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Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier and Happier

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  4,626 ratings  ·  447 reviews
A pioneering urban economist offers fascinating, even inspiring proof that the city is humanity's greatest invention and our best hope for the future.

America is an urban nation. More than two thirds of us live on the 3 percent of land that contains our cities. Yet cities get a bad rap: they're dirty, poor, unhealthy, crime ridden, expensive, environmentally unfriendly..
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Hardcover, 352 pages
Published February 10th 2011 by Penguin Press (first published 2011)
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Vipassana
This was one of the first books I read before grad school on urbanism and while it was a useful introduction, some of the recommendations are focussed on the short term in a way that is detrimental to cities. I haven't found a good and readable introduction to urbanism and this book remins the most accessible introduction. Until I find a better introduction, an antidote to the kind of thinking this book encourages - The Warmth of Other Suns, Isabel Wilkerson

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One of the things he advocates for
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Rachel Bayles
Apr 07, 2012 rated it liked it
This is a frustratingly uneven book, written by someone with many good, interesting ideas who has not learned to knit them into a book-length whole. His background as a published academic used to writing more focused work makes sense, given that the book reads so disjointedly.

Most of the book is written as separate chapters, touching on various mainstream urban ideas that are loosely knit together. The best parts are when the author begins to explore the role of serendipity and historical decisi
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Aaron Arnold
Mar 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
If you're into urban economics at all, or even just have an interest in how living in whatever city you're in improves your life, anything by Glaeser should be mandatory reading. He's a Harvard economist who also writes for the New York Times' Economix blog about urban issues, and this book is a synthesis of much of his recent work on cities.

The first part of the book is dedicated to enumerating the many economic advantages that urban areas provide over non-urban areas, especially in their role
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Jim
Oct 30, 2016 is currently reading it
This book is part of a special program at Nashua Public Library where our mayor and a panel of experts will talk about this book and have a Q and A session . Scheduled November 17th,2016.

Now this is a book with a lot of factoids and a series of ideas that gets one thinking.

I was taken by the statement on page one> Factoid 1: All of humanity could fit in Texas,all with our own personal townhouse.

However impractical, uncomfortable and destine to immediate catastrophe such an arrangement would be
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Jenn
Oct 05, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Edward Glaeser was preaching to the choir - I love cities! During my 40 years, I have lived in four cities - Detroit, Chicago, NYC, and London - all cities that Glaeser uses as frequent examples in this book.

My problem with the book isn't the city love but the overall lack of structure and purpose. It is easy to understand why cities would have richer, smarter, greener, healthier, and happier citizens than rural areas - this could have been summed up in an essay. While Glaeser did an excellent
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NAT.orious reads ☽
1 ★✩✩✩✩ without triumph

DNF.
I give up. I didn't expect a DNF so early in the year and especially not from this book. I had hoped for a more structured writing style and a more scientific take on things. Many of Edward's statements, provocative on purpose but failing their cause, did not agree with me.
Terry
Apr 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
Edward Glaeser is an economist with the Manhattan Institute--so my radar was up for conservative bias in this book, but if it's here, it's mild and mostly because he is an... economist! and looks at the world through that lens. But he also looks at -- and walks through and has lived in -- real cities so any quantitative perspective is balanced by the qualitative. He's an admirer of Jane Jacobs, my hero, but faults her for a bias towards historic preservation and relatively low urban densities th ...more
John Seno
Aug 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This book is very counterintuitive, the best defense I've come across for the maligned city. Cities have been and will continue to be the engine of growth. The place where cultures, ideas, people, technology and capital meet. In my backyard of Kenya, my city, Nairobi, accounts for 60% of Kenya's GDP. This emphasizes the place of cities in our lives. City life has many challenges like crime, poverty and disease but the author brilliantly illustrates that these challenges can be overcome with the ...more
Kyle Ryan
Jan 13, 2013 rated it did not like it
And I even like cities!

I really wish I had liked this book, which made my read of it all the more disappointing. As somebody who has lived in cities my entire adult life, I felt that this book was going to be a great opportunity to gain some new knowledge and put some facts behind my intuition that cities are a good thing for our bodies, minds, and environment. What I found instead was a lazy, jumbled mass of stories, facts, anecdotes, and opinions bent to attribute all good things that have eve

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Michael
Aug 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is not a Jane Jacobs acolyte book about urban design or about how density and walkability make us more virtuous, but an out of the box urban economics study; part Richard Florida (with more substance), part Malcolm Gladwell (with just as much trivia but fewer syllogisms). Glaeser's underlying theory is this: the last two generations of new urban form--the industrial city and automobile suburbs--are basically aberrations. Traditionally the city has been a place to make ideas, not automobiles ...more
Laura de Leon
Jan 17, 2011 rated it really liked it
I'm having some trouble with capturing my reaction to this book. Overall, the content and presentation were very interesting, but I don't necessarily agree with his conclusions.

After reading the first chapter, I was very concerned about the rest of the book. It presented a whole bunch of opinions, stated as fact, with very little to back them up. I felt like arguing with all of them, even the ones I agreed with.

Luckily I did better with the rest of the book, where the arguments are arranged logi
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Kylie Sparks
Aug 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I don't agree with everything Glaeser says but overall I found it really interesting, thought-provoking and it opened my eyes to a lot of things. I already agreed with him that the density of cities is great and breeds connectivity, new ideas, and creativity. And I also knew that it is much better for the environment for people to cluster together in cities where they use less gas, less energy and contain their impact (as opposed to spreading out in suburbs and rural areas. But I used to be a bi ...more
Gordon
Apr 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Sometime around 2010, the world's population passed a great milestone: for the first time in history, more people lived in cities than lived outside of them. We are fast leaving our agricultural past behind.

Edward Glaeser argues that this transformation of the way we live is a very, very good thing. As compared with their rural cousins, people who live in cities have a much smaller carbon footprint. They are 50% more productive, if they live in a city over one million people. They live longer. T
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Zé Frederico
Feb 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Provocative and full of insights. Well written with a simple language and pedagogical style.
Marks54
Dec 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is a review of current thinking on the city by a Harvard economist who specializes in such work. Glaeser is a big fan of Jame Jacobs, so the book serves as an interesting update to Jacob's book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities. He adds, however, that Jacobs was not an economist and so misunderstood some points, such as the unintended consequences of restricting the size and extent of building in a city - that preservation and limits building will lead to the marginalization of c ...more
Rhubarb
Jul 22, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I don't really know why reading this was such a complete and utter chore - in small doses it was quite interesting, but attempting to read it for any longer than a couple of pages resulted in my mind wandering off and subsequently having to re read the last paragraph again. As such this took me an embarrassingly long amount of time to finish.

As you would expect from the title, the book is basically a eulogy to cities and an attempt to frame why the drive towards suburban living in America and el
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asih simanis
Apr 04, 2017 rated it liked it
Hopefully my rating will not undermine the value of the ideas inside this book too much, since many of the arguments presented were well argued and important. However I find the book repetitive, tiring and boring. I believe the book could've been shrunk by half and it would've been better and more brilliant.
Ardyn
Jan 31, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: psychology, economics
So many interesting ideas in this book. It felt like a macro version of Happy City (an amazing book!), which discussed the impact cities have on societies more generally. The book felt disorganized though.
David Sasaki
Oct 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
One of those books that I read to mostly in order to recommend it to others. I'm already part of the urbanist converted, and Glaeser is preaching to the choir. For those of you who are comfortably content in the suburbs, or wary of the chaotic hustle and bustle of dense, tall cities, this is the book for you. It is part urban history, part policy argument. Or, perhaps better put, it's a convincing policy argument grounded on the past few centuries of urban and economic history.

The argument is t
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Josh Friedlander
Jun 21, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: urban-studies
A lot of this book is rambling and dull, the author pontificating about the joys of strolling through Paris or telling overlong tales of plucky entrepreneurs. As befits a product of the University of Chicago economics department, he is a true believer in free enterprise and market solutions, and has some questions about anthropogenic climate change. (He wavers on this last, but in his defense he firmly advocates policies to reduce carbon emissions.)

When he finally comes down to brass tacks, tho
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Lukas
Jan 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: top-20
This book is a page turner.

"Cities enable collaboration, especially the joint production of knowledge that is mankind's most important creation."

While transportation costs have fallen, proximity is more valuable today than ever before.
- Three percent of the U.S. landmass is urban, but over 80 percent of Americans live in those urban areas. Cities have formed because proximity has its advantages.
- In the 18th century, that advantage mainly consisted in town walls protecting traded goods.
- In th
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Austin Burbridge
Oct 19, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: civilization
I have lived in several cities; I lived in Houston for thirty years. In this book, Mr Glaeser's remarks about Houston are, in my opinion, so unconnected from the quotidian realities of the place, I wonder whether they constitute a misprint — perhaps he meant his remarks to refer to another place. If Houston really is the city to which his remarks refer, they sound — there is no other word for it — bizarre. I guess the kindest construction that could be put onto them, is that they have been adduc ...more
Tom
Nov 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
This proved to be an interesting book based on a somewhat controversial premise: “cities magnify humanity’s strengths.” In general, the more that people live in highly dense living conditions, conditions that are provided so as to make urban living both satisfying and conducive to innovation and social improvement, the better off our citizens will be and the better off our environment will be.

A lot of challenging positions are asserted by Glaeser and he provides a lot of examples showing how var
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Andrew
Dec 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I'd like to see a good rebuttal of him, but I couldn't think of any myself. The worst thing I could say about this book is that I think his writing style was a little too simple.

This is a stirring defense of cities, and the benefits they can offer. As someone who grew up in Detroit, I've spent the last ten years defending it. Glaeser spends a whole chapter (and constant asides elsewhere) explaining what happened to Detroit, and why it will be so hard to bring it back. (The short version: large c
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James
Aug 10, 2015 rated it liked it
Recommended to James by: Jim
Shelves: non-fiction
The themes of the book are interesting, cities are the greenest living spaces and are intellectually productive. Stewart Brand and others have written good stuff on the first and many have written on the later. He does try and answer the questions why cities thrive or die, what makes one city better than another? Other interesting bits are short sketches of different cities and their evolution. I didn't realize how extensive the remodeling of Paris was, good stuff! Also good is the evolution of ...more
Sean
Jul 06, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I have to give this a very low three stars. While containing a good deal of informative content and good ideas, the tone of the book is more abrasive to me than almost any other book I've read. I've never had to describe a book's tone as such before, so I had to check out a thesaurus to find just how to explain it. Glaeser is sickeningly smarmy, unduly unctuous, and atrociously adulatory. Though he repeats on numerous occasions that the failings of the city are tragedies in need of fixing, such ...more
Zarin Ficklin
Jan 01, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2020
If you like thinking about cities and how we live, this has some good ideas. For example:
* Cities don’t cause poverty, they attract the poor (which is actually the sign of a strong city)
* By metrics shown in the book, city dwellers are more productive and happy
* Cities need a network of smaller innovators to make technology thrive. Cities with a small handful of giant companies ultimately decline (e.g. Detroit)
* Some suggested rules for regulating growth, with comparisons for how San Francisco a
...more
Mehrsa
Dec 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
I think he's wrong on a lot of stuff according to other academics I've read and perhaps he overstates some of his opinions (and they are opinions because he doesn't cite to much data), but the book is well-written and I think he is absolutely right in broad strokes. Cities have a lower carbon footprint and they can be hubs of innovation. For a better and more recent book about some of these themes (that is backed by data), read The New Geography of Jobs.
UChicagoLaw
"Edward Glaeser is a graduate of our Economics Department and currently a professor of economics at Harvard University. The book argues convincingly that cities have a comparative advantage with respect to economic productivity and human flourishing. As part of his analysis Glaeser argues for policies that favor market-based development and high levels of education." - Michael Schill
Ben Aley
Oct 28, 2011 rated it it was ok
Eh
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Which is a greater virtue? 3 30 Mar 01, 2012 07:22PM  

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“Cities don't make people poor; they attract poor people. The flow of less advantaged people into cities from Rio to Rotterdam demonstrates urban strength, not weakness.” 5 likes
“A wealth of research confirms the importance of face-to-face contact. One experiment performed by two researchers at the University of Michigan challenged groups of six students to play a game in which everyone could earn money by cooperating. One set of groups met for ten minutes face-to-face to discuss strategy before playing. Another set of groups had thirty minutes for electronic interaction. The groups that met in person cooperated well and earned more money. The groups that had only connected electronically fell apart, as members put their personal gains ahead of the group’s needs. This finding resonates well with many other experiments, which have shown that face-to-face contact leads to more trust, generosity, and cooperation than any other sort of interaction.
The very first experiment in social psychology was conducted by a University of Indiana psychologist who was also an avid bicyclist. He noted that “racing men” believe that “the value of a pace,” or competitor, shaves twenty to thirty seconds off the time of a mile. To rigorously test the value of human proximity, he got forty children to compete at spinning fishing reels to pull a cable. In all cases, the kids were supposed to go as fast as they could, but most of them, especially the slower ones, were much quicker when they were paired with another child. Modern statistical evidence finds that young professionals today work longer hours if they live in a metropolitan area with plenty of competitors in their own occupational niche.
Supermarket checkouts provide a particularly striking example of the power of proximity. As anyone who has been to a grocery store knows, checkout clerks differ wildly in their speed and competence. In one major chain, clerks with differing abilities are more or less randomly shuffled across shifts, which enabled two economists to look at the impact of productive peers. It turns out that the productivity of average clerks rises substantially when there is a star clerk working on their shift, and those same average clerks get worse when their shift is filled with below-average clerks.
Statistical evidence also suggests that electronic interactions and face-to-face interactions support one another; in the language of economics, they’re complements rather than substitutes. Telephone calls are disproportionately made among people who are geographically close, presumably because face-to-face relationships increase the demand for talking over the phone. And when countries become more urban, they engage in more electronic communications.”
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