Hot Best Seller

Metropolis: A History of the City, Humankind's Greatest Invention

Availability: Ready to download

From a brilliant young historian, a colorful journey through 7,000 years and twenty-six world cities that shows how urban living has been the spur and incubator to humankind's greatest innovations. In the two hundred millennia of our existence, nothing has shaped us more profoundly than the city. Historian Ben Wilson, author of bestselling and award-winning books on British From a brilliant young historian, a colorful journey through 7,000 years and twenty-six world cities that shows how urban living has been the spur and incubator to humankind's greatest innovations. In the two hundred millennia of our existence, nothing has shaped us more profoundly than the city. Historian Ben Wilson, author of bestselling 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 readers 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 L.A., and the eco-reimagining of twenty-first-century Shanghai. Lively, erudite, page turning, and irresistible, Metropolis is a grand tour of human achievement.


Compare

From a brilliant young historian, a colorful journey through 7,000 years and twenty-six world cities that shows how urban living has been the spur and incubator to humankind's greatest innovations. In the two hundred millennia of our existence, nothing has shaped us more profoundly than the city. Historian Ben Wilson, author of bestselling and award-winning books on British From a brilliant young historian, a colorful journey through 7,000 years and twenty-six world cities that shows how urban living has been the spur and incubator to humankind's greatest innovations. In the two hundred millennia of our existence, nothing has shaped us more profoundly than the city. Historian Ben Wilson, author of bestselling 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 readers 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 L.A., and the eco-reimagining of twenty-first-century Shanghai. Lively, erudite, page turning, and irresistible, Metropolis is a grand tour of human achievement.

30 review for Metropolis: A History of the City, Humankind's Greatest Invention

  1. 5 out of 5

    Roman Clodia

    This is undoubtedly a book which is wearing its heart on its sleeve: '... the City, Humankind's Greatest Invention' - but then I'm a born and bred Londoner so I'm there with Wilson! It's just worth bearing in mind that if you're not a city person, the endless enthusiasm for urban life might not suit. I'd situate this book as a crossover that is not really academic, even though it is certainly well-read and wide-ranging. Wilson has an enthusiastic way of writing and while the book is packed with This is undoubtedly a book which is wearing its heart on its sleeve: '... the City, Humankind's Greatest Invention' - but then I'm a born and bred Londoner so I'm there with Wilson! It's just worth bearing in mind that if you're not a city person, the endless enthusiasm for urban life might not suit. I'd situate this book as a crossover that is not really academic, even though it is certainly well-read and wide-ranging. Wilson has an enthusiastic way of writing and while the book is packed with fascinating facts and anecdotes (I have nearly 200 notes on my Kindle!), it's always lively, entertaining as well as informative. In some ways, it's almost a mini history of the world through cities: so we range from Uruk as mentioned in The Epic of Gilgamesh from 4000-1900 BCE through to the quasi-futuristic 'smart city' of Lagos today, taking in a panorama en route. Wilson has organised his material with great verve: so we travel through the cities in chronological order but each chapter also has a theme e.g. sex and the city in the chapter on Babylon, cosmopolitanism and city politics in the chapter on Athens and Alexandria, street food and immigration in the chapter on Baghdad. He has also mastered the fine art of organised digression: so what starts as an excavation of the public baths in ancient Rome morphs into an exploration of leisure facilities and public spaces in later cities from the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens in London to lidos and swimming pools. There are some overriding themes and key-points: that cities are clusters of knowledge, innovation and reinvention; that migration and multiculturalism have always been part of city life and contribute to their vitality and robustness; that the history of cities embraces world history and that cities have both supported and been supported by global moves towards exploration, trade, finance, and the transmission of ideas. Wilson restrains himself from making the obvious Brexit connection when discussing the Hanseatic League and other international economic unions/trading blocs but they're there subliminally. My only tiny criticism is that this is so overwhelmingly positive about cities that it almost erases some of the negatives: for example, Wilson almost airbrushes out the fact that amongst all the positives of the Athenian city-based democratic experiment, women were completely excluded as they were never given citizen status. I'd also suggest that some of the periodisation is a bit old-fashioned now - academic historians don't use the term 'Dark Ages' now, generally because it turns out they were actually pretty vibrant and not 'dark' at all! Still, those are nit-picks in what is, overall, a wonderfully immersive, enthusiastic and wide-ranging history. Many thanks to Vintage for an ARC via NetGalley

  2. 4 out of 5

    Boudewijn

    Until 1800, no more than 3 to 5 percent of the world's population lived in urban areas. By 2050 this will be two thirds. Compact urban areas lead to creativity and new start-ups, as any latte drinking hipster will tell you. But the city also provides less pleasant things, which sometimes take epidemic forms such as crime and drug use. This makes the city "man's greatest invention" - it is a history of man (or woman). Not of thinkers, princes or politicians, but of mankind itself. Cities are being Until 1800, no more than 3 to 5 percent of the world's population lived in urban areas. By 2050 this will be two thirds. Compact urban areas lead to creativity and new start-ups, as any latte drinking hipster will tell you. But the city also provides less pleasant things, which sometimes take epidemic forms such as crime and drug use. This makes the city "man's greatest invention" - it is a history of man (or woman). Not of thinkers, princes or politicians, but of mankind itself. Cities are being formed by people, for people. Starting with Uruk, the first city in Mesopotamia (4000-1900 BC) and ending with Lagos in Nigeria at the beginning of the 21st century, we are confronted with a whole range of - sometimes unexpected - topics: prostitution in Babylon, bathing culture in Rome and street food in Baghdad. A 500-page history of the city: it could easily be boring. But by jumping in time, and by telling lots of facts and anecdotes, Wilson keeps the momentum going. It provides a very pleasant reading experience. We find ourselves in sixth century Baghdad, where we accompany a rich lady while shopping for exotic goods to sixteenth-century London where Sephardic Jewish refugees are frying fish. “Metropolis” is a bold undertaking that makes for gripping reading, and uses a original approach - I really liked it. Read in Dutch

  3. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    Having lived in London all my life, I am a definite city dweller, and city lover. The countryside has never appealed and I cannot see myself ever being enticed by a quieter life. However, if you are not a fan of urban living, you may find this a difficult read, as, even when discussing the negative points of living in cities, Wilson sounds secretly enthusiastic. If you do prefer pavements over paths, this will be an intriguing look at how cities function. We begin at the dawn of city life, in Uru Having lived in London all my life, I am a definite city dweller, and city lover. The countryside has never appealed and I cannot see myself ever being enticed by a quieter life. However, if you are not a fan of urban living, you may find this a difficult read, as, even when discussing the negative points of living in cities, Wilson sounds secretly enthusiastic. If you do prefer pavements over paths, this will be an intriguing look at how cities function. We begin at the dawn of city life, in Uruk, in Mesopatamia – now Iraq – in 4000-1900 BC and take a whistle stop tour to modern day Lagos. Along the way, Wilson takes in Babylon, Rome, Baghdad, Lubeck, London, Manchester, Chicago, Paris, New York, Warsaw, Los Angeles, and many other cities. Each city begins with a theme, so Rome centres on Roman Baths, before leading to a discussion of urban swimming pools, lidos and swimming generally. London (1666-1820) starts with the first European coffee shop, then evolves – the threads sprawling like city streets – into debate, news, business and finance, social distinctions and male, urban fashion. From skyscrapers, through the suburbs, to organised crime, this is a fascinating look at how the city changes people and how they change the city. Ever growing, expanding and changing. From the Industrial Revolution to war, I found this a fascinating read. I received a copy of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, for review.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Emma

    If the city is nothing more than the backdrop to your daily life, this book will convince you why you should be paying more attention--there's so much more to the city than you could ever imagine. Unashamedly enthusiastic, Wilson charts the story of the city from Uruk to the present day, covering topics like crime, trade, tech, public spaces, suburbs and more. It's crammed with information, and not always an easy read because of it, but there's no doubt it's fascinating stuff. ARC via Netgalley If the city is nothing more than the backdrop to your daily life, this book will convince you why you should be paying more attention--there's so much more to the city than you could ever imagine. Unashamedly enthusiastic, Wilson charts the story of the city from Uruk to the present day, covering topics like crime, trade, tech, public spaces, suburbs and more. It's crammed with information, and not always an easy read because of it, but there's no doubt it's fascinating stuff. ARC via Netgalley

  5. 5 out of 5

    Peter Baran

    I am a city person, I love being in the centre of things, I love the opportunities for art, culture, business and society all mushing up against each other. I also fancy myself as a systems person, so seeing how complex organisations work, often due to design flaws or the inability to actually understand what is going on means I find the history and workings of city endlessly fascinating. So I came to this grand history of cities described hyperbolically as "A History Of Humankind's Greatest Inv I am a city person, I love being in the centre of things, I love the opportunities for art, culture, business and society all mushing up against each other. I also fancy myself as a systems person, so seeing how complex organisations work, often due to design flaws or the inability to actually understand what is going on means I find the history and workings of city endlessly fascinating. So I came to this grand history of cities described hyperbolically as "A History Of Humankind's Greatest Invention" with a lot of interest but with quite a high bar for it to jump. And despite a few initial qualms, once I worked out how it was working, and that actually the writing was actually this good, it became compulsive. My qualms? It is a history and it goes back as far as it can to Uruk in 4000BC. And when I got to the Uruk chapter my heart sank slightly because I feared it was going to be a strictly chronological history. That's an pretty common and obvious way of organising a history, particularly if you are looking at development, but cities aren't merely chronologically as much as subject to parallel evolution and planned (or not) to death. And whilst the book has a chronological throughline, I should not have worried. Instead he takes a number of example cities through time as jumping off points, often to discuss and go off on tangents through time. Its the kind of book where in the chapter ostensibly about Rome, he quotes Carlito's Way rather than Cicero. (The diversion is by way of the history and importance of public bathing, up to the surf and turf wars in New York over who got to use the swimming pools). We get Flaneurs, but we get more on NWA and how they were a product of a racist Los Angles designed to be that way. Wilson is awed by cities, about how they live, survive and often how they refuse to die, and he peppers the text with no end of well researched and rounded diversions like the ones above (my favourite being the oversaturation on ranch style bungalows in LA and most US cities being because the had the highest survivability ration in a nuclear war). The London chapter i subtitled The Sociable Metropolis (1666-1820) and is as much about coffee shops and how ideas and politics promulgate and prosper than London. You feel the righteous anger in the firebombing of Lubeck and the almost total destruction of Warsaw - and the wonder in these cities still actually existing, crawling from the ashes. This is a great book to dip in and out of as well as a fascinating narrative read. And it is Utopian to a grand degree, the final chapter on Lagos describes a supermegalopolis in the making, with scant infrastructure and extreme poverty, but also as the most exciting cultural place on earth, He reclaims the suburbs (they are part of the urbs), and the last few chapters which talk about LA, Lagos and Tokyo, he sketches a broad theory of how successful cities thrive - put the development in the hands of the people, and never try to overplan. Always accept unintended consequences, and get the people invovled in solving their own problems. The history is interesting, and he certainly has little time for the moralising anti-city brigade, but its the present and his hints for a future in a majority urban world, with climate crisis and overpopulation at its heart which is fascinating and I got a genuine sense of excitement about how these futures will unfold. A terrific piece of work. [NetGalley ARC]

  6. 5 out of 5

    Brandon Hensley

    This is the first book I have ever read that I simultaneously decided not to finish but also felt compelled to review. This isn't because it's bad. The merits of Wilson's text outweigh the negatives, but this would have worked better as a series of short essays extolling various qualities of urban life and their universal applicability throughout history than as a single, stand alone book intended to be read straight through. Because the New York Times review that compelled me to seek out this b This is the first book I have ever read that I simultaneously decided not to finish but also felt compelled to review. This isn't because it's bad. The merits of Wilson's text outweigh the negatives, but this would have worked better as a series of short essays extolling various qualities of urban life and their universal applicability throughout history than as a single, stand alone book intended to be read straight through. Because the New York Times review that compelled me to seek out this book went to great lengths to wax eloquent over its merits, and the majority of reviews here also seem singularly devoted to praising "Metropolis" at the expense of ignoring its flaws, I will focus on why this book is two-hundred pages too long. One of Wilson's biggest flaws is that the text is simply repetitive. Chapters one through four cover nearly 120 pages but have so many overlapping themes that his editor should have urged him to condense the first three chapters to one. Instead of languishing over the emergence of social stratification in Babylon and the speculative, contrasting egalitarian society of Harappa for twenty pages, this overall theme could have been managed in short order and condensed with the laborious comparisons between Athenian democracy and Alexandrian authoritarianism in the following chapter. And for all Wilson's extensive discourse on public baths in Rome and recreational waterways in chapter four, the discussion of public baths begins with Harappa in chapter two and carries through chapter three as well. There is simply no reason for this if you are devoting an entire chapter to bathing. We are given a respite from this theme when we shift to Baghdad where we are given over to another laborious treatment of how interstate commerce is the underlying framework for gastroculture--an underlying framework responsible for the bath houses of chapter four, democracy and authority in chapter three, social stratification and egalitarianism in chapter two, and even the emergence and flourishing of the city itself in chapter one. Again, it is simply unforgiveable to spend so much time reiterating the same idea over and over and over again. One would be forgiven if they assumed Wilson was being paid by the word. Perhaps Wilson's most meritorious threads woven into the narrative is the nearly universal experience of a city as an organism. Even the planned metropolises of Alexandria and Baghdad end up surrounded with sprawling, chaotic neighborhoods. Utopia does not come easy, and every city reaches its critical mass where the pre-planning gives way to the impulses of the city's residences to spread. It is deeply ironic, then, that Wilson does not meaningfully look at some of the most extensively planned cities on earth beyond brief mentions three-hundred pages in. In discussing the destruction of Warsaw in WWII, Wilson finally mentions the Soviet Union and drops a deliciously scintillating fact--that the Soviet urban population experienced a 30 million increase between 1917 and 1939, but he does not give us a chapter on the civil engineering miracles of Soviet and PRC planners. He does not entertain the history of Soviet demographics that show the overall population of the Soviet Union doubling in a single generation despite the purges and losing more people in WWII than any other country on earth. Instead, he refers to Soviet architecture as monstrosities in a passing dismissal of the immense sacrifice the Soviet people made to halt Hitler's war of aggression. If Wilson wanted to entertain his overwhelmingly centrist-liberal worldview while still acknowledging the real novelties of Soviet urbanization, he could have discussed Pripyat and Chernobyl in the same breath as simultaneously a perfect 20th Century city and an abysmal Soviet failure. Instead, he largely forgets anything outside of Christian Europe and the Islamic world exists. Keeping in mind that this is a book framed for the Western historical tradition, snaking its way from Uruk to London, New York, and LA, and then pivoting to Lagos for its grand finale, the lack of extensive looks at places like Chang'e and Edo can be forgiven (thirty pages are devoted to "Cities of the World" to be fair). A book written by a westerner for a western audience should not shoehorn inclusion unless it is meaningful; however, Wilson and his editor become careless when discussing places as far afield as Tokyo in the context of key cities of the Western tradition. An example in keeping with Wilson's 120 pages of bathing, barely half a page is devoted to the extensive development and maturation of Japanese bath culture. Yet this treatment is lodged securely within the context of bath culture in the Roman world and Mediterranean Basin of Classical Antiquity and gives the appearance that the Japanese bath house would not have existed were it not for the Romans. Yet in the same chapter Wilson goes out of his way to make it explicitly clear that seeking out clean, running water is a universal impulse, at least among working class shmoes of Industrial London and New York. The same impulse is not ascribed to the Japanese, however. I would not recommend this book except for someone who already likes Ben Wilson and wants to expand their library. For me, this book does not make me want to read any of his other titles.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Marks54

    This book presents a history of cities, ranging chronologically from Uruk in 4000 BC to the present and large megacity connurbations such as Los Angeles and Lagos, Nigeria. Cities are seen as the most important of human creations and we live in a time of the huge expansion of cities around the world, especially in Asia and Africa. Cities are shaped by their geographies and populations, of course, but also end up shaping their populations in certain directions and not others. By the author’s esti This book presents a history of cities, ranging chronologically from Uruk in 4000 BC to the present and large megacity connurbations such as Los Angeles and Lagos, Nigeria. Cities are seen as the most important of human creations and we live in a time of the huge expansion of cities around the world, especially in Asia and Africa. Cities are shaped by their geographies and populations, of course, but also end up shaping their populations in certain directions and not others. By the author’s estimate, two-thirds of the world will live in cities by the year 2050. But wait a second... Cities are human and enormously complicated, some with histories going back centuries. All of the major cities in the US and Europe, also with some in Asia, have been the subject of multiple extensive histories. How does someone write a global history about this that avoids trivializing the topic and that can hold a reader’s attention across dizzying variety? The author is a skillful and prolific non academic historian who writes well. Still, I had my doubts starting the book. The approach taken by the author is to proceed chronologically and then focus each chapter on a fairly limited set of themes as they pertain to one or a few cities. Mr. Wilson does not try to convey everything he could about each city. Rather, he picks a few points to develop and then works those points up into fairly intricate but focus chapter essays that tell the basic stories but also provide extensive comparisons and contrasts both within a chapter and across prior chapters. For example, for classical era cities, the focus in on Athens and Alexandria and comparisons of how learning and culture developed in each. For Rose, the focus is on baths - what they were, how they were supplied, what their role was in Rome and the broader empire. This allows Wilson to expand on how the Roman bath traditions influenced such later cities as London, Paris, and even New York. Other chapters talk about the rise of cities during the industrial revolution (Manchester and Chicago) and how cities interacted with the era of oceanic exploration both in the Americas and in Asia. One of the more interesting chapters for me concerned the different circumstances under which cities were attacked and destroyed during WW2. Post-1990 globalization makes it into the discussion in the final two chapters the focus on Southern California and Africa. The book succeeds on a number of levels. While it is not a “comprehensive” history, it focal chapters are well chosen and the major topics are clearly put on the table and discussed. Were there other cities that could be covered? Sure, but the selection that was presented was exceptional and the stories in each chapter were well crafted. The book is easy to follow and their are lots of sites to follow up on any of the chapters. I have some additional books on cities that got waylaid in my queue and after reading Wilson’s book, I feel better about going back to them. I heartily recommend the book.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Story

    4.5 stars. Absolutely fascinating.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Michael Torruella

    Excellent book. It might just be my favorite book I read of 2021. Metropolis provides an exciting and in-depth review of the history and impact of a variety of cities across the globe.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    Starting with the foundation of Uruk in the fourth millennium BC, and stopping off at everywhere from Rome to Lagos via Babylon, Rome, London, Manchester, Paris, Warsaw, Leningrad , Berlin, Chicago, Los Angeles, Mumbai, Tokyo, Shanghai and many more, Ben Wilson traces the development of urbanisation. He examines the way that cities transform their environments, the people who live in them and, ultimately, the entire history of our species. Interestingly, rather than taking a strictly chronologic Starting with the foundation of Uruk in the fourth millennium BC, and stopping off at everywhere from Rome to Lagos via Babylon, Rome, London, Manchester, Paris, Warsaw, Leningrad , Berlin, Chicago, Los Angeles, Mumbai, Tokyo, Shanghai and many more, Ben Wilson traces the development of urbanisation. He examines the way that cities transform their environments, the people who live in them and, ultimately, the entire history of our species. Interestingly, rather than taking a strictly chronological approach, he focuses instead on the way that attitudes towards cities have affected their development, and, in particular, the tension between the ideals of the urban planners, who have so often achieved the opposite of the utopias they sought to create, and the creative energy of the favelas and shanty towns whose illegal occupants are forced to be entrepreneurial simply in order to survive. It's a great subject for a book and Ben Wilson can be fascinating when he turns his spotlight on the particular, like his descriptions of the way life carried on as normal during the jacking up of Chicago, block by block, in order to install a sewerage system. But, for my liking, there's a bit too much generalisation and optimistic assertion and not quite enough storytelling.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Steven Forrest

    Very well-written book that takes us on a journey from the first city to the present day. On this journey, we explore "humankind's greatest invention" through stories (e.g. the Epic of Gilgamesh) and historical accounts, as well the author's own experiences. I enjoyed the focus on people and reading how cities are socially produced, as well as the tension between aiming for ordered, sanitised cities and embracing messy, informal cities. I would have liked to hear more about other cities in Afric Very well-written book that takes us on a journey from the first city to the present day. On this journey, we explore "humankind's greatest invention" through stories (e.g. the Epic of Gilgamesh) and historical accounts, as well the author's own experiences. I enjoyed the focus on people and reading how cities are socially produced, as well as the tension between aiming for ordered, sanitised cities and embracing messy, informal cities. I would have liked to hear more about other cities in Africa, China and Australia as I imagine that their contexts would make an exciting contribution to the book - although I understand that maybe the book would have become too long. Overall, I really enjoyed the book's content and the author's engaging writing style that drew me in and fed my appreciation of our past and present cities!

  12. 5 out of 5

    William B

    The premise of this book seemed promising and the first chapter alone bored me to death. I thought it was going to be more engaging and creatively written, but instead it was just a mish-mash of writing styles and it was all over the place. I regret buying this book. I had to escape the “Metropolis”.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Colin Marks

    Interestingly, after completing Metropolis, I picked up Remote by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, which talks-up home/remote working. Early on in that book, they predicted the working from home movement (greatly accelerated by Covid19) would result in the decline of cities - people would choose to live in cheaper, larger properties out of the city. Being a city person, I disagreed with this statement, and after reading Ben's Metropolis, I realised why. It's easy to label cities as dirty Interestingly, after completing Metropolis, I picked up Remote by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, which talks-up home/remote working. Early on in that book, they predicted the working from home movement (greatly accelerated by Covid19) would result in the decline of cities - people would choose to live in cheaper, larger properties out of the city. Being a city person, I disagreed with this statement, and after reading Ben's Metropolis, I realised why. It's easy to label cities as dirty, violent, over-priced, etc, but that's missing the point. They provide means of collaboration of ideas and resources, social opportunities and much more. Throughout history, cities like Uruk (six thousand years ago) have drawn people to them - to the point now where the majority of people live within them. This well researched book does have it's flaws. There are a few odd transitions which seem shoe-horned in, and a few chapters really could've used a trim (repeated discussions on the benefits and troubles of walking in a city, too many film plots explained) but otherwise this is an excellent book that I can see myself dipping in and out of in the future. Book supplied by Netgalley for an honest review.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Eric Hendry

    It's tough to imagine a topic more ambitious and sweeping for a historian than "the city", but Ben Wilson manages to pack the history of urban life in "Metropolis" into 500 pages that are bursting with passion. Wilson elegantly paints a picture of cities as sites of struggle, liberation, sin, creativity, chaos, ambition, violence, resilience, and above all else, human potential. By setting out his history as a series of chronologically ordered case studies from ancient Uruk to present-day Lagos, It's tough to imagine a topic more ambitious and sweeping for a historian than "the city", but Ben Wilson manages to pack the history of urban life in "Metropolis" into 500 pages that are bursting with passion. Wilson elegantly paints a picture of cities as sites of struggle, liberation, sin, creativity, chaos, ambition, violence, resilience, and above all else, human potential. By setting out his history as a series of chronologically ordered case studies from ancient Uruk to present-day Lagos, Wilson creates a sense not only of the ways in which cities have changed over time, but of the universal and enduring qualities of urban life that have existed since their inception. What's particularly delightful about "Metropolis" is its mixing of source material: there are references to the Epic of Gilgamesh and Plato, yes, but there's also broadway musicals, Nas and NWA. It's clear that Wilson loves cities and takes a particular view on how best they can be made to flourish, but he's subtle in how he makes his case. This isn't an op-ed or a cris de ceour, but his message is felt no less urgently.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Anne O'Connell

    It’s a skill to make fact-filled non-fiction readable. Ben Wilson has it in spades: an easy narrative style that’s engaging without being facile. Far from delivering a straight, dry history, he weaves myth, art and literature into the city story. Unafraid to draw parallels between ancient and modern, Metropolis does not simply recount events but also meditates on ideas and customs. As much as it’s about cities, it’s about humanity: cities are places where people live, work, trade and innovate. C It’s a skill to make fact-filled non-fiction readable. Ben Wilson has it in spades: an easy narrative style that’s engaging without being facile. Far from delivering a straight, dry history, he weaves myth, art and literature into the city story. Unafraid to draw parallels between ancient and modern, Metropolis does not simply recount events but also meditates on ideas and customs. As much as it’s about cities, it’s about humanity: cities are places where people live, work, trade and innovate. Cities have always changed and evolved and it has never been more timely to acknowledge that they play a crucial part in the world. The chapters are loosely chronological according to the heyday of their headline cities but there are pleasant meanderings off the timeline. The description of the street food available in Baghdad in the first millennium would revive even the most deadened appetite. I liked nuggets such as the quintessential English dish being thought up by a teenage Ashkenazi Jewish refugee in Victorian London. I like the mixture of place- and theme-based writing; stories are naturally intertwined rather than artificially separated. It seems obvious that rather than rising and falling in isolation, cities and civilisations interacted with others, some far away even thousands of years ago, but reading some histories you’d be forgiven for thinking that was the case. I enjoyed reading Metropolis but at times thought it could have been a little more concise. It’s a fascinating and engaging read, one I think would be enhanced by being enjoyed in the print version with illustrations. I found myself compelled to look at a map to accompany my reading, especially for far-flung trading routes. I’d not come across this author before but I see he’s written other books; I look forward to choosing my next one.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Susie

    I found this book a very interesting walk through history based on the rise and fall of cities throughout the world. It was very enlightening regarding very old civilizations that enjoyed society, luxury, economic structure that I always thought belonged to centuries in their future. It really gave me pause to realize that my European heritage was not the height of civilization that I had presumed it to be. I started the book thinking it cast a poor light on the future of the world but it ended I found this book a very interesting walk through history based on the rise and fall of cities throughout the world. It was very enlightening regarding very old civilizations that enjoyed society, luxury, economic structure that I always thought belonged to centuries in their future. It really gave me pause to realize that my European heritage was not the height of civilization that I had presumed it to be. I started the book thinking it cast a poor light on the future of the world but it ended up with some hopeful solutions already being implemented. One of the small observations I found most surprising was how the effect of the introduction of coffee to the western world changed cities. Who knew?

  17. 5 out of 5

    Nolan Harp

    A nice, fresh look at human history. This book is the first one in a list of books I am reading because I just moved to New York and created a reading list curated to the city. I felt like this book did exactly what it advertises - it gave me a very nice and comprehensive look at human history through the lens of the city. It kept me engaged throughout and I feel like I learned a lot.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jon Davids

    What a hot mess of a book! 7,000 years of urban history, from Uruk to Lagos, presented in a linear fashion (excellent) with frequent detours across wide swaths of time (irritating), to topics that are only marginally relevant to the stated intent of the book (maddening). I learned a lot, but was frustrated by the frequent detours, adn was relieved to finally finish the journey.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Taylor

    fuck i love cities. Very good and loved how author weaves in stories of other cities while the chapter might’ve been on another (Babylon and London). I also enjoyed the emphasis on how important the organic, unplanned, informal sections of cities are to the life of the urban. More attention needs to be on the fundamental role those settlements play.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Stevedutch

    Basically, this is an encyclopaedic voyage through the evolution of the city, some of which is supported by legitimate sources, but much if which is based on the author’s speculative musings. So long as this is borne in mind it makes for a reasonably enjoyable, engaging and informative journey. We are forewarned, of course, by the book’s strapline - ‘A History of Humankind’s Greatest Invention’. Nevertheless, the author’s evident enthusiasm for his subject often expresses itself in an inappropri Basically, this is an encyclopaedic voyage through the evolution of the city, some of which is supported by legitimate sources, but much if which is based on the author’s speculative musings. So long as this is borne in mind it makes for a reasonably enjoyable, engaging and informative journey. We are forewarned, of course, by the book’s strapline - ‘A History of Humankind’s Greatest Invention’. Nevertheless, the author’s evident enthusiasm for his subject often expresses itself in an inappropriately ebullient style and the seeming lack of objectivity can be somewhat wearing. An early example, of this occurs on only the second page, on which Wilson suggests that ‘someone approaching Uruk for the first time at its height in about 3000 BC, […] would have had his senses assaulted’. In all likelihood, this is probably true: it is easy to forget that the ‘built environment’, in the sense of the planned construction we take for granted, is a fairly recent development in the history of human activity, by comparison to the appropriation and modest modification of that which already existed. So, perhaps it is reasonable to suppose this coincided with the need for radically different ‘ways of seeing’. For example, moving from largely natural landscapes, with relatively far horizons, to cityscapes with relatively near horizons, might be just one way in which the ‘senses’ may have been ‘assaulted’, until perceptions responded and gradually adapted to change. Nevertheless, it is a common example of ‘retro-fitting’ modern humans’ values, attitudes and sensibilities onto those of our ancient ancestors’; something fraught with potential error. The book is structured chronologically, so the journey begins at the supposed beginning, as far as current archaeological evidence suggests, and this is with the Mesopotamian city of Uruk, which the book dates from around 4000 to 1900 BC. Along the way we take in the ‘usual suspects’; e.g. Babylon, Athens, Alexandria, Rome and end up in London, Paris and New York. However, to its author’s credit, ‘Metropolis’ doesn’t focus solely on the ‘Western canon’ but does, rightly, consider cities in continents other than Europe and the near East’ e.g. Tenochtitlan (circa 1500 AD), which occupied the site of modern-day Mexico City. If this were all it was, it would be very little different from a modern-day travel guide. However, Wilson also employs each of the cities in its temporal and geographical context to illustrate various cultural aspects of the civilizations that city exemplifies; e.g. when we ‘visit’ Rome (30 BC – 537 AD) Wilson treats us to a treatise on bathing and the significance of water and washing to the political, social and cultural life of Romans, both plebeian and patrician, which, of course, contrasts starkly, to the unwashed barbarians beyond its city walls. Similarly, when in Bagdad (537 – 1258 AD), the focus shifts to gastronomy, spices, herbs and, most prominently, black pepper, before moving on to Lubeck (1226 – 1491 AD), to examine ‘Cities of War’ (Chapter 6), the obvious theme of which is revisited in Warsaw (1939 – 45 AD) and ‘Annihilation’ (Chapter 12). Finally, we end up in Lagos (1999 – 2020 AD) and the contemporary, ‘Megacity’, in which, messiness, is not a sign of ‘poverty and shame’… ‘but something to be embraced’, as a ‘dynamic feature of urban development’. Ultimately, there is much to be had by taking the journey. But, perhaps, not all in one go: by the end of this quite comprehensive, but somewhat rambling and repetitious account of urban life and development, the reader might be somewhat travel-weary and glad to put her or his ‘feet up’ and, having gone ‘travelling’ – conclude that ‘it’s so much nicer, yes it’s so much nicer, to be home’.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    3.5 stars.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Justin

    This started out OK but lacked an overall theme or narrative. He seemed to pick a random facet of a city then run it into the ground, ignoring almost every else. "Oh cool, Rome is coming up." - And then 20 pages about people taking baths before we move on again. I certainly didn't expect the rise and fall of the empire in a short section but he somehow made it so focused yet repetitive. It felt like it was 4x longer and woefully uninteresting. This started out OK but lacked an overall theme or narrative. He seemed to pick a random facet of a city then run it into the ground, ignoring almost every else. "Oh cool, Rome is coming up." - And then 20 pages about people taking baths before we move on again. I certainly didn't expect the rise and fall of the empire in a short section but he somehow made it so focused yet repetitive. It felt like it was 4x longer and woefully uninteresting.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Nigel Masterton

    Magnificent! A sweeping history of the Metropolis spanning 2600 BC to the present day. Reading this will undoubtedly make you a more informed person as to why cities matter and why they appeared in the first place. Filled with intriguing facts such as the city where every house had a shower and flushing toilet - in 2600 BC! Which city grew the fastest and why. Which cities just faded away. Which city has been built to a template where technology and communication is centralised. You can even buy Magnificent! A sweeping history of the Metropolis spanning 2600 BC to the present day. Reading this will undoubtedly make you a more informed person as to why cities matter and why they appeared in the first place. Filled with intriguing facts such as the city where every house had a shower and flushing toilet - in 2600 BC! Which city grew the fastest and why. Which cities just faded away. Which city has been built to a template where technology and communication is centralised. You can even buy the "kit" for it, of the shelf, and build your own. But there is a great deal more in Ben Wilson's book. He guides us through city architecture and city layouts. How these have evolved and why constant change is essential. He even tells us how "fish and chips" came to London! Definitely a book for those working in city design and development but, I would argue, this is also a book for the curious everyday reader. Once read you shall have countless fascinating facts and anecdotes with which to regale your friends. I was totally absorbed.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl

    “We are very good at living in cities, even in extreme circumstances of near-destruction and overcrowding. On a very simple level, concentrating human brains in proximity with other brains is the best way of igniting ideas, art, and social change.” I have an interesting relationship to cities; I was raised in a medium sized town and moved to some of the biggest cities as an adult: Philadelphia, New York (Manhattan), Los Angeles, San Francico. Smaller cities like Seattle, Phoenix, Austin, Tucson. “We are very good at living in cities, even in extreme circumstances of near-destruction and overcrowding. On a very simple level, concentrating human brains in proximity with other brains is the best way of igniting ideas, art, and social change.” I have an interesting relationship to cities; I was raised in a medium sized town and moved to some of the biggest cities as an adult: Philadelphia, New York (Manhattan), Los Angeles, San Francico. Smaller cities like Seattle, Phoenix, Austin, Tucson. I have been fortunate enough to live in safe housing in safe neighborhoods, and every city holds a special piece of my heart, or there is a piece of my heart shaped like each city in my heart. I have landed for the past 20 years in Denver, a medium sized city that until this year had a group of 5-10 mule deer that frequented some fields off a green belt, and living on the edge of city allowed me to have the best of both worlds as I have fallen more in love with nature and the natural world. I enjoyed the book, it was like a series of loosely linked essays or magazine articles and enough detail to be interesting but not overwhelming or boring I think the author recycled many myths of cities and overgeneralized, but still an interesting read. We began with the sensuality of cities- the delights of sociability and intimacy that enlivened them and have them their collective power. City-living was made pleasurable by sex, food, shopping, looking, smelling, bathing, walking, and festivities…then concentration of power allowed relatively small cities fundamentally change the world around them, and the 18th century and on shows how humans have learnt to live with the strains of modern urban existence. As suburbs became more complex and economically viable, they chewed up an incredible 43 million acres of American countryside (the size of Washington state) between 1982 and 2012. Famously, the peppered moth became dark in response to the polluted environment of the Industrial Revolution. The London Underground mosquito is an entirely new species that evolved recently in subterranean areas rich in human blood. It has continued to do so: mosquitoes on the Piccadilly line are genetically different from those on the Bakerloo. The urban heat-island effect allows blackbirds to remain over winter rather than migrate. Natural selection is favoring birds with shorter wings that can avoid traffic, smaller mammals, fatter fish, and larger insects capable of travelling farther in search of fragmented food sources. In Tucson, Arizona, house finches are evolving longer and fatter beaks because their main food source now comes from garden birdfeeders. In Puerto Rican cities, lizards’ toes have evolved to grip bricks and concrete. In his novel The Carnivorous City, Toni Kan wrote, “Lagos, Nigeria, is a beat with bared fangs and a voracious appetite for human flesh. Walk through its neighborhoods, from the gated communities of Ikoyi and Victoria Island to Lekki and beyond to the riotous warrens of streets and alleyways on the mainland and you can tell this is a carnivorous city. Life is not just brutish-it is short…Yet like crazed moths disdaining the rage of the flame, we keep gravitatiting toward Lagos, compelled by the same centrifugal force that defies reason and willpower.” Those words with the names changed, could be written about Uruk in the 3rd millennium BC or about Baghdad in the tenth century AD, or about Manchester, Chicago, or about thousands of cities through history…Lagos is an oil rich city, a banking, financial and commercial powerhouse…Its economy is booming; so too are its music, fashions, movie-making, literature, and arts…Foreign investment has poured into Yubacon Valley because the likes of Google and Facebook see the city as the gateway to what is called the “next billion: (young people in poorer countries who are yet to embrace mobile internet.)

  25. 5 out of 5

    Brenden Gallagher

    "Metropolis: A History of the City, Humankind's Greatest Invention" tackles a monumental task with style. Beginning thousands of years ago and bringing us forward to the world of the COVID epidemic and climate change, author Ben Wilson endeavors to relate the history of not just one city, but all cities. In doing so, he crosses the globe, taking a close look at such disparate cities as ancient Rome, turn of the 20th century New York, and modern Lagos. Wilson should be applauded for never getting "Metropolis: A History of the City, Humankind's Greatest Invention" tackles a monumental task with style. Beginning thousands of years ago and bringing us forward to the world of the COVID epidemic and climate change, author Ben Wilson endeavors to relate the history of not just one city, but all cities. In doing so, he crosses the globe, taking a close look at such disparate cities as ancient Rome, turn of the 20th century New York, and modern Lagos. Wilson should be applauded for never getting bogged down. His rigorous research appears almost effortless on the page, as he pulls out particular objects, persons, and phenomena -- the public bath, the food truck, the library, the open-air market, the flaneur, the drunkard, the dandy -- that are essential to city life and traces them down through history. The more compelling passages of the book invite the reader to view ancient serving bowls as precursors of the famous blue disposable coffee cup and to look at Central Asian food sellers on the Silk Road as the predecessor of modern taco trucks. Even so, Wilson doesn't shirk his duties to each time period and the particular city that he believes typifies that area. His analyses of 20th Century Los Angeles, 19th Century England, and medieval Asia are worthy of entire books in their own right. If I can offer a nitpick, it is one of point of view. Wilson follows a trend I have seen among UK popular historians (Niall Ferguson being the worst offender) towards privileging the assumptions of capitalism in his writing. In particular, a faith and reliance on entrepreneurship, disruption, and innovation as explanations for progress and a lack of materialist analysis from the perspective of class struggle renders his writing naive in spots. The Chicago/Manchester chapter is so steeped in class struggle and yet, that reading of history is often absent in the rest of the text. But, ultimately, Wilson's narrative of capitalist progress fits just fine with his subject matter and it doesn't really dampen the experience of reading his work. And to his credit, he does look at the evils of modernity such as total war, climate change, and income inequality, even if he doesn't totally engage with their root causes. All in all, "Metropolis" is a beautifully written and accessible history of the world as seen through its cities. Any city-dweller could read this book and gain a new historical appreciation for their environment and the others like it across the globe.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Thom DeLair

    Gave a careful seventeen hour listen on audio book. I had scanned the itunes, audiobook history section, everything seemed to be about wars or presidents other than Metropolis. There's nothing wrong with learning about wars or presidents, but there are other things in the world with histories. The city, and its advance through the ages, seems like a novel plot line but also important. When one considers how the world has "progressed" through the ages, the city seems perhaps to be the greatest be Gave a careful seventeen hour listen on audio book. I had scanned the itunes, audiobook history section, everything seemed to be about wars or presidents other than Metropolis. There's nothing wrong with learning about wars or presidents, but there are other things in the world with histories. The city, and its advance through the ages, seems like a novel plot line but also important. When one considers how the world has "progressed" through the ages, the city seems perhaps to be the greatest benchmark. Not only are cities important but they are also interesting and unlike wars and politics that are being told wrong if they aren't a little depressing, cities have arts and culture and other things that vitalize the human spirit. This book is not a detailed progressions of global urban development through the ages. It would be great such a book existed, but to my knowledge there isn't such a thing. There is only some brief mentions of Chinese cities and other large and bustling urban centers through the centuries. Instead, the book considers cities as an invention, or some kind of organism and then attempts to provide examples through world history of cities and the similar features they all share. The main feature of urban life, in the historical context, is that they provide hubs to congregate people and therefore information, more information with many hands and minds to mull it over then spurs on innovation. One major theme is on differences between cultural values or urban vs. rural. The book uses Sodom and Gomorrah, as a Biblical orientation of being anti-urban. Although this might be cherry picking, as the book did not have a section on religious cities. Mecca, Rome and Jerusalem all play important roles in global religions. I have not read a too many history books that discuss sex as much as this, though it was over all appropriate, attempting to make sense of the differing cultural norms around sex in cities compared to country life. I appreciated the more extensive sections on Legos and on the suburbs that attempted to show them as being more dynamic than the standard drab communities for white families. Personally, there wasn't all a lot of new information, some nice little information though.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    There definitely was some interesting info about topics I really enjoy such as urban planning, population geography, etc, in this book. However, I have a few criticisms. One, that the flow felt a little jolty and not smooth, bouncing around in chapters between cities and occasionally time frames, with paragraph transitions sometimes confusing. I think women should have been researched or addressed more. Its difficult to touch everything when writing such a broad book, but as half of the populati There definitely was some interesting info about topics I really enjoy such as urban planning, population geography, etc, in this book. However, I have a few criticisms. One, that the flow felt a little jolty and not smooth, bouncing around in chapters between cities and occasionally time frames, with paragraph transitions sometimes confusing. I think women should have been researched or addressed more. Its difficult to touch everything when writing such a broad book, but as half of the population, I think women might have warranted more than one small paragraph in an entire chapter about ancient Athens, and even that paragraph was mostly about prostitutes. I know that women did not have a major public life, but what were they up to? That matters to me as a woman. It’s 2021, you can’t just ignore half the population. I feel like when he says people, or citizens, its referring just to men. Because based on my knowledge he’s describing the activities of men (for example, the rights and activities of citizens in ancient Athens). I thought that distinction should have been more clear, particularly in the Athens chapter. Making women an “other” is so gross. they are not a minority group they’re half the people who lived/live in cities. I also thought the book would benefit from some study of Mesoamerican cities, not just Tenochtitlan at the time of Cortes’ arrival. There are many more examples from the Maya, Aztec, Inca, Olmec, etc that could have rounded out the book geographically, and not just post Columbus. Finally, I thought the book needed maps and diagrams to illustrate, visualize, and expand concepts, particularly of urban planning. Maps of cities, street layouts, trading routes, etc would have really enriched the experience for me. The inserts of photos were just okay and confined to just two sections rather than spread throughout the chapters, separating these random images from most of their context other than a simple caption. Overall an enjoyable read and I do feel that I learned some interesting new information. The writing style was engaging even if I occasionally did get lost.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Bernhard Nickel

    The production of this book is very high quality. The font choice is lovely, the image pages are crisply printed, and it is a pleasing physical format. I wanted to start this review with something positive. The argument, to the extent that there is an argument, is a mess. A miasma. The book is a work of history, and as such, it of course means to speak to the present. I think the overarching thesis of the book is something like: today's megacities with their extreme inequality, slums, and informal The production of this book is very high quality. The font choice is lovely, the image pages are crisply printed, and it is a pleasing physical format. I wanted to start this review with something positive. The argument, to the extent that there is an argument, is a mess. A miasma. The book is a work of history, and as such, it of course means to speak to the present. I think the overarching thesis of the book is something like: today's megacities with their extreme inequality, slums, and informal economies are not bad. Parts of the city marked by poverty, the absence of services like sanitation, and the like, are entrepreneurial spaces that are vital engines of innovation. A passage on p. 239 (in the hardcover edition) offers a distillation of what I think the main thought is. The poor are, perforce, survivors, and hence innovators. Attempts to improve their lot through government interventions are usually counterproductive and, indeed, insulting, since they tend to view the urban poor as helpless, as opposed to people with their own agency. Major urban renewal usually destroys as much as it improves, such as informal bonds of highly localized communities in public spaces. That's well and good. The point about urban renewal is one that's been made a lot. I suppose at this point, one has to point to Caro's _The Power Broker_. But then the very next chapter is about Paris in the second half of the 19th century which saw *precisely* this sort of top-down urban renewal that allowed massive improvements. The point is perhaps even more striking in the final chapter on the Megacity, where Wilson offers a long discussion of the importance of green spaces. From Wilson's discussion itself, there is no doubt that green spaces are the result of *urban planning*, not of micro entrepreneurial initiatives or whatever the hot word of the moment is. And that's unsurprising. The benefits that green spaces provide are some of the paradigms of public goods, such as lower temperatures, better air, etc. Jimminy.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Alice Lemon

    Honestly, I'm not entirely sure what to make of this book. Parts of it, if not most of it, definitely qualify as history, but I'm not sure I'd call it a history of cities: my guess would be that Ben Wilson set out to write a history of cities but ended up with a collection of essays about cities and history that don't quite fit together. Also, a sizable fraction of it seems to be more a literary history of cities than an actual history of cities: a history of how we see and write about cities ra Honestly, I'm not entirely sure what to make of this book. Parts of it, if not most of it, definitely qualify as history, but I'm not sure I'd call it a history of cities: my guess would be that Ben Wilson set out to write a history of cities but ended up with a collection of essays about cities and history that don't quite fit together. Also, a sizable fraction of it seems to be more a literary history of cities than an actual history of cities: a history of how we see and write about cities rather than of cities themselves. This last effect was particularly notable in the chapter on Babylon, which seemed to be more about the idea of "Babylon," the city as the source sin and debauchery in the Christian West than specifically or particularly about the city of Babylon itself. Other chapters that seem to have escaped the author include the chapter on Rome, which was actually a chapter about baths and swimming pools in cities that spent as much time on 19th and 20th Century public pools as it did on Roman baths, and spent almost no time discussing any other aspect of Rome. To be clear, despite these issues, I still am giving this book four stars, because a lot of the chapters were interesting, even if they didn't quite fit together or weren't what was advertised. The history of the earliest Mesopotamian cities was quite interesting, and I was surprised to learn that the current theory is that cities are always invented in swamps. As for the end of the book, it did make me really want to read more about the history of Tokyo, and other Japanese cities, in the eighty years since World War II. Wilson argued that they're fundamentally different from the other major high-income cities that have grown up in the past century because they developed with far less planning. I don't know enough to judge the accuracy of this, but it's something I'd really like to know more about.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Alison C

    In “Metropolis: A History of the City,” historian Ben Wilson traces some 5,000 years of the invention, development, expansion and innovation to be found in human cities across the globe, starting with Uruk in Mesopotamia (Iraq), which dates from at least 3000 BCE, and ending with speculations about modern “megacities” (vast areas of land covered in sprawling, contiguous cities - think the NYC-Boston region, or large swaths of modern-day China) and the role of cities in mitigating and adapting to In “Metropolis: A History of the City,” historian Ben Wilson traces some 5,000 years of the invention, development, expansion and innovation to be found in human cities across the globe, starting with Uruk in Mesopotamia (Iraq), which dates from at least 3000 BCE, and ending with speculations about modern “megacities” (vast areas of land covered in sprawling, contiguous cities - think the NYC-Boston region, or large swaths of modern-day China) and the role of cities in mitigating and adapting to the oncoming climate crisis. In between, Wilson discusses the important role of street food (based in the chapter on Bagdad between the 6th and13th Centuries CE), war (Rome, Lubeck in the Middle Ages, Warsaw in WWII), sociability (London in the 15th to 19th Century, Paris off and on, Amsterdam in the 1500s) and the horrors of the Industrial Age (Manchester and Chicago), among many other topics and times. Lest one think this is fairly Euro-American-centric, he includes numerous chapters about cities ranging from Tenochtitlan (Middle Ages, site of what is now Mexico City) to Lagos, Nigeria (the megacity of the future), among many others. Engagingly written, and including a fair number of illustrations in two sections, the tale of how cities have shaped humanity over the millenia is spelled out with both meticulous detail and broad scope, depending on what he wants to highlight in a given moment, and his sources range from the earliest written documents (including “The Epic of Gilgamesh,” which chronicles the real Uruk) to recent hip-hop videos (Childish Gambino’s “This Is America”). Indeed, my only quibble with the book is that the extensive notes section listed at the end of the volume is entirely taken up with citing sources; no fun little asides or comments on controversial interpretations here. But then again, those things can be found in the main text throughout, so recommended!

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...