Happy City by Charles Montgomery

Let me start by saying this book is quite niche. And by quite niche, I actually mean, super duper niche.


I don’t listen to/read Tim Ferriss a lot anymore. Back in the day I used to be a hardcore Ferrissian. Before he became the Gwen Stefani of self improvement. Okay, he’s not quite the anti-christ, so maybe that analogy is unfair. I did however get completely wrapped up in the romance* of the 4-hour work week. Which meant I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to achieve this gimmicky state of work-life-nirvana (time I will NEVER get back) To steal a line from Penn&Teller (well, mostly from Penn because Teller never speaks) its all bullshit. Being in love however, you can’t see the forest for the trees.

*which is the section it should be filed under.

To give credit where credit is due. Tim has introduced me to some really interesting people. A large percentage of them are narcissistic, self-involved, assholes (but then again aren’t we all). But some of them are genuinely interesting. Enter stage right Peter Adeney, aka Mr. Money Mustache, early retiree, blogger and (annoyingly) nice guy.

This book was recommended by Mr. Money Mustache as one of his three best reads. The other two, as far as I can remember were a little generic. But this one piqued my interest.

In my youth I played a ridiculous amount of SimCity. When I wasn’t masturbating frantically I mean. I was obsessed with operational efficiency. To an extent I still am. Although my enthusiasm has waned somewhat on a macro-environmental level. I wanted the spurious citizens of Jo-ville, to be the happiest most efficient little imaginary people EVA! I was their (unelected) philosopher king* who ruled from atop the mountain, removed from his burghers, an un-corruptible, benevolent despot.

* I adore the concepts from Plato’s Republic. I just think they are completely unworkable with homo sapiens.

This book came hot on the heels of Tribe by Sebastian Junger (review linked) which I loved. A lot like Tribe this book tickles my sociological and anthropological interests. Why are our cities the way they are? Why are our societies so messed up? Why do we live in these strange, sprawling residential zones miles from our place of work? Why are we all so angry and unhappy?

The answer is largely, fucken automobiles!

I found it completely fascinating. I think I would even still find it fascinating even if I wasn’t this weird tribal-city-planning fruit-cake/nut-job. Truth be told, looking at the cover (and even paging through this book) I would probably never have read it. I’m super glad I did. Although now I feel I have secret insider knowledge that no one else has, but that is largely theoretical and superfluous. Not exactly a hot-topic when you’re grouped together with the other dads at a two-year-olds birthday party.

‘have you ever considered how urban sprawl is affecting our happiness coefficient?’


‘how ’bout them Mets?. (bewildered, betrayed*)

*from The Birdcage. I might be paraphrasing. I haven’t watched it in a while. Also it should be mentioned that when it comes to the Subway series my blood is dark blue and domiciles near 161st street.

I started out by saying this book is a very niche field. But I think everyone should consider the way we live and not just take these sorts of things for granted.