• Happy City

  • Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design
  • By: Charles Montgomery
  • Narrated by: Patrick Lawlor
  • Length: 12 hrs and 38 mins
  • 4.6 out of 5 stars (346 ratings)

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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 listeners say about Happy City

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  • Overall
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Bait and Switch

Claims to be a book about happy cities but spends a lot of time driveling on about global warming, affirmative action, and gentrification. A lot of Marxist undertones. Two stars because the parts about the actual topic of a happy city are worthwhile.

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Great book-terrible narrator

Terrible narration. Interesting concepts and ideas. Must read for urban planners and city councils.
Yup

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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!

1 person found this helpful

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A 21st century approach to urban design.

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

1 person found this helpful

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Cities as they should be

An excellent guide to urban planning; including an explanation of bad planning, and suggested remedies.

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An excellent insight for making better cities

A great read/listen explaining why despite being one of the wealthiest, most powerful, and "freest" countries on Earth, the U.S. is far from the happiest. Montgomery also provides several models for established cities to make the changes need to improve our environment, health, and wealth.

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  • Yo
  • 12-23-18

good content but the narrator's voice is ugh

the narrator's voice is really high-pitched and it's kind of grating and obnoxious, especially when he uses inflections to try to be engaging

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comprehensive look at creating a better future

this is an excellent book filled with great stories. the European accents are not good but easy to ignore. gives you something to be optimistic about. I'm trained in architecture so this recapped some of what i learned in school but it gives more examples that i wasn't aware of and has a lot from the recent past and a variety of locations. recommend this for anyone.

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Introduction 101

Good introduction designed to fire up activists but in this respect it’s a blunt tool that can’t give a deep enough understanding to enable a determination of which strategies work where and how to maintain them. If you have any kind of urban design experience on a university level during the last four decades, you won’t find a lot new here.

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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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