Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design

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A globe-trotting, eye-opening exploration of how cities can—and do—make us happier people

Charles Montgomery's Happy City will revolutionize the way we think about urban life.

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 an improvement on the car-dependence of sprawl?

The 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's urban freeways into beaches; and an army of American suburbanites who have transformed their lives by hacking the design 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. The message is as surprising as it is hopeful: by retrofitting our cities for happiness, we can tackle the urgent challenges of our age. The happy city, the green city, and the low-carbon city are the same place, and we can all help build it.

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About the author

Charles Montgomery is an award-winning journalist and the author of The Shark God, which won the 2005 Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction under its Canadian
title, The Last Heathen.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Published on
Nov 12, 2013
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Pages
368
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ISBN
9781429969536
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
Business & Economics / Urban & Regional
Political Science / Public Policy / City Planning & Urban Development
Psychology / Applied Psychology
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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When Charles Montgomery was ten years old, he stumbled upon the memoirs of his great-grandfather, a seafaring missionary in the South Pacific. Poring over the faint text and faded pictures, he was entranced by the world of black magic and savagery the bishop described, and couldn't help but wonder what drove the Victorian to risk his life among people who had shot, drowned, or clubbed to death so many of his predecessors.

Twenty years later and a century after that journey, Montgomery sets out for the reefs and atolls of Melanesia in search of the very spirits and myths the missionaries had sought to destroy. He retraces his ancestor's path through the far-flung islands, exploring the bond between faith and magic, the eerie persistence of the spirit world, and the heavy footprints of Empire.

What he discovers is a world of sorcery and shark worship, where the lines between Christian and pagan rituals are as blurred as the frontiers of fact, fantasy, and faith. After confrontations with a bizarre cast of cult leaders, militants, and mystics, the author, in his quest for ancient magic, is led to an island in crisis -- and to a new myth with the power to destroy or to save its people forever.

Alternately terrifying, moving, and hilarious, with overtones of Melville and Conrad, The Shark God is Montgomery's extraordinary and piercingly intelligent account of both Melanesia's transformation and his own. This defiantly original blend of history and memoir, anthropology and travel writing, marks the debut of a singular new talent.

Like a modern-day Jane Jacobs, Janette Sadik-Khan transformed New York City's streets to make room for pedestrians, bikers, buses, and green spaces. Describing the battles she fought to enact change, Streetfight imparts wisdom and practical advice that other cities can follow to make their own streets safer and more vibrant. 

As New York City’s transportation commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan managed the seemingly impossible and transformed the streets of one of the world’s greatest, toughest cities into dynamic spaces safe for pedestrians and bikers. Her approach was dramatic and effective: Simply painting a part of the street to make it into a plaza or bus lane not only made the street safer, but it also lessened congestion and increased foot traffic, which improved the bottom line of businesses. Real-life experience confirmed that if you know how to read the street, you can make it function better by not totally reconstructing it but by reallocating the space that’s already there.
     Breaking the street into its component parts, Streetfight demonstrates, with step-by-step visuals, how to rewrite the underlying “source code” of a street, with pointers on how to add protected bike paths, improve crosswalk space, and provide visual cues to reduce speeding. Achieving such a radical overhaul wasn’t easy, and Streetfight pulls back the curtain on the battles Sadik-Khan won to make her approach work. She includes examples of how this new way to read the streets has already made its way around the world, from pocket parks in Mexico City and Los Angeles to more pedestrian-friendly streets in Auckland and Buenos Aires, and innovative bike-lane designs and plazas in Austin, Indianapolis, and San Francisco. Many are inspired by the changes taking place in New York City and are based on the same techniques. Streetfight deconstructs, reassembles, and reinvents the street, inviting readers to see it in ways they never imagined.


From the Trade Paperback edition.
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