The Address Book: What Street Addresses Reveal About Identity, Race, Wealth, and Power

The Address Book: What Street Addresses Reveal About Identity, Race, Wealth, and Power

Series: Quick Lit April 2020

I picked up this urban-planning adjacent book at the suggestion of multiple readers who knew of my obsession. Mask's thorough exploration of the hidden history and meanings of the street address take her all the way from ancient Rome to contemporary U.S. cities. I found this fascinating, illuminating, highly relevant, and surprisingly timely: a recurring theme in the book is the role of street addresses in identifying and stopping epidemics.

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About the Book

Publisher’s description:

An extraordinary debut in the tradition of classic works from authors such as Mark Kurlansky, Mary Roach, and Rose George.

An exuberant and insightful work of popular history of how streets got their names, houses their numbers, and what it reveals about class, race, power, and identity.

When most people think about street addresses, if they think of them at all, it is in their capacity to ensure that the postman can deliver mail or a traveler won’t get lost. But street addresses were not invented to help you find your way; they were created to find you. In many parts of the world, your address can reveal your race and class.

In this wide-ranging and remarkable book, Deirdre Mask looks at the fate of streets named after Martin Luther King Jr., the wayfinding means of ancient Romans, and how Nazis haunt the streets of modern Germany. The flipside of having an address is not having one, and we also see what that means for millions of people today, including those who live in the slums of Kolkata and on the streets of London.

Filled with fascinating people and histories, The Address Book illuminates the complex and sometimes hidden stories behind street names and their power to name, to hide, to decide who counts, who doesn’t—and why.

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