January 1, 2004
The New York Times Book Review called John Reader’s seminal book, Africa, “awe-inspiring… a masterly synthesis.” Now turning his attention to cities, he transforms the mammoth subject into “the most enjoyable book ever written about the matter of the city” (The Times, London) in this entertaining and eye-opening journey from the earliest settlements in Mesopotamia to the sprawling megalopolises of today.
Reader reveals how cities came to be, what made them thrive, how they declined, and how they remade themselves. He debunks long-held theories and shows that the first cities actually preceded and inspired the growth of farming, that trees grow better in cities, and that even though three thousand years separated imperial Rome from the Sumerian cities, evidence shows that their everyday lives were similar and had something in common with our lives today. Investigating cities’ parasitic relationship with the countryside, the webs of trade, and how they feed and water themselves and dispose of their wastes, Reader proves a marvelous tour guide through these “defining artifacts of civilization.”
Focusing as much on Baron Haussman’s creation of the Paris sewers as on his plans for the grands boulevards, on prostitution as on government, on human lives as on architecture, on markets as on cathedrals, reader gives us a humanistic work fit to stand alongside Lewis Mumford’s classic, The City in History.
John Reader is a writer and photo-journalist. Born in London in 1937, he currently holds an Honorary Research Fellowship in the Department of Anthropology at University College London and is a fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute and the Royal Geographic Society. His previous books include Africa: A Biography of a Continent, Man on Earth, and Kilimanjaro. He lives in London.