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The 99% Invisible City: A Field Guide to the Hidden World of Everyday Design

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  4,888 ratings  ·  729 reviews
A beautifully designed guidebook to the unnoticed yet essential elements of our cities, from the creators of the wildly popular 99% Invisible podcast

Have you ever wondered what those bright, squiggly graffiti marks on the sidewalk mean?

Or stopped to consider why you don't see metal fire escapes on new buildings?

Or pondered the story behind those dancing inflatable figures
...more
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published January 1st 2020 by Hodder & Stoughton
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Zack 100% get the book. I listened to the audiobook and went and bought th book halfway through. If you are going to listen to it just listen to the podcas…more100% get the book. I listened to the audiobook and went and bought th book halfway through. If you are going to listen to it just listen to the podcast as it is made for that form. without the images/design etc. the book isn't really worth getting.(less)
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Average rating 4.03  · 
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 ·  4,888 ratings  ·  729 reviews


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Pop Bop
Jun 17, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
Fascinating Text; Frustrating Lack of Illustrations

This book is loaded with odds and ends that run the gamut from well organized long form essays to factoids and bits of trivia. The structure is a touch idiosyncratic but makes reasonable sense overall. I guess that figures for a book drawn primarily from a popular podcast.

Here's the thing, though. No photos, no color, no detailed illustrations. Here and there is a bit of graphic doodling, or a little pen and ink sketch, or some clip art, and tha
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Diane S ☔
Mar 17, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nf2022
Apparently this is a podcast and these items, facts are taken from those recording. I, however, do not listen to podcasts so this was all new to me. Interesting facts, tidbits, about a wide range of things in our cities, but many go unnoticed. Or maybe noticed but just taken for granted. It's there so what?

Learned much, some I knew, some not. I too despise roundabouts. Didn't know about the unusual and only one of its kind, stoplight. This stoplight in Syracuse, NY, the city where I was born has
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Anne Bogel
Mar 29, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As shared in the Quick Lit series on Modern Mrs Darcy:

My fascination with urban planning is well documented. I love learning the stories behind sidewalk placement, street signs, or park-building. This well-researched guide to city design reads like an extra-nerdy encyclopedia and includes illustrations, stories, and explanations of the things we usually overlook, like crosswalk signals, building exits, and left turns.

Highly recommended for your nightstand, or even your coffee table.
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Randal White
I found this book to be fascinating! So many little tidbits to be discovered. From subjects as different as the meanings of those little colored paint markings you find on your road, to big things like decisions in historic preservation. It just amazed me as to how my eyes have been opened to so many things in the city that I never knew, or even thought about.
And it's the type of book that you can read a page or two at your leisure, set the book down, and come back a week later and read a coupl
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Simms
Oct 23, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a longtime listener to (who is still not yet caught up with) the podcast 99% Invisible I was excited for this book, perhaps because I didn't realize how much of it was just ... the podcast. I've listened to maybe half of the episodes, and every few pages I encountered some story that I'd already heard. The things that were new to me, I'm not sure if they're also episodes that I just haven't listened to yet. So that was a letdown. The other big disappointment was that they didn't take advantag ...more
Carolyn Townsend
I am already a plaque reader, but this book opened my eyes to the unseen wonders of the city.
Alicia Bayer
This is an interesting book about city design that is mostly unknown, but the lack of photos is really frustrating. There are graphic illustrations at times, but as another reviewer mentioned, you really want to see pictures of the elements that are described. Also, I thought it would be more about secret elements of every city but many of them are specific to certain cities or to large urban areas in general (I live in a town of 800). It's still a fascinating read, especially for urban dwellers ...more
Jonathan Mckay
DNF.

2 pages isn't enough space to get into these topics with enough depth to find much beyond what could be surmised by looking at these objects in the wild. Essentially a book full of anecdotes, another example of the podcast -> book conversion that didn't effectively make the jump.
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Lily
Apr 21, 2020 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
As a Beautiful Nerd, I'm beyond excited to hold this wonderful book in my hands. 99 Percent Invisible is a treasure trove of design-based trivia, of which is both eye opening and endlessly amusing. ...more
Claire N
Oct 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: art, favorites
I absolutely loved everything about this book - the illustrations, the subject, the style. It was so clearly written, yet well researched. My favorite chapter was the one on the raccoons and ths squirrels!
Nox Voortella
Oct 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great read about (mostly) unknown city design. The graphic illustrations are an interesting design choice, too!
Roy Lotz
I have only listened to one episode of 99% Invisible (I very seldom listen to podcasts), but I came away impressed with the project. In general, I am in favor of any intellectual endeavor that attempts to find interest and wonder in the everyday; and that is what the podcast is ostensibly about: uncovering the stories behind designed objects all around us, from tables to stop signs. This is why I bought the book (well, the audiobook), hoping to discover the cotidian marvels of urban life.

But the
...more
Nathan
Nov 01, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: readin2020
I feel like this book was intended as just a signal, “I’m so cool I own this book” and not actually to be read. The sections are so short as to barely convey any interesting information (the opposite of why the podcast is so good), and in dozens of places a picture or image of the thing they’re talking about would be enormously helpful but none are included (the art is fine but is rarely useful). Was really disappointed by this.
Jeff
Sep 13, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book. If you are inquisitive and like wandering around cities, noticing little details that seem to pop out at you-- sometimes strange or puzzling-- this book may take some of the mystery out of the equation. Other readers will find themselves searching for cryptic signs and details they'd never noticed before. I would have appreciated more visual documentation to go along with the narrative but overall I found this book fascinating.

I received a copy from the publisher thro
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Derek
Oct 23, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: edutainment
Potato-chip morsels of education and entertainment, and for some reason I kept hearing it in my head in Roman Mars's voice.

But it never quite satisfies. It doesn't have the depth of discovery from the podcast. These are articles with scope instead of sprawling interviews that occasionally surprised the journalists themselves in the midst of their topic.
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Erin
Aug 24, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020, netgalley, 4-stars
Design is one of those things that one struggles to define, even though its one of the most prominent things around us. I did an internship at a design museum a few years ago, and while I have a better grip on it than I did before, I came out of it still hardly knowing how to describe it to others. Everyday design is fascinating to me. Designs are good when you don't even recognise they are there, when they are doing the job they are meant to do without drawing any attention. One of the first th ...more
Kasa Cotugno
Reading about architecture can be fun, as well as learning about style elements, landscaping, even the urban animal populations and their effect on urban life.
Cynda
I enjoyed reading this book, so much food for thought. But three weeks later, I have largely forgotten the text.

Like others here, I found the lack of memorable or helpful images to be a source of frustration.

This book provides a general overview of topics that are sometimes worthy of book-length discussion. Mars tells of green spaces created in unexpected places in various cities. A book-length discussion on unexpected green spaces to be found in New York City can be found in Green Metropolis: T
...more
Jen
Nov 24, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sara
Nov 17, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays, non-fic
yikes, what a disappointment this was, especially as a longtime fan of the show

Save yourself the money (or effort to get from a library) and stick to the podcast and more importantly to the excellent website content.

This book contains little of the narrative charm of the podcast, or the helpful visuals of the website. Instead the writing is pretty lifeless and sometimes uses architectural and design jargon with no explanation. The illustrations that accompany each mini-essay are sparse, but wor
...more
Ashley
I received a free digital copy of this book via NetGalley for an honest review.

99% Invisible is consistently one of my favorite podcasts. Even when episodes are focused on topics that I know something about, I always learn something new--and more frequently, the episodes highlight things I've never considered in any depth or even never noticed at all.

The 99% Invisible City is partially a book version of the podcast--that is not to say that the book can be read in lieu of listening to the podcas
...more
Squirrel
Dec 12, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, art, nonfiction
This book is not for people who have regularly followed the podcast and/or have gone back and listened to all the episodes they've missed. I think that there were only maybe a half dozen articles in this book that are not from past episodes or articles.
I know not everyone is into/able to listen to podcasts. Thus having a written version of the show is important. The issue? The articles posted to 99percentinvisible.org for the podcast episodes are longer than the articles in this book with better
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Kristine
Oct 06, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: amazon-reviewed
The 99% Invisible City by Roman Mars is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in early October.

Chapters on city planning, utilities, signage, and public works & safety - there's a mix of graphics in the sense that there ink drawings and photo-realistic illustrations. The scope of the narration is vast and blissfully fluent, but takes the long scenic path to an otherwise basic phrase.
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Paige
May 31, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars rounded down.

So I love fun facts. It’s one of my defining characteristics. My love of fun facts was mentioned like three times during my wedding ceremony. I seek them out. I share them compulsively. That’s who I am.

This book is made for me — just chock full of fun facts. I’ve loved the 99pi podcast for years, and drop those fun facts into conversation far too often (ask me about LA highway signs, I dare you). This book captures everything that is great about the podcast. It is person
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Casaubon
A "field guide" to many of the bits and pieces that make up urban planning and modern architecture or engineering design in cities. Apparently based off of a podcast that has been going for over a decade now.

The segments tend to be very short, and average about 3-5 pages each. There are many illustrations, but these are not taken to be representations or exact copies like most field guides. But the book is good to browse through every so often, and the topics range from manhole covers to the in
...more
William
Dec 20, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
(audiobook) This is one of my favorite podcasts, and the book is like a whole bunch of podcast episodes. What's not to like? Lowering one star for the audiobook version because the print version has pictures that you don't get to see through your ears. But you can still tell what they're talking about, just it would be nicer with pictures. ...more
Jaye Viner
Jun 28, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is amazing and everyone with any hint of curiosity about the way cities work (or don't work) should read it! ...more
Theediscerning
Jun 15, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Don't confuse this book with Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities – they're really quite different things. This bumper pack of social history, engineering history and so on asks us to take a closer look at what makes a city, that we don't normally consider. Road layouts, and what gets put in the gap left behind once a railway line (or Berlin Wall) has been dug up, are here, as are so many amenities and parts of the infrastructure. That infrastructure has only grown and grown, from a gutter for the w ...more
David
May 15, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Long-Suffering Wife gave me this as a mid-pandemic Christmas gift. I recommend this as a good gift book, pandemic or not -- it’s full of odd information about how our everyday environment got the way it is. It’s fun and interesting. It’s handsomely designed, including an informative paper half-cover which, when removed, explains the cover illustration.

The essays in this book are grouped by general topic but are not really related directly to each other, so can be read in odd minutes when not
...more
Milinda Yount
Jul 18, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The 99% Invisible City: A Field Guide to the Hidden World of Everyday Design by Roman Mars and Kurt Kohlstedt is a fascinating collection of stories and descriptions that explain all sorts of things associated with city infrastructure. Many of these topics cover things that you’ve seen many times but may not have thought about or realized that there was an interesting backstory. The book is constructed in a way that you could read straight through in several sittings or you could pick up and rea ...more
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