Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Detroit City Is the Place to Be: The Afterlife of an American Metropolis” as Want to Read:
Detroit City Is the Place to Be: The Afterlife of an American Metropolis
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Detroit City Is the Place to Be: The Afterlife of an American Metropolis

3.85  ·  Rating Details ·  1,571 Ratings  ·  243 Reviews
The fall and maybe rise of Detroit, America's most epic urban failure, from local native and Rolling Stone reporter Mark Binelli

Once America's capitalist dream town, Detroit is our country's greatest urban failure, having fallen the longest and the farthest. But the city's worst crisis yet (and that's saying something) has managed to do the unthinkable: turn the end of day
Hardcover, 318 pages
Published November 13th 2012 by Metropolitan Books (first published June 19th 2012)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Detroit City Is the Place to Be, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Detroit City Is the Place to Be

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Erin Bartels
Nov 17, 2012 Erin Bartels rated it it was amazing
Refreshingly nonpartisan and presented without the author’s own ego and agenda getting muddled up in things (a flaw so common in nonfiction books that take on difficult subjects), Detroit City Is the Place to Be is simultaneously a lesson in how we got here and how we might possibly get out of here. A Detroit area native (though he now lives in New York City), Mark Binelli covers almost every angle of the problem of Detroit, including historical and current racial tensions, the explosive growth ...more
Dan Trudeau
Dec 28, 2012 Dan Trudeau rated it really liked it
Shelves: detroit
I've spent a good deal of time reading books about Detroit and after disappointments like Detroit (A Biography), this was a breath of fresh air. It's the book I'd guide people who are interested in the city to read. Other books rely on historical documents, interviews with local figures, and drive-through visits. Binelli is from the area originally and lived in the city proper, doing ride-alongs with Charles Pugh on the bus, spending a couple days with the skeletal Highland Park Fire Department, ...more
Jun 20, 2013 Patti rated it it was amazing
People who say that Detroit is making a comeback are either a) delusional, b) never been there, c) lying or d) focusing on a very narrow portion of the city (i.e. "Midtown", a small part of Woodward Avenue). Guess what? The city is 139 square miles and most of those miles are completely decimated.

There are many books about Detroit and very few of them talk about the elephant, er, Edsel (if you will) in the room: poor people. The majority of Detroit is made up of folks living below the poverty l
May 20, 2013 Stephen rated it it was ok
Quite disappointed in this. To be honest, I didn't think it was that well written for one thing, nor was it well organised (individual chapters were okay, but the arrangement of material in there seemed haphazard). There was no overarching thesis, it was really just a collection of disjointed anecdotes and potted histories. Sometimes with some strange digressions. It all felt a bit perfunctory - as one example, the author sneaks in to watch the filming of a blockbuster movie in his old school; a ...more
Chad Post
Jul 19, 2012 Chad Post rated it it was amazing
This book is as awesome as I expected it would be. Before saying anything more, I should admit upfront that I'm friends with Mark Binelli and was working at Dalkey Archive when Sacco and Vanzetti Must Die! came out. (Another excellent book that you should read.) I've also heard Mark talk about this book for the past few years, and some fo the stories he's told me over drinks show up in here. (The gun-toting priest story and its gun training follow-up is a personal favorite.)

In listening to Mark
Jay Hinman
Jan 01, 2013 Jay Hinman rated it liked it
The city of Detroit is pretty META right now. Merely talking about Detroit and its unprecedented decline is old hat. We've all seen the ruin porn, breathlessly emailed across the internet and splashed across design and news sites to generate clicks and ad sales. We're now into the phase where we dissect why we're all so fascinated with Detroit, and mock those who spend an inordinate amount of time gaining schadenfreude or perverse thrills from watching a city that has hopelessly, helplessly impl ...more
Dec 19, 2012 Todd rated it really liked it
I consider Detroit to be my home city though I have not even lived in Michigan for 20 years. When I go back, I like to go downtown but I go as an interloper. Here, Mr. Binelli lived in the city for a year, meeting residents, politicians, artists and gathered a story of where Detroit was, where it is, but not so much on where it is going (though understandable as there have been many false hopes created in the past 20 years as to the city's future).

Much of the book made me depressed. No one can a
Jun 06, 2013 Carl rated it really liked it
This is my kind of book about a city: a fascinating, balanced investigation and analysis of how a city works (or doesn't work), from regular folks to city hall, from it's historical boomtown heyday to its contemporary daily life tragedies and resilient aspirations. Binelli, a native son returning to his hometown, does an admirable job of covering the dimensions of the city--the car industry, unions, race, pockets of arty gentrification, Detroit-as-Great-Symbol-of-[insert your pet agenda here], m ...more
Nov 27, 2012 Michelle rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, 2012
Detroit as a city fascinates me and I’ve never fully understood why. I’ve not been to Detroit, I’m not involved in the auto industry, or smoking crack, or setting fires to my hometown, or anything else you might relate to the place. The author explained it to me in the introduction. At one time Detroit was the equivalent of Silicon Valley. As someone who works in this software industry and in private equity, that comparison really stunned me. It’s something I knew inherently but I never related ...more
Jul 22, 2013 Rana rated it it was amazing
Ten days ago, I finished reading Mark Binelli’s Detroit City Is the Place to Be. Five days ago, Detroit declared bankruptcy. I would hardly call the series of events auspicious, but I have to admit to a sense of relief. Because of Binelli’s book, I understood.

Much of the book’s content wasn’t new to me. The novelty was in Binelli’s creative rendering of Detroit’s story, which brought alive a city considered by many to be dying. So on that matter, let me begin: Binelli writes well. His approach t
Nov 15, 2012 Elin rated it liked it
i got this book for free in a giveaway, so i will actually write a review. i read too much to write reviews for everything but if it means goodreads is more likely to give me more free books i'll write a few hundred words, why not.

in general this is a good book. (3 stars is a good rating from me.) it has most of the things i am looking for in nonfiction, including (most importantly) an exploratory tone. the scenic narration in particular is very compelling. it has literary ideas, which is essent
Apr 26, 2013 Alexa rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
It's weird that a book that comprehensively illustrates just how completely screwed this city is still somehow also makes you agree that Detroit City is, in a way at least, the place to be.

My family on both sides is from Ann Arbor, and they all call it DEE-troit. I grew up thinking those two were the same place, basically, like San Jose and Cupertino (we lived in the latter, literally across the street from the former). I'm a bit less ignorant now, but it felt good to have an actual perspective
Patrick Brown
Nov 13, 2012 Patrick Brown rated it really liked it
This is the kind of book that I often lose interest in, and sometimes walk away from wishing it were a magazine article instead. But that didn't happen here, and it's a credit to Binelli's talents as a storyteller. This is a terrific portrait of a city in decline and its attempts at rebirth or redefinition. It covers everything from the history of Detroit to the downfall and quasi-resurrection of the auto industry to Detroit techno to the burgeoning arts movement to the miserable state of Detroi ...more
May 09, 2013 Niral rated it did not like it
Reading this book reminded me of a line spoken by Jack Nicholson in one of my favorite movies, As Good as it Gets: "I'm drowning and you're describing the water." The author states in the introduction that analyses chronicling the demise of Detroit have been done to death, and that he is interested in understanding how a city picks itself back up. That was a story I wanted to read. However, the author then embarks on an elegiac post-mortem that piles on to the "ruin porn" he repeatedly criticize ...more
Clif Brittain
Feb 18, 2013 Clif Brittain rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Urban dwellers
This book was written by a writer who frequently writes for the Rolling Stone. His style is very similar to that of the magazine, fairly high on the emotional and snarky scale and pretty low on the quantifiable scale. But nothing Binelli says seems wrong in his description and analysis of the situation. I'll be visiting Detroit in about a month and I will let you know what I think about accuracy, at least from an emotional point of view.

Binelli's most telling point is that Detroit is not all tha
Jan 10, 2013 Angie rated it really liked it
I'm a little torn on this one. While an informative look at the very recent events and people attempting to make change in the city of Detroit, the title and description lead you to believe that this is a book about the good things happening in Detroit.

Yes, there are good things happening in Detroit.

Unfortunately, Binelli takes the route of re-telling the same stories of hard times and bad news through personal accounts of those living in and around the city. This isn't a bad thing but its not
Nestor Rychtyckyj
Dec 31, 2012 Nestor Rychtyckyj rated it really liked it
As somebody who's spent most of my life in Detroit (actually Hamtramck, Detroit & now Warren) this book was fascinating to read. Every chapter brought out a range of different emotions and I would deliberitely put the book down and go over everything again in my head before moving on. The author is a native Detroiter (now living in NYC) who moved back into the city (Eastern Market area) and spent a year trying to understand how the city came to be in ths state that it is and more importantly ...more
Feb 09, 2015 TienvoorNegen rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
Years ago, while traveling through Canada I found myself on the river bank of the Detroit river in Windsor. Looking across to Detroit. I was tempted to cross the bridge and go have a look. The Canadians I was with looked at me as if I was crazy.
I didn't know anything about Detroit. All I wanted to do was cross 'been in the USA' (Motown city!) of my list. Detroit was dangerous, they said. No-one wants to go there, they said.
I put it down as them being over-cautious, and, to be honest, a bit ove
Juan Carlos
Jan 28, 2015 Juan Carlos rated it really liked it
Biographical books about Detroit seem to paint the city in one of two ways, either A) The "Say Nice Things About Detroit" tone in which Detroit is a secret utopia that only people who have been there can appreciate or B) Detroit is a 139 square mile death trap where every time there is a gust of wind, bullets fly through the air striking anyone standing outside. Neither is accurate.

This book did an excellent job of fairly detailing Detroit from a first-person perspective. The author kept a neutr
Nov 28, 2013 Ash rated it liked it
Discusses the struggles and triumphes of the past and present Detriot. Current efforts such as urban gardening, right-sizing (shrinking the city by incentivizing people living in virtually abandoned "neighborhoods" to move into areas that can be more efficiently and economically maintained and serviced by the city), and artist immigration (hoping a creative prescence will assist in revitilization). Most of the book, however, is not focused on these efforts, but on the current level of decay comp ...more
Feb 20, 2013 Kkraemer rated it liked it
This is about Detroit, a city of so many challenges that it just seems overwhelming while, at the same time, it is a city of magnificence. Binelli tells of Detroit as his home town and also a boom town more than once. He writes of Detroit as the future writ from the mad pages of a sci fi narrative. He describes Detroit as an urban farm, an urban forest, the urban return to the South that so many fled. There is also Detroit as murder capital of the country, and Detroit as grand possibility.

Mar 03, 2013 Lori rated it it was amazing
Shelves: politics
One of the few books about Detroit i didn't want to throw against the wall. The author grew up in St. Clair Shores, went to UM and returned and lived in detroit while writing the book. interviewed all the right people, good stuff. especially liked his interviews with Highland Park firemen and their extraordinary dedication under absurd conditions. as soon as i hit the lottery they're on my list to help out.
he's a little hard on mayor bing and a little easy on kwame. it's not racist to be angry
Mar 07, 2013 Danny rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. I grew up in Detroit, but moved away a long time ago. My family is still there and I get back once a year, so I’m endlessly fascinated by the fate of my hometown. Binelli does a commendable job looking at the city’s de-evolution, trying to put what has happened to Detroit in historic, political, and cultural context. He doesn’t attempt to offer solutions to the city’s plight, but rather looks at the various forces in play shaping the current day problems. He definitely gets hi ...more
Nov 20, 2012 Megan rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, detroit
The book is a mix of history and interviews with Detroiters. Binelli temporarily lives in the heart of the city and tags along on all kinds of adventures, from shadowing the fire department in Highland Park to watching modern art installations. He talks with residents about crime, walks through abandoned buildings (including his own high school), and explores some of the creative responses to the city's situation, including urban gardening and schools like the Catherine Ferguson Academy for preg ...more
Feb 14, 2013 Lizzy rated it really liked it
Shelves: own
As a Michigander whose spent quite a bit of time in Detroit (unlike many Michiganders), I can really get behind this book. A lot of the new-found national, and even international, attention on the city is just "listen to these scary stats and look at these shocking photos and omg we must do something for these people - let's start an urban farm!" Binelli avoids most of that, and talks about several people and/or organizations in the city that are dedicated to making positive changes - and not al ...more
Rebecca Pierzchala
Apr 14, 2014 Rebecca Pierzchala rated it liked it
3.38? 3.5? 3.62? stars? Unsure of how to rate this. More than 3, less than 4. I'm not sure if this book was meant for Michiganders or more for people from outside the area. Many things talked about, I already knew, having lived in Detroit proper and its surrounding suburbs for most of my life. Many things, I did not know about. At times shocking, charming, disappointing, it's a thoughtful, pretty well-rounded book about the history of the city with special attention paid to politics, arts & ...more
Mike Niebrzydowski
Nov 15, 2016 Mike Niebrzydowski rated it really liked it
It was really interesting to read about the history of Detroit, as well as some of the recent troubles, but still have somewhat of an uplifting outlook. Both cool and eerie to be familiar with many of the places and events he talks about in the book. Some of the numbers are staggering and truly hard to believe. It would be even more interesting to see what the author has to say now that another few years have passed. Would definitely recommend reading this to anyone who wants to understand Detro ...more
Apr 27, 2013 Catherine rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2013
A terrific book about a once great city. Being from the Detroit area I remember taking the train from Pontiac to Detroit with my girlfriends to Christmas shop at Hudson's Department Store, cheering on the Tigers at Briggs Stadium, jazz concerts at Cobo Hall, plays at Ford Theater, nights on the Belle Isle Ferry & sailing on the river. Those were grand times that will never be experienced again by anyone, but Mark Bonelli tells us that Detroit is not down for the count she is just in a long t ...more
Oct 30, 2012 Claire rated it really liked it
"In Detroit City Is the Place to Be, Rolling Stone writer Mark Binelli examines the Motor City, creating a composite portrait that is half-failed state, half-success story. Binelli’s Detroit is one of fits and false starts, optimistic artists, overburdened firemen, and arrests. It is also a city that is striving to be, if not to be the next bohemia, something better."

Read my Q&A with Mark Binelli here:
Dec 10, 2012 Jeffrey rated it really liked it
While this book was interesting, it didn't delve into topics as deeply as I would have liked. Instead, it hit on a multitude of different factors that limit Detroit's recovery. I liked how Binelli touched on both current events and historical factors that make Detroit what it is today. Binelli further shows how the Big 3 have been limiting for Detroit for a century. Well worth the read to become oriented to Detroit today.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Detroit: A Biography
  • The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit
  • Reimagining Detroit: Opportunities for Redefining an American City
  • Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City
  • Hidden History of Detroit
  • Wrestling with Moses: How Jane Jacobs Took On New York's Master Builder and Transformed the American City
  • Detroit: An American Autopsy
  • Fighting Traffic: The Dawn of the Motor Age in the American City
  • Straphanger: Saving Our Cities and Ourselves from the Automobile
  • Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time
  • Say Nice Things About Detroit
  • Walking Home: The Life and Lessons of a City Builder
  • Making the Second Ghetto: Race and Housing in Chicago 1940-1960
  • The Great Society Subway: A History of the Washington Metro
  • Detroit: I Do Mind Dying: A Study in Urban Revolution
  • City: Rediscovering the Center
  • The Great Inversion and the Future of the American City
  • Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford's Forgotten Jungle City
Mark Binelli is the author of Detroit City Is the Place to Be and the novels Screamin' Jay Hawkins' All-Time Greatest Hits and Sacco and Vanzetti Must Die! as well as a contributing editor at Rolling Stone. Born and raised in the Detroit area, he lives in New York City.
More about Mark Binelli...

Share This Book