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Publisher's Summary

In a captivating tour of cities famous and forgotten, acclaimed historian Ben Wilson tells the glorious, millennia-spanning story how urban living sparked humankind's greatest innovations.

“A towering achievement.... Reading this book is like visiting an exhilarating city for the first time - dazzling.” (The Wall Street Journal)

During the 200 millennia of humanity’s existence, nothing has shaped us more profoundly than the city. From their very beginnings, cities created such a flourishing of human endeavor - new professions, new forms of art, worship, and trade - that they kick-started civilization. Guiding us through the centuries, Wilson reveals the innovations nurtured by the inimitable energy of human beings together: 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 Époque Paris. In the modern age, the skyscrapers of New York City inspired utopian visions of community design, while the trees of twenty-first-century Seattle and Shanghai point to a sustainable future in the age of climate change. Pause-resisting, irresistible, and rich with engrossing detail, Metropolis is a brilliant demonstration that the story of human civilization is the story of cities.

©2020 Ben Wilson (P)2020 Random House Audio
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

Critic Reviews

"Ben Wilson takes us on an exhilarating tour of more than two dozen cities and thousands of years ... Metropolis is a bold undertaking that makes for gripping reading." (The New York Times Book Review)

"Historian Wilson (Empire of the Deep) offers a sweeping survey of how the rise of cities over the past 6,000 years has shaped human history.... An amiable and well-informed tour guide, Wilson stuffs his account with intriguing arcana and analysis. Armchair travelers will be enlightened and entertained." (Publishers Weekly)

"Information rich and accessible. For history and public policy readers seeking a global vision of the impact of world cities." (Library Journal)

What listeners say about Metropolis

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    3 out of 5 stars

Sorry that I can’t rate it higher

I generally enjoyed the book until it veered into being mostly an advocacy piece against cars, roads, suburbs, etc. The author goes to great lengths in detailing the shortcomings of suburbs without giving equal treatment to the shortcomings of city centers. Suburbs happened because people were fleeing the problems of the cities such as crime, housing costs, pollution, and the daily hassles of living in top of each other.

7 people found this helpful

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Mildly entertaining/informative

Found some chapters more interesting than others. Narrator’s American accent sounded very John Wayne (even when talking about 90s rap scene). Overall, seemed far too long to hold interest.

4 people found this helpful

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A beautiful audio book

One of the best books I’ve read in years. The author is a gifted storyteller and a wonderful writer. With a narrator who smoothly guides you across ideas and places, I’d suggest immersing yourself a chapter a time. This is a great book to lose yourself in thought.

4 people found this helpful

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Astonishingly Fun & Educational

from the first paragraph to the last this book is extraordinarily interesting, taking us through the history of cities in a depth few of us have any understanding of, but doing it in a way that is tremendously fun. it's a joy to read, and not heavy-handed in prescription but open-minded in the dynamic evolutionary potential for cities. whether you live in a city or not, you love some things about them and hate others. this book tells a great story about how they get that way, and how they might evolve in the future.

2 people found this helpful

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Metropolis a history of urban civilization

Accurate and detailed. The effect of the city on the progress of mankind is carefully spelled out and evaluated. If you have wondered what every day life was like in the first city or for an inhabitant of the first civilizations, this book provide clear concise answers.

It explains the role pivotal cities played for many of the premier civilizations of their time; how advances that affected the progress of all humanity came to be discovered and implemented in urban centers.

The book greatly deepens the readers understanding of how history came to be.

It further describes how even the earliest cultures had an impact on the environment around them, that ultimately determined their long-term success.

It describes how cities of the future will adapt to our current environmental crisis; how humankind and urban centers will develop symbiotically with nature To make for a brighter greener future.

This is a must read for all.

1 person found this helpful

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spins out towards end

narrator tries to make character voices that don't work well
would not recommend book or recording

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Don't need to understand sex in the city

Thought I'd learn more about infrastructure and such. Skipped from one early chapter to the next only to delve into homosexuality.

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Great research…

Were it not for the reader’s incessant breathlessness to end nearly every sentence ( not every interesting piece of information is a gift from the heavens), this would easily have been 5 stars across the board. Still a great listen for the information the author collected and wrote.

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Great Listen

Very much enjoyed this Audiobook. Probably the best narrated book so far with my subscription to audible.
Very insightful and excellent history of cities . Found early civilization chapters particularly fascinating!
Highly recommend this book to history buffs and anyone with penchant for social sciences . Very very impressed with this selection!