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Publisher's Summary

After decades of unchecked sprawl, more people than ever are moving back to the city. Dense urban living has been prescribed as a panacea for the environmental and resource crises of our time. But is it better or worse for our happiness? Are subways, sidewalks, and tower dwelling improvements on the car dependence of sprawl?

Award-winning journalist Charles Montgomery finds answers to such questions at the intersection between urban design and the emerging science of happiness and during an exhilarating journey through some of the world's most dynamic cities. He meets the visionary mayor who introduced a "sexy" lipstick-red bus to ease status anxiety in Bogotá; the architect who brought the lessons of medieval Tuscan hill towns to modern-day New York City; the activist who turned Paris' urban freeways into beaches; and an army of American suburbanites who have transformed their lives by hacking the designs of their streets and neighborhoods. Full of rich historical detail and new insights from psychologists and Montgomery's own urban experiments, Happy City is an essential tool for understanding and improving our own communities.

©2013 Charles Montgomery (P)2015 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"The book will likely make you a believer." ( Publishers Weekly)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Fantastic book, flawed performance.

This book hit me at an opportune time. I recently decided to quit my job and go to grad school, but my ambitions were slightly unfocused. Reading this book helped me focus my goals in a really interesting way. I realized I wanted to study the neuroscience of happiness and human thriving, which while not the immediate focus of this book, featured heavily.

The biggest problem I had was the narration. Most of it was competent enough, but for some reason someone let Patrick Lawlor affect an accent whenever he was quoting a non-American speaker. Enrique Peñalosa, for example, became a Speedy Gonzalez-esque caricature of an actual Spanish speaker. I wish I could say this was less distracting than it seems, but it constantly got to me.

The content of the book, however, was absolutely outstanding. Montgomery does seem slightly more at home discussing architecture and design than he does psychology and human decision-making, although it might be my own expertise in the field skewing my perception. He does a commendable job fusing the two disciplines into a coherent statement on the effects our designed environments (cities, sprawl) have on our ability to thrive.

If I had one suggestion that might improve the book, it would be a more diverse take on urban planning rather than the Western-centric focus the book tends to take. I'm not sure I can recall too many examples of Indian or East-Asian urban design principles, not to mention Native American or African ones, nor their effects on peoples in those parts of the world.

Nevertheless, it is a fascinating read that I will likely revisit several times. I hope to use some of its messages in selecting the locale of my future home and the final chapter absolutely encouraged me to participate in my community to a much greater extent. I only hope that next time I train myself to overlook the irritating affections of the narrator and focus on Montgomery's words instead.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent book about happiness and how to live.

this is a great book for anyone interested in the psychology of happiness, city planning, or community. truly wonderful!

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great book

I love how or brought a lot of different ideas and issues together and solved them all with one idea. Enjoyed the read....I listened to it at 1.5 speed. We all need to walk and bike more.. .

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Politicians & Civil Engineers

Politicians and civil engineers must read this book. This is another example of how we must analyze and rethink how we live our lives.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

lots to think about.

Made me happy that be spending the summer car free and at the community garden.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

A 21st century approach to urban design.

Absolutely mind-blowing.
The dreams of a bright future are made whole by collection of this work.

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Must read

Anyone who has ever wondered why it's so hard to make friends as an adult, or why it no longer feels safe to let their kids play outside, or who hates traffic and wants to see less of it, or who wonders why it's so hard to keep fit, or any other complaint about modern life, this book is a must read.

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    4 out of 5 stars

Worthwhile, but didn't gel for me.

Great for an urban enthusiast and worth listening through, but it was hard to follow a coherent through line. It was a bit all over the place. Also, the narrator has the same enthusiastic tone throughout and makes it hard to maintain attention.

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Canon of Great Ideas

At a time when Metro Manila tries to figure out how we got into the big mess that it is currently stuck in, this is a canon of ideas for the future. Entertaining, well researched, and comprehensive. It makes you excited about what things are possible in our lifetime.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Loved It

Loved it! Provided many real life stories supporting reasons to avoid Urban Sprawl. Eye Opening.