• Metropolis

  • A History of the City, Humankind's Greatest Invention
  • By: Ben Wilson
  • Narrated by: John Sackville
  • Length: 17 hrs and 7 mins
  • Categories: History, World
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (39 ratings)
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Publisher's Summary

From a brilliant young historian, a colorful journey through 7,000 years and 26 world cities that shows how urban living has been the spur and incubator to humankind's greatest innovations.

In the 200 millennia of our existence, nothing has shaped us more profoundly than the city. Historian Ben Wilson, author of best-selling and award-winning books on British history, now tells the grand, glorious story of how city living has allowed human culture to flourish. Beginning with Uruk, the world's first city, dating to 5000 BC and memorably portrayed in the Epic of Gilgamesh, he shows us that cities were never a necessity but that once they existed their density created such a blossoming of human endeavor - producing new professions, forms of art, worship, and trade - that they kick-started nothing less than civilization. 

Guiding listeners through famous cities over 7,000 years, he reveals the innovations driven by each: civics in the agora of Athens, global trade in ninth-century Baghdad, finance in the coffeehouses of London, domestic comforts in the heart of Amsterdam, peacocking in Belle Epoque Paris. In the modern age, he studies the impact of verticality in New York City, the sprawl of LA, and the eco-reimagining of 21st-century Shanghai. Lively, erudite, pause-resisting, and irresistible, Metropolis is a grand tour of human achievement.

©2020 Ben Wilson (P)2020 Random House Audio

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Mildly entertaining/informative

Found some chapters more interesting than others. Narrator’s American accent sounded very John Wayne (even when talking about 90s rap scene). Overall, seemed far too long to hold interest.

2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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A beautiful audio book

One of the best books I’ve read in years. The author is a gifted storyteller and a wonderful writer. With a narrator who smoothly guides you across ideas and places, I’d suggest immersing yourself a chapter a time. This is a great book to lose yourself in thought.

2 people found this helpful

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Astonishingly Fun & Educational

from the first paragraph to the last this book is extraordinarily interesting, taking us through the history of cities in a depth few of us have any understanding of, but doing it in a way that is tremendously fun. it's a joy to read, and not heavy-handed in prescription but open-minded in the dynamic evolutionary potential for cities. whether you live in a city or not, you love some things about them and hate others. this book tells a great story about how they get that way, and how they might evolve in the future.

2 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Sorry that I can’t rate it higher

I generally enjoyed the book until it veered into being mostly an advocacy piece against cars, roads, suburbs, etc. The author goes to great lengths in detailing the shortcomings of suburbs without giving equal treatment to the shortcomings of city centers. Suburbs happened because people were fleeing the problems of the cities such as crime, housing costs, pollution, and the daily hassles of living in top of each other.

1 person found this helpful