World Cities Past and Present


Here’s a real treat – a beautiful book of maps, covering 57 of the world’s great cities, at a bargain price.
First, about the book. Michael Swift’s World Cities: Yesterday and Today (Fall River Press, 2009) is an oversized hardcover book which contains 2 to 7 pages on each city. Large pages contain maps from numerous sources ancient to modern – satellite maps, great atlases from the renaissance, beautiful etchings, wonderful birds-eye views. I have a lot of atlases and books about cities, and this is one of the nicer ones. From Antwerp to Chicago, Jerusalem to Los Angeles, Rio to Tokyo, most of the great cities of the world are here. The color reproduction is outstanding. This book would make a great gift for anyone who loves cities or loves maps and atlases. 
Now, about that price. Of course this is the time of year when bookstores fill up with new releases to sell in the holiday season. But it’s also the time when the fronts of bookstores load up on new bargain books. In the industry these books were originally called “remainders.” Back in the old days, they actually were books that had not sold out, and were marked down by the publisher to be resold at lower prices. Hence labels like, “Originally $30, now $5.98.” These books always sold pretty well, and were profitable for bookstores. The only problem was there were not enough of them. The customers and bookstores wanted more. So over the years a whole industry of “value publishing” rose up. These publishers made up books, often in England, to meet a need. Like “We could really sell a good looking book about cats for $9.98.” Or about MC Escher. Or about the Civil War.
Many serious booklovers probably consider bargain books second rate. But that’s not always true. While you are unlikely to have a Nobel Prize winner authoring one of these books, the content is often more focused on art and photography – or maps – than text.
World Cities was published by the Fall River Press. Look on the copyright page and you’ll see their address is 122 Fifth Avenue, New York. That just happens to be the same address as Barnes & Noble’s headquarters. Throughout Barnes & Noble stores, you will find increasing numbers of books that they publish themselves, under various imprints (such as Fall River). They are doing a particularly nice job redoing the classics of literature. I think bookstore publishing programs are great for everyone – they give the stores a product you can’t buy elsewhere (such as Amazon); they give writers and editors jobs; they give the bookstore higher profits; and they deliver excellent value to us readers.
While some of my favorite books which contain maps of cities cost as much as $200, this one – available at Barnes & Noble stores or online – is only $19.98! Here’s the link to the book on the B&N website: And while you are browsing around, look at all their other great bargain books, which often cover art, music, history, and geography. Even trains!     
In fact, since I drafted the above notes, I found another great book at B&N from Fall River: Skylines by Bill Price. This book contains two-page spreads of good photography of the skylines of over 90 world cities. With more cities than the book described above, this one reaches down into smaller cities, like Indianapolis, Atlanta, Dallas, Brisbane, Tehran, Panama City. And this one is only $14.98. See It’s a great time to be in love with cities!
[As you may know, I buy books from all booksellers (see For those of you who are curious about why I link to Amazon instead of B&N on this website, it started when I got fed up with bad packing of books from B&N, although Amazon is now going downhill. When I was developing, Amazon allowed me to link to them, whereas B&N, since they use a Google system for affiliates, would not let me link until my site was up and running. So I went ahead and linked to Amazon. In addition, the one-click and “you already bought that book” features of Amazon are hard to beat. But I encourage you to buy books from whoever has them in stock, and I especially urge you to hang out in bookstores, which I think are much better for browsing and discovering new worlds than any website. If we were to lose our great bookstore system, America and its people would be the poorer for it.]