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By Charles Montgomery

“A brilliant, entertaining and vital book. Montgomery deftly leads us from our misplaced focus on money, cars and stuff to consider what makes us truly happy. Then everything changes – the way we live, work and play in humanity’s major habitat, the city.”
-David Suzuki

“Montgomery writes with rare wit and erudition about the psychology of urban life. Happy City is a wake-up call for citizens and planners. It takes you by the scruff of the neck and shakes you into questioning everything around you. Could do better? No, can and must do better, and here’s how!”
-Nicholas Humphrey


Montgomery_Happy City

Charles Montgomery’s Happy City will revolutionize the way we think about urban life.

After decades of unchecked sprawl, more people than ever are moving back to the city. Dense urban living has been prescribed as a panacea for the environmental and resource crises of our time. But is it better or worse for our happiness? Are subways, sidewalks and condo towers an improvement on the car-dependence of sprawl?

The award-winning journalist Charles Montgomery finds answers to such questions at the intersection between urban design and the emerging science of happiness, during an exhilarating journey through some of the world’s most dynamic cities. He meets the visionary mayor who introduced a “sexy” bus to ease status anxiety in Bogotá; the architect who brought the lessons of medieval Tuscan hill towns to modern-day New York City; the activist who turned Paris’s urban freeways into beaches; and an army of American suburbanites who have hacked the design of their own streets and neighborhoods.

Rich with new insights from psychology, neuroscience and Montgomery’s own urban experiments, Happy City reveals how our cities can shape our thoughts as well as our behavior. The message is as surprising as it is hopeful: by retrofitting cities and our own lives for happiness, we can tackle the urgent challenges of our age. The happy city can save the world–and all of us can help build it.

Happy City‘s message is simple: If we’re going to save the world, we must first be happier, and that means creating happier cities. This isn’t another book about urban design. It’s about how people of all kinds have intervened in their cities to make them happier, more inclusive, and more durable places to live — and how mayors, architects and bureaucrats have followed them as much as leading them. Charles Montgomery lays out the case for happier cities without ever sounding naive. He faces the hard questions of equality and justice, and the grim challenge of climate change. His “happy city” isn’t an elite enclave or a city in denial. It’s a city that’s confident enough to win in the global marketplace, and eventually save the world. This book is not just for urban professionals; it’s for everyone who’s ever wondered if their city could be a better place, and what they can do about it.”
-Jarrett Walker, author of Human Transit: How Clearer Thinking about Public Transit Can Enrich Our Communities and Our Lives

“It was only a matter of time before someone figured out that if there were new things to say about happiness and a new interest in the evolution of urban life, the two subjects could be linked together. That is what Charles Montgomery, a Canadian journalist, has set out to do in a book titled, logically enough, “Happy City.” To an admirable extent, he succeeds.”
New York Times

“[A] valuable book.”
The Guardian (UK)

“In this lively and accessible book, journalist Montgomery (The Shark God) marshals decades of interdisciplinary research into an effective argument against what he calls the “dispersed city”—the modern city/suburb designed around the automobile…the book will likely make you a believer.”
Publishers Weekly

“Touting extensive research tempered by anecdotal examples, Montgomery enumerates the mistakes made not only by the people who plan and govern cities but also by the people who live in them, and he offers cautious reassurance that it’s not too late to turn things around for all cities.”
-Carol Haggas, Booklist

“The author presents a wide array of urban-design features that ameliorate many of the negatives of city life. He examines various modes of transport other than the automobile and seeks out the ideal population density for a “happy city.” He finds and describes hundreds of examples of urban redesign that are not only imaginative and affordable, but inspiring, design elements for the common good that can be done—in fact, that have been done. An elegant charting of the intersection of urban design and the ever-shifting conception and appreciation of happiness.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Montgomery is a talented raconteur… In Happy City, the prose swings when he’s plunging us into the moment.”
National Post

“[W]hat makes Happy City such an instructive book is that it first describes the pathologies distressing big cities, globally, and then outlines the solutions that can offer a cure.”
Toronto Star


Doubleday, Canada (Fall 2013)

Penguin Press, UK (Fall 2013)

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, US (Fall 2013)


Wysoki Zamek, Poland

China Times, Taiwan

Yeeyan, China

Igloo Media, Romania


Longlisted for the 2015 RBC Taylor Prize

Finalist for the 2014 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction

Shortlisted for the 2013 Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing

Longlisted for the BC National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction

Other Books by Charles Montgomery