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The Book of Cities    by Philip Dodd & Ben Donald order for
Book of Cities
by Philip Dodd
Order:  USA  Can
Pavilion, 2006 (2006)
* *   Reviewed by Belle Dessler

Start a conversation with anyone, anywhere, and he or she will be able to tell you something unique, something delightful, something quirky about the city in which they live. In The Book of Cities, Dodd and Donald have attempted to do the same by presenting 250 cities that are as different from one another as two strangers on a plane. Yet through exquisite details and careful exploration, the authors manage to bring these places to life for those of us who can only enjoy the uniqueness of a location from the comfort of our favorite reading chair.

In their Introduction, the authors tell us that The Book of Cities is 'a gazetteer of 250 important and intriguing cities, a celebration of their diversity, energies and culture.' It's interesting to note that the cities aren't specifically organized by continent, or country, or language. They're listed in longitudinal order, thus giving them all the same level of importance. You'll find Dublin, Ireland listed beside Casablanca, Morocco; Atlanta, USA beside Granada, Nicaragua; Johannesburg, South Africa beside Bucharest, Romania. The 'world journey sets out from the Greenwich Meridian in London and heads west, visiting the Americas and beyond.'

Although each city receives only a page or two, the authors manage to pack a surprising amount of information in such a relatively small space. Vivid, colorful illustrations accompany rich details that 'blend history, topography and architecture with sounds, aromas and vistas and the character of the citizens - whatever combines to make each city different and individual.' The authors are also quick to point out that this is not a travel guide. You won't find hotel or restaurant recommendations within the pages of this book, but you are likely to discover that a particular city was the basis for a long-running night-time soap opera (Dallas) or which city duplicated Silicon Valley in an attempt to find 'the Chinese Bill Gates' (Beijing).

The Book of Cities is a remarkable literary pilgrimage. It effortlessly transports readers from the cozy comforts of their own homes to a crowded, flashy metropolis, a softly luxurious Eastern vale or a place where 'giraffes, lions and zebras gaze nonchalantly at the skyscrapers.' Now when was the last time you read a book that could do that? The Book of Cities would make a perfect gift for a travel enthusiast, or for anyone interested in learning more about the various wonderful cities in which we live.

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