08 March 2013 | Detectives, research, Watching the Detectives |
For the last couple of days I've been reading old newspapers as part of my research for Watching the Detectives. I love it - you come across such remarkable stories. And the language, particularly in the eighteenth-century papers, is wonderful. I enjoyed this item from the News in Brief column of the Times in 1921:
"At Old-street Police Court yesterday an old man complained to Mr. Clarke Hall that he had lent his daughter £10, which she refused to give back. The daughter said he had given it her to bury him."
01 March 2013 | City |
I have just been told that Audible have chosen City as one of the titles they will be producing in audiobook format this year! I can't wait to hear what City will sound like...
20 December 2012 | cities, City |
Allison Arieff has written a piece for her New York Times column called Reading the City, in which she discusses books published this year that engage with her "recurring obsessions — cities, walking, suburbia". They include Torre David: Informal Vertical Communities, Jeff Speck's Walkable City, and Dave Eggers’s novel A Hologram for the King. She also mentions my own book, City:
"The author’s ideas are original and inventive enough to warrant his description of the book as ‘a guidebook to an imaginary Everycity.’ It’s a great thinker whose musings run the gamut from the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan to Tahrir Square, graffiti to gladiators, who can quote the Old Testament and Baudelaire, and throw in an infographic entitled, ‘When skyscrapers rise, do markets fall?’"
Read Allison's whole piece here.
Although the weather outside my window is miserable, wet and not at all festive, I want to wish everyone a very happy Christmas! And I hope someone, somewhere has snow...
01 December 2012 | cities, City |
Edwin Heathcote, architecture critic of the Financial Times, included City among his Best Books of 2012. This is what he said:
"The city is a big subject but this is readable, concise and extremely entertaining. Smith spans the emergence of the first Middle Eastern cities – places with no streets, so inhabitants needed to walk on roofs and descend ladders to reach their homes – up to informal settlements and high-tech hubs today. Well-researched, well-written and clear."
Canadian author Taras Grescoe has written an excellent piece in the Globe & Mail on City and Jeff Speck’s Walkable City. Writing about City, he notes that "this crash course in urban civilization is a reminder of the complexity, cosmopolitanism and creativity that are engendered, and encouraged, by living and working cheek by jowl". Read the article here.
Eric Liebetrau, editor of Kirkus Reviews, has also included City among his Best Nonfiction of 2012. The full list is here.
Postscript, 8 December:
City was among the Notable Books of 2012 chosen by architectural writer Mark Lamster for Designers & Books. I'm still blushing at his fulsome praise for the book:
"Reading it is like being seated next to the most-informed, and most charming guest at your dream dinner party, someone with an endless font of facts enlivened by quirky and often hilarious anecdotes."
Read the rest of what he had to say and see the other excellent books he selected here. There was also a piece about City this weekend in the Los Angeles Times by Carolyn Kellogg. She writes:
"Smith deftly integrates the narratives of far-flung places across centuries. Discussing sports within city bounds, he draws a connection between the Roman Colosseum and skateboarders in Venice Beach. In this continuum, he creates an uber-city, a grand portrait of what urbanity is and might become."
21 September 2012 | cities, City, Reviewing |
For the last few days I've been in Amsterdam, taking a break from writing and talking about City. I'd forgotten how beautiful Amsterdam is.
For the first time I visited the Museum Geelvinck-Hinlopen, a late seventeenth-century mansion facing the Herengracht.
With its secluded garden and luxurious rooms, it provided a memorable glimpse into a time when Amsterdam was one of the wealthiest cities on the planet. But as I was walking round, I noticed a small white plaque on a piano in the Blue Room. In wonderfully ornate script, it proclaimed that the makers of that piano were John Broadwood & Sons, who were based in Great Pulteney Street, near Golden Square, London - the city that would soon take over the role as the commercial capital of the world.
If you're planning a trip to Amsterdam, I would recommend Proeverij 274 as a great place to eat (thanks to Matt Muir for that tip), and for a really superb cup of coffee, Screaming Beans. They sell delicious almond cookies too.
I forgot to mention before I went away that the Guardian published my review of Taras Grescoe's Straphanger, an excellent whistle-stop tour of world cities and their transport systems. Apparently, Americans now spend nine years of their lives sitting in their cars, and the pollution they produce kills 30,000 US citizens each year. You can read the review here.
When I got back from Amsterdam, a very nice review of City was waiting for me, by Annick Labeca on Urban Lab Global Cities. In it she admits to having read the book four times! I'm impressed... Also on City, I did a Q & A with Sherin Wing for Metropolis Magazine. That was posted online yesterday and you can read it here. There's also a slideshow of some of my urban photos at the end.
Oh, and here are some of my photos of Amsterdam on Flickr. Enjoy...