As a longtime resident of Toronto, it was heartening to see that despite all its problems, that the city has been attempting to innovate for some decades now, and while there will continue to be growing pains as it undergoes this process, that it stands among other great innovators who have been finding alternative ways to manage their community’s growth, rather than rely on the more traditional strategies typified by many European and North American cities. Jeb Brugmann takes us on a global tour of both the successes and failures that cities and metropolitan areas around the world have enjoyed, illustrating a number of lessons that can be learned from both to help even the poorest communities become prosperous. The author is certainly a cheerleader for the future of cities, and so should be taken with a grain of salt, but he does support plan-based urbanism that reflects native strengths of a given region, while recognizing that this will unfortunately come with quandaries like energy demands, along with other such issues caused by increased urban density, and that because growth is going to happen regardless of planning, that we’re better served as custodians of the planet to become more actively engaged in this management rather than leave it to chance.

Having a background in Urban Development certainly gave me an appreciation for the things Brugmann discusses, but this book doesn’t come encumbered with the academic language that some of them tend to contain. In fact it’s the author’s passion for the subject that really comes through, not to mention his depth of knowledge garnered by his time – which he helped establish – at the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI) and has advise clients from a myriad of backgrounds on how best to manage their urbanization

And while he does seem to have an inclination to the belief that urbanism naturally leads to democratization, this book has a lot of good advice and should be a definite read for anyone interested in how cities grow or how they might even help their own.