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

3.85 of 5 stars 3.85  ·  rating details  ·  1,288 ratings  ·  211 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
ebook, 336 pages
Published November 13th 2012 by Metropolitan Books (first published June 19th 2012)
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Erin Bartels
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
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 Other books rely on historical documents, interviews with local figures, and drive-through visits.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
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
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
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
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
Jay Hinman
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Patrick Brown
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
Juan Carlos
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
Rebecca Pierzchala
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
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
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
Clif Brittain
Feb 18, 2013 Clif Brittain rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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
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.

Nestor Rychtyckyj
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
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
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
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
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
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
Miriam Downey
Read my full review here: http://mimi-cyberlibrarian.blogspot.c...

Eight Mile Road comes up again and again in Mark Binelli's look at his home city of Detroit. Eight Mile Road is the border between derelict, crime-ridden mostly-dead Detroit and the flourishing suburbs where the business of the East side of the state is conducted.

When the big-three automakers floundered in the early 2000s, accounts of Detroit's demise became common. Although Detroit City is the Place to Be is another of these na
Michael Lewyn
This book isn't a deep analysis of the policies that ruined Detroit- but then again, it doesn't try to be. Instead, it is an entertaining, readable description of what Detroit is like.

However, I did learn a little. Perhaps the most educational section is his chapter on Highland Park, a small city totally surrounded by the bigger city of Detroit. Despite Highland Park's small size and lack of bureaucracy, it appears to be even worse off; it has lost population more rapidly than Detroit, its firef
Bill Talley
My bookgroup read this book along with Charlie LeDuff's book on Detroit called Detroit: An American Autopsy. It was an enlightening read from Binelli as well as LeDuff. Binelli, like LeDuff is a native of Detroit who has returned to see what has become of his hometown. What he sees is urban blight the likes of which have never been seen in this country. Binelli documents the lawlessness and despair of the place in human terms and uses the people he meets and speaks to make the point that there i ...more
"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:
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Mark Binelli is a contributing editor at Rolling Stone and is the author of Detroit City Is the Place to Be and Sacco and Vanzetti Must Die!. Born and raised in the Detroit area, he now lives in New York City.
More about Mark Binelli...
The Last Days of Detroit: The Life and Death of an American Giant Sacco and Vanzetti Must Die! Screamin' Jay Hawkins' All-Time Greatest Hits: A Novel Enrico Natali: Detroit 1968

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