About the Book

reviews | excerpts | media resources

Happy City will change the way you think about urban life.

The Happy City

“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

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 tower dwelling 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” lipstick-red 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 transformed their lives by hacking the design of their streets and neighbourhoods.

Rich with history and new insights from psychology, neuroscience and Montgomery’s own urban experiments, Happy City is an essential tool for understanding and improving our own communities. The message is as surprising as it is hopeful: by retrofitting our cities for happiness, we can tackle the urgent challenges of our age. The happy city, the green city, and the low-carbon city are the same place, and we can all help build it.

Finalist: Shaugnessy Bishop-Cohen Prize for Political Writing

Finalist: Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Non-fiction

Winner: US National Association of Real Estate Editors Robert Bruss Book Award

Buy a copy at IndieBound, MacmillanAmazon, or Chapters/Indigo

Reviews of Happy City

“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.”
– Alan Ehrenhalt, New York Times

“Witty, erudite and intrepid, Charles Montgomery combines superb reportage with bold thinking to explore how one of our century’s defining creations, the megacity, need not be alarming or alienating. Refitting cities for sustainability, and for a new, necessary kind of ‘happiness’ may sound utopian, but Charles Montgomery builds a vision and argument out of real people, real situations, real solutions…. A philosophy of city that is also a philosophy of being–the deepest kind of urban design.”
– Jurors, Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Non-fiction Prize (Finalist)

“Montgomery has done a service by writing an essential guidebook to the brightest manifestations of urban felicity; it’s one that belongs on every city-dweller’s bookshelf.”

- Taras Grescoe, The National Post

“The place we live is key to our happiness. In Happy City, Charles Montgomery helps us understand why and provides a guidebook for living a happier, more fulfilling and meaningful life.”
– Richard Florida

 “Happy City is its own opiate: an eye-opening, pleasurable, utterly necessary tour through the best and worst neighborhoods of our urbanized world. Charles Montgomery shows us the way to a beautiful city.”
– Andrew Blum

“I have a problem with the use of ‘happy’ as the primary adjective for what cities should or can be.”
– Rowan Moore, The Guardian

“Montgomery writes with rare wit and erudition about the psychology of urban life. A wake-up call for citizens and planners alike, Happy City takes you by the scruff of the neck and shakes you into questioning everything around you. It not only shows us that we can and must make our cities better, but it tells us how.”
– Nicholas Humphrey

“… an enthused and eclectic thinker whose desire to apply abstract research findings to real-world problems is never in doubt.”
– Brett Josef Grubisic, Vancouver Sun

“Ever had one of those doctor’s visits in which your physician questions you in great detail about your family medical history? Trying to tease out the nebulous connections within your DNA to explain certain strengths, weaknesses, and anomalies. And then he uses that connecting thread to help solve something that’s been bothering you? Charles Montgomery does just that. Wielding satisfying story-telling with solid urban design analysis and case studies, he hones in on what matters to most of us: happiness.”
– Hazel Borys, Placemakers

“What distinguishes Happy City is the compelling link that it draws between relatively simple moves and profound shifts in the public mood.”
– Diane Brady, Bloomberg Businessweek

“Can cities make us better people?…For Montgomery, the city is a “happiness project” that exists in part to corral our conviviality and channel it productively. Though Montgomery’s argument may seem strange at first, the book will likely make you a believer.”
Publishers Weekly

“Montgomery explores the many ideas and movements seeking to change the structures and souls of our cities to make them more meaningful, heart-gladdening places…An elegant charting of the intersection of urban design and the ever-shifting conception and appreciation of happiness.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Happy City is clear and enjoyable to read. It abounds with interesting nuances.”
– Robert Stueteville, Better! Cities and Towns

“In this spirit of empirical discovery, Montgomery … also leads us into the laboratories of behavioral scientists measuring which mindsets make happiness easier (or harder) to achieve.”
– Eric Jaffe, The Atlantic Cities

“The example of Bogotá provides an irresistible introduction to Montgomery’s thesis that a growing global rebellion against private cars, exclusionary zoning and sprawl could be the dawn of a new urban world.”
– Mike Davis, Nature

“The question Montgomery confronts is: “Can we build—or rebuild—city spaces in ways that enable more trust among both familiars and strangers? …An ambitious cross-disciplinary and prescriptive book.”
– Tom Vanderbilt, Columbia Journalism Review

“Charles Montgomery’s Happy City is a gutsy examination of the neuroscience and psychology behind urban well-being, and a guide for making our cities happier.”
– James S. Russell


The Secrets Of The World’s Happiest Cities – The Guardian

Fixing Broken Neighborhoods – Slate

Why We’re Sometimes Kind Without Reason – The Atlantic

On The Sunny Side Of The Street – enRoute Magazine

How Urban Design Influences How Many Friends You Have – Fast Co.Exist

The Safest Suburb In The World Did It By Ending The Culture Of Cars – Fast Co.Exist

When Neighbors Tore Down Their Fences, Incredible Things Happened – Fast Co.Exist

Wal-Mart: An Economic Cancer On Our Cities – Salon

Media Resources

US media please contact Katie Kurtzman: Katie.Kurtzman AT fsgbooks.com

Canadian media please contact Frances Bedford: fbedford AT random house.com

To download the following images, please click on the links below the thumbnails (measurements are in pixels).

IMG_8495 lee satkowski of charles_thumb IMG_5934CharlesMontgomeryNYCthumb happycity_cover-web Charles Montgomery by Tilo Driessen
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Lee Satkowski
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Elizabeth Borne
Image credit:
Tilo Driessen
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