Happy City Book Summary - Happy City Book explained in key points
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Happy City summary

Charles Montgomery

Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design

4.3 (41 ratings)
15 mins

Brief summary

Happy City by Charles Montgomery explores how our cities can shape our well-being and happiness. Through case studies and research, the book discusses the importance of urban design, community, and public spaces in creating happier and healthier cities.

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    Happy City
    Summary of 7 key ideas

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    Key idea 1 of 7

    City suburbs were designed to make us happier, but things haven’t quite worked out that way.

    If you took a trip back in time to visit your favorite nineteenth-century metropolis, it probably wouldn’t be your favorite city anymore. Back then cities were dirty, disease-ridden and overflowing with people. This miserable situation led urban planners to ask themselves: What could we do better?

    In the early twentieth century, urban planners realized that cities would be better off if they were spread out over a larger area. This seemed like a big improvement on the cramped cities of the industrial revolution – plus, the newly invented automobile allowed city-dwellers to escape to the country every now and then.

    And so the suburbs were born. For a while, townspeople were able to live healthier lives than they had in the congested city centers.

    Fast forward to the present, however, and it would appear that the tables have turned. The modern city center offers far better living standards than it did in the past, while living on the outskirts of major cities has left citizens unhappy and exhausted.

    Suburban residents are, after all, removed from many things. All destinations – from schools to medical facilities and even bars and places to hang out – require a long commute. People who live out in the suburbs spend more time on the road, which generally leaves them more worn down than inner-city citizens.

    In 2008, two economists compared German citizens’ estimates of how long it took them to get to work with how satisfied they were with their lives. A pattern emerged: the further the commute, the less satisfied these people felt.

    Spending all your time on the road also leaves you with less time to socialize. This too impacts your overall happiness. To prove the point, economist John Halliwell studied the Gallup World Polls from 2003 to 2010. He found that, when it comes to what makes us happy with our life, relationships with other people trump everything else – yes, even income.

    While the suburban sprawl was a great idea in theory, it made people unhappier in practice. So, can cities still turn things around?

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    What is Happy City about?

    Happy City (2013) explains how urban planning can help us live healthier and more joyful lives in the big city. From the history of urban sprawl to design blunders, to strategies that encourage residents to socialize, relax and exercise, these blinks reveal the hidden features that can make or break city life.

    Happy City Review

    Happy City (2013) by Charles Montgomery explores the connection between urban design and our happiness. Here are three reasons why this book is worth reading:

    • Packed with fascinating research and case studies, it uncovers how our physical environment impacts our well-being, highlighting the importance of designing cities for human happiness.
    • By delving into the social and psychological factors that contribute to a happier city, the book offers valuable insights for urban planners, policymakers, and anyone interested in creating better cities.
    • With its engaging storytelling and thought-provoking ideas, this book presents a fresh perspective on urban living, making it a captivating and enlightening read.

    Best quote from Happy City

    The street wears us out. It is altogether disgusting. Why, then, does it still exist? - Le Corbusier

    —Charles Montgomery
    example alt text

    Who should read Happy City?

    • Readers thinking about moving to a new city
    • Students of social psychology or urban planning
    • People fascinated by the inner workings of urban life

    About the Author

    Charles Montgomery is an acclaimed journalist, specializing in urban engagement. In 2005, his book The Shark God won the Charles Taylor Prize

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    Happy City FAQs 

    What is the main message of Happy City?

    The main message of Happy City is that urban design impacts our happiness and well-being.

    How long does it take to read Happy City?

    The reading time for Happy City varies depending on the reader's speed, but it typically takes several hours. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Happy City a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Happy City is definitely worth reading. It explores the connection between cities and happiness, providing valuable insights for urban living.

    Who is the author of Happy City?

    The author of Happy City is Charles Montgomery.

    What to read after Happy City?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Happy City, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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    • We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
    • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
    • Switch by Chip Heath & Dan Heath
    • Mini Habits by Stephen Guise
    • Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984) by George Orwell
    • Power And Prediction by Ajay Agrawal
    • Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
    • 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do by Amy Morin