles we can easily recommend!

medoffcity comfort
Streets of Hope: The Fall and Rise of an Urban Neighborhood by Peter Medoff & Holly Sklar, City Comforts: How to Build an Urban Village by David Sucher

great good placecelebrating
And two classic books that opened the eyes of a new generation to the special places that truly makes a neighborhood: The Great Good Place: Cafes, Coffee Shops, Bookstores, Bars, Hair Salons and Other Hangouts at the Heart of a Community, and Celebrating the Third Place: Inspiring Stories about the Great Good Places at the Heart of Our Communities (both by Ray Oldenburg).

For more on the life of the City here’s two of our favorite past posts:

On gaining the tools for fun urban explorations.

Joseph Mitchell, the great wandering soul of New York City!

And here’s a link to all our past City Lives posts — enjoy!

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