• Nature's Metropolis

  • Chicago and the Great West
  • By: William Cronon
  • Narrated by: Jonah Cummings
  • Length: 18 hrs and 8 mins
  • 4.4 out of 5 stars (149 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Awarded the 1992 Bancroft Prize and the Chicago Tribune Heartland Award for Best Nonfiction Book of 1991.

In this groundbreaking work, William Cronon gives us an environmental perspective on the history of nineteenth-century America. By exploring the ecological and economic changes that made Chicago America's most dynamic city and the Great West its hinterland, Mr. Cronon opens a new window onto our national past. This is the story of city and country becoming ever more tightly bound in a system so powerful that it reshaped the American landscape and transformed American culture. The world that emerged is our own.

©1992 William Cronon (P)2013 Audible, Inc.
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

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  • JB
  • 02-09-18

Moving

As we approach the 30 year anniversary of Cronon’s masterpiece I can only ponder how little has changed since 1991. Thousands of Chicagos repeated across the planet as Greed marches unmercifully along.

2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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magisterial great job on the performance as well

a great book. necessary for anyone in environmental history, science, urban planning or Chicago generally.

1 person found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Good book, dire narrator

This classic, important book of environmental history is excellent and rewarding every time I read it, and doesn't suffer as an audiobook for lack of illustrations. The book reads very well even without seeing the charts. The complex accounting of the development of Chicago and its hinterland makes for a very engaging listen.

However, this particular reader strongly detracts from the text. Words are frequently mispronounced (if I hear potah-wah-tomeee one more time..) making obvious and distracting breaks from believing our narrator knows what he's talking about. An attempt at adding character has him putting on very poor and distracting accents when reading quotations. I also particularly did not enjoy the cadence of the reading, though I understand that is subjective.

Lovely book, I strongly suggest people read it in their lives, but maybe let Professor Cronon's own voice read in your own mind rather than get the audiobook.

1 person found this helpful

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Great perspective not your typical history

Starts very slow but eventually jumps into his point and it’s very informative. I think the author does a great job of fairly presenting both sides to the political events that arise in the chapters. Many of the first hand accounts are just normal farmers or business people and are add a great insight into life at this time. It’s a hard book to write and describe as it’s so many things at once, a history of the time, a natural evolution of Chicago, a business book, a geography, and more.
The author briefly discusses Indians but I would have liked to see how Indians were already choosing the best areas based on nature for their trade. As we know natives had vast shipping networks already and the author could have discussed this more in full to show how initially we copied those routes already established.
There are a few chapters that don’t fit the authors topic but rather discuss the history of Chicago which felt out of place. The narrator was pretty dry as well but the story carried the audiobook.
Growing up in the Midwest especially you will still see many of the aspects discussed in the book and the topics are still relevant today.
I would like to see how China changes pretty much most aspects to this topic discussed in the book.

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Missing illustrations ?

Interesting book about the economic and environmental history of Chicago and its surroundings.

But how do I get access to the many illustrations/charts I'm sure the book contains ?

The narrator is fine except for his terrible attempt at a British accent when quoting British characters.

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outstanding

incredibly researched and a joy to read. Especially recommended as an example of great history writing.

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Incredibly dull

I was not impressed or intrigued by this book. The story focuses more on Chicago than any part of the West. It’s also very narrow insofar as timeline, sticking between just a few decades. There is no progression into how the seeds of the city played out in future decades and generations.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

Low information density

I learned some interesting things about Chicago, but I didn't think there was a clear structure and I thought it took the author a lot of words to say not that much.