Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Let's Book Club: Who's Your City by Richard Florida

Kind of ironic that I've taken the time to read Who's Your City, a self-described "self-help" book about choosing the place where you live, both after I've moved to Toronto (last year) and after I've moved in Toronto (last week). But, I suppose if nothing else, its made me feel pretty good about the place Liz and I have moved to (downtown), presuming we can afford it.

Who's Your City, for those not familiar with Richard Florida and his ideas surrounding the creative class, explains that creative people drive the economy (duh), but that creative people are drawn to cool places with arts scenes, bars, amenities, pretty places, etc. (i.e. creative spaces draw creative people which drives economic growth), I think. Who's Your City doesn't so much build on these ideas, but repackages them in a way to make explicit that: 1/ you should know what kind lifestyle you want before moving somewhere -- don't move into the city if you like piece and quiet; 2/ if you want to find work, regions are specializing, so go to the region where your field is -- if you're interested in business and finance, come to Toronto!; 3/ the more money and education you have, the more choices you're going to have -- if you don't have money, you're screwed! Hello growing divide between the rich and poor!That last point is probably the most striking one that the book makes, since, if you're relatively self-aware, many of Florida's suggestions seem self-evident.

So, basically the nuts of all this is that if you have some money and are mobile there are a whole lot of opportunities in an increasingly complex, globalized world; if not, then prepare to get hosed. You can't live in the city, because its expensive (or really unsafe in the areas you can afford), nor can you afford to live out of the city (there is no public transportation, or work for people without skills), so, you're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't.

What all this means to me is that there is probably some good things that cities, or provinces (cities are "creatures of the province" - they don't actually exist anywhere in our constitution) or federal governments for that matter, can be doing to create nice places to live for everyone. I think Florida misses out on this point, that what is good/important for certain demographics, is probably good for everyone. If there are good schools, walkable streets, a vibrant nightlife, a viable arts scene, reliable transit, etc. that's good for everyone.

The Executive Summary: As you may be able to tell, its got me thinking, so bonus points for that. But, on the whole, I kind of wish I had read Rise of the Creative Class since it probably would've been less listy (this neighborhood in Toronto, Vancouver, San Franciso, New York are all like this...) and more of the academic ideas (stuff on why/how regions are specializing, etc.).

Grade: C

1. The Inner Game of Tennis | Timothy Gallwey (134 pages) | A
2. The Last Shot | Darcy Frey (240 pages) | A+
3. The Road | Cormac McCarthy (287 pages) | A+
4. Outliers | Malcolm Gladwell (299 pages) | C+
5. The Last Season | Phil Jackson (304 pages) | B-
The Sunset Limited | Cormac McCarthy (160 pages)| B-
7. The Education of a Coach | David Halberstam (288 pages)| B+
8. Downtown Owl | Chuck Klosterman | (288 pages)| B

9. Can I Keep My Jersey?| Paul Shirley| (336 pages)|C-
10. Then We Came to The End| Joshua Ferris| (416 pages)|B+
11. Friday Night Lights| H.G. Bissinger|(400 pages)|A++
12. Strokes of Genius| L. Jon Wertheim|(208 pages)|B
Who's Your City| Richard Florida|( 345 pages)|C

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