• The Address Book

  • What Street Addresses Reveal About Identity, Race, Wealth, and Power
  • By: Deirdre Mask
  • Narrated by: Janina Edwards
  • Length: 8 hrs and 30 mins
  • 4.4 out of 5 stars (177 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

An extraordinary debut in the tradition of classic works from authors such as Mark Kurlansky, Mary Roach, and Rose George.

An exuberant and insightful work of popular history of how streets got their names, houses their numbers, and what it reveals about class, race, power, and identity.

When most people think about street addresses, if they think of them at all, it is in their capacity to ensure that the postman can deliver mail or a traveler won’t get lost. But street addresses were not invented to help you find your way; they were created to find you. In many parts of the world, your address can reveal your race and class. 

In this wide-ranging and remarkable book, Deirdre Mask looks at the fate of streets named after Martin Luther King Jr., the way finding means of ancient Romans, and how Nazis haunt the streets of modern Germany. The flipside of having an address is not having one, and we also see what that means for millions of people today, including those who live in the slums of Kolkata and on the streets of London. 

Filled with fascinating people and histories, The Address Book illuminates the complex and sometimes hidden stories behind street names and their power to name, to hide, to decide who counts, who doesn’t - and why.

©2020 Deirdre Mask (P)2020 Brilliance Publishing, Inc., all rights reserved.
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

Critic Reviews

"Janina Edwards narrates this globe-trotting and highly informed work in a fluid style. Edwards acts as a tour guide who leads the listener from India to Haiti, London to Manhattan, and skillfully renders the numerous people the listener meets along the journey. Her performance deftly captures the broad interests and wide-angle lens of the author." AudioFile Magazine

What listeners say about The Address Book

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  • Overall
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    3 out of 5 stars

Simply OK

The subject of this book would make a great magazine article. As a full-length book, though, it is simply OK. While parts of it are very interesting, too many parts of it are filled with stories and anecdotes that go off course.

4 people found this helpful

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it's ok

The premise of the book is extremely interesting, that's why I got the book, but it was just too convoluted at certain points. I understand where the author was coming from and but the way she weaved the stories sometimes made the ideas hard to follow. My favorite chapter was the last one on homelessness, besides being interesting it was the easiest chapter to follow in terms of the way ideas were presented.

1 person found this helpful

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Beyond the history of addresses

Stories of real people around the world and different challenges of place. Includes ideas for how to empower people with addresses, including people exp homelessness.

1 person found this helpful

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the importance of something we take for granted

A great discussion of something so humble that really is a huge part of our lives.

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Great research with a great narrative

I learned so much and across several different disciplines all with the common link of addresses. As a local history and genealogy librarian at a public library this touched on several topics that are close to me, like addresses on vital records, street name changes, homelessness, etc. I enjoyed this book and will definitely be sharing it with others!

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Addresses and how we got them

This is a fascinating examination of the history and development of a mundane fact of everyday life--addresses. We all have addresses; how else would we get our mail or tell people where we live?

Except we don’t all have addresses, and it's not just the homeless who lack them. In large parts of the world, including rural areas of the US, poorer and less privileged areas don't have street names and house numbers. That lack creates problems not just in telling potential visitors where you live, but in getting mail, applying for jobs, registering to vote, and qualifying for aid such as unemployment benefits. Or getting an ambulance to your house in an emergency.

Addresses are also surprisingly modern. They didn't arise with organized street systems. As familiar as ancient Roman cities can seem, most Roman streets didn't have names, nor did any have house numbers. No, addresses as we know them are a product of Enlightenment Europe.

Deirdre Mask gives us the story of what sparked her interest in the history and current state of addresses, and a very personal and lively account of her exploration of the subject. Addresses weren't invented for all the reasons that they make our lives easier. Fundamentally, they were invented to make taxation, conscription, and arresting suspected lawbreakers easier for the government. People were often deeply suspicious and even actively hostile to the project of naming their streets and numbering their houses. They often still are, in the areas governments are only getting around to assigning addresses now.

Yet addresses do bring all those benefits with them--allowing families to communicate at long distance before the telephone started to create a higher-tech solution to that problem, but also to receive packages you want, register to vote, and apply for jobs. Not having an addresses is a major obstacle to getting a job, or getting medical care. Addresses, for good and ill, become part of our identities.

Mask's account of this, including the alternative addressing systems being developed now for a digital age, is just completely engrossing, informative, and filled with the unexpected. Highly recommended.

I bought this audiobook.

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What does your address mean to you?

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The author takes a seemingly simple idea - reason for addressing - and develops it in an amazingly global way, drawing examples from all over the world. This was a very interesting read. I will never again underestimate the value of an address - some used for good and others more so for social and financial gains.

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Great content!

Absolutely love the premise of this book and so informational. Yes there were numerous side stories but I found that to be part of what was so engaging and informative about this book.

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Interesting, but…

I almost couldn’t finish listening to this book because the reading was so annoying. She sounds like a computer reading.

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Who would have known street addressing would be interesting!!

I found this book to be very interesting, informative and enlightening. I had read some of the reviews before I started listening and yes the author does go off track a few times.