Feb 16, 2011

Triumph of the City

Edward Glaeser is the author of Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us richer, Smarter, Greener, and Happier and is also a Professor of Economics at Harvard.  And just a few nights ago he was a guest on The Daily Show. It was very exciting for me to be reading and reviewing a book and then get a chance to see the author of that edward-glaeser-227x300book on TV.  It kind of makes me feel a little bit like I am in the know. Glaeser showed a great amount of passion on the show and made me happy that I tracked down Trish from TLC Book Tours to get the opportunity to review this book.  Of course Jon Stewart does give Glaeser a bit of a hard time, but that is to be expected. You can see the interview with Stewart by clicking here

 

In both Triumph of the City and on The Daily Show, Glaeser shows his ability to make economics and the history of cities interesting and beyond the dry and bland analysis one would stereotypically expect.  The recent Penguin non-fiction books I have read (including Reality Is Broken) have astounded me with both their readability and their overwhelming amount of interesting and digestible information.  It seemed like at least once a paragraph I was pausing to read a part to Mr. X that I just couldn’t keep to myself. A great non-fiction book really lends itself to sharing and discussing and Triumph of the City is a great example embodying that quality.

 

As I mentioned earlier it is thanks to TLC Book Tours that I had the opportunity to read and review Glaeser’s book. My draw to it was understanding what this man had to say about cities and why people are drawn to them and how they will continue to be a benefit to society.  One of my interests was in seeing how what he had to say would tie in to what I know about both dystopian and utopian societies.  In a lot of futuristic fiction both the city and the government are the symbols of what is wrong.  They control and brainwash the people who follow their rules, obey their laws, and accept their teachings.  This book was particularly interesting in seeing how an ideal quest could turn into something much darker.  With all of the positive reasons people are drawn to the city for the reasons Glaeser presents it could be easy to see them going a negative way.  But my thoughts rarely strayed away from the positivity that is presented in Triumph of the City and I found myself buying in to so many of the topics he brought up.  While I definitely want to go over this book again with a comparison contrast view between cities, the future, and dystopias, I really enjoyed reading this book for it’s own ideas.

 

This last weekend Glaeser was also on NPR talking about his book.  Triumph of the City seems to be a book people naturally want to question and I think that is one of the strengths of it.  Edward Glaeser takes these questions and skepticism in stride, he even seems to welcome them as a way to continue to prove his case.  I think it is easy to jump to the conclusion that this book is wrong without really giving it a chance, but I think Triumph of the City has a lot to say and so many interesting factoids that it would be worth the time of almost any reader. Whether you are interested in this book or not I highly recommend you check out Glaeser’s NPR interview for a taste of what he has to offer.

 

I would like to conclude my thoughts about this book with a quote from page 122 of Triumph of the City that caught my interest.  The section is titled Scale Economies and the Globe Theatre and it caught my attention because theatre has long been a passion of mine.  I found it interesting to see what Glaeser had to say about it.

“Live performance is connected to the spread of innovation in cities because the first stirring of new artistic phenomenon are almost always performed live long before they are distributed electronically.”

This quote makes me think of the allure of Broadway, the way that seeing a play in the city can make you feel like you are part of something.  A movie will never be able to make my heart race in the same way as live theatre and the amazing experiences I had from the time I was a child all the way to this summer when I saw Phantom of the Opera with Mr. X in New York City.  I believe strongly in the ability for art to move people, to influence them, and I think influence and action can best be seen and felt in metropolitan areas.

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