The End of the Suburbs: Where the American Dream Is Moving

The End of the Suburbs: Where the American Dream Is Moving

4.6 5
by Leigh Gallagher, to be announced
     
 

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For nearly seventy years, the suburbs were as American as apple pie. As the middle class ballooned and single-family homes and cars became more affordable, we flocked to pre-fabricated communities in the suburbs, a place where open air and solitude offered a retreat from our dense,
polluted cities. Before long, success became synonymous with a private home in a

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Overview

For nearly seventy years, the suburbs were as American as apple pie. As the middle class ballooned and single-family homes and cars became more affordable, we flocked to pre-fabricated communities in the suburbs, a place where open air and solitude offered a retreat from our dense,
polluted cities. Before long, success became synonymous with a private home in a bedroom community complete with a yard, a two-car garage, and a commute to the office, and subdivisions quickly blanketed our landscape.

But in recent years things have started to change. An epic housing crisis revealed existing problems with this unique pattern of development, while the steady pull of long-simmering economic, societal, and demographic forces has culminated in a perfect storm that has led to a profound shift in the way we desire to live.

In The End of the Suburbs journalist Leigh
Gallagher traces the rise and fall of American suburbia from the stately railroad suburbs that sprung up outside American cities in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to current-day sprawling exurbs where residents spend as much as four hours each day commuting. Along the way she shows why suburbia was unsustainable from the start and explores the hundreds of new, alternative communities that are springing up around the country and promise to reshape our way of life for the better.

Not all suburbs are going to vanish, of course, but
Gallagher’s research and reporting show the trends are undeniable. Consider some of the forces at work:

  • The nuclear family is no more: Our marriage and birth rates are steadily declining, while single-person households are on the rise. Thus, the good schools and family-friendly lifestyle the suburbs promised are increasingly unnecessary.
  • We want out of our cars: As the price of oil continues to rise, the hours-long commutes forced on us by sprawl have become unaffordable for many. Meanwhile, today’s younger generation has expressed a perplexing indifference toward cars and driving. Both shifts have fueled demand for denser, pedestrian-friendly communities.
  • Cities are booming. Once abandoned by the wealthy, cities are experiencing a renaissance,
    especially among younger generations and families with young children. At the same time, suburbs across the country have had to confront never-before-seen rates of poverty and crime.

Blending powerful data with vivid on the ground reporting,
Gallagher introduces us to a fascinating cast of characters, including the charismatic leader of the anti-sprawl movement; a mild-mannered Minnesotan who quit his job to convince the world that the suburbs are a financial Ponzi scheme; and the disaffected residents of suburbia, like the teacher whose punishing commute entailed leaving home at 4 a.m. and sleeping under her desk in her classroom.

Along the way, she explains why understanding the shifts taking place is imperative to any discussion about the future of our housing landscape and of our society itself—and why that future will bring us stronger,
healthier, happier, and more diverse communities for everyone.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The suburbs are in many ways a uniquely American phenomenon—no other nation has them in such abundance. But their future is in doubt. Gallagher, assistant managing editor at Fortune, marshals ample evidence that the suburbs are in decline, as the financial crisis, long-term demographic trends, and increased environmental awareness conspire to drive Americans away from residential subdivisions. “Simply speaking, more and more Americans don’t want to live there anymore,” she writes. Through conversations with home builders, designers, and consumers, and a review of relevant data concerning suburban real estate, Gallagher heralds a future of “smaller-scale” communities and urban spaces characterized by walk-ability, socioeconomic diversity, and mixed-use development. The promise of more human-centered design will appeal to many readers. Gallagher’s ideal community seems to be a combination of Brooklyn’s Park Slope and Media, Penn., her own childhood suburb. Many of Gallagher’s ideas are more concerned with rejecting past excesses than with offering truly new perspectives. The same statistics and experts are quoted throughout this short tome, giving one the feeling of driving past a series of identical cul-de-sacs. (Aug.)
From the Publisher
“This book is a steel fist in a velvet glove. Beneath Leigh Gallagher's smooth, elegant prose there is a methodical smashing of the suburban paradigm. When all is done, a few shards remain—but only because she is scrupulously fair. This story of rise and ruin avoids the usual storm of statistics—nor is it a tale told with apocalyptic glee. The End of the Suburbs is the most convincing book yet on the lifestyle changes coming to our immediate future.”
— Andres Duany, founding partner of Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company and co-author of Suburban Nation
 
“The book is loaded with fascinating detail wrapped in a vivid story Gallagher creates from behind the scenes of America’s greatest promotion: the suburbs.”
—Meredith Whitney, author, Fate of the States: The New Geography of American Prosperity and founder, Meredith Whitney Advisory Group
 
“Leigh Gallagher asks all the right questions and comes up with surprising conclusions in this sweeping discussion of the future of the suburb. Spoiler alert - it's a bleak future for the burbs, but don't panic: Gallagher foretells a new world order where the conveniences  of the urban lifestyle rewire our understanding of the American Dream. You'll never look at a cul-de-sac the same way again after you enjoy this book, which is simultaneously entertaining and informative, breezy and analytical.”
—Spencer Rascoff, CEO, Zillow
 
The End of the Suburbs is a compelling, insightful must-read on what author Leigh Gallagher calls the ‘slow-burning revolution’ re-mapping the shape of America and its future. Her masterfully-argued case springs to life with both impressive research and empathetic portraits of those seduced and often betrayed by suburbia's promise of a more livable life. Now, where's my moving truck? Oh, right. Stuck in commuter traffic.”
—Linda Keenan, author and resident of Suburgatory
 
“No one knows how American residential preferences will change in the 21st century. But Leigh Gallagher’s well-researched and provocative The End of the Suburbs makes a persuasive argument that is difficult to refute. Required reading for anyone interested in the future of the United States.”
—Kenneth T. Jackson, professor of history, Columbia University and author of the prize-winning Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States
 
“I couldn’t put this book down. My readers often ask me, ‘What will happen to suburbia once we’ve all right-sized our homes and communities?’ Leigh Gallagher provides the data that I’ve been looking for, and makes the powerful assertion that our suburbs are permanently changing, not because of the Great Recession, but because of new attitudes about where and how we want to live—which is great news, both for the near term, and for generations to come.”
Sarah Susanka, the author of The Not So Big House series, and The Not So Big Life: Making Room for What Really Matters.

"The end of Suburbia is timely and important. We should hope it is prophetic, because Leigh Gallagher shows suburbs as we know them are unsafe for our species."
Eric Klinenberg, Professor of Sociology at New York University and author of Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone

"Through compelling expert interviews, data and trends analysis, Leigh affirms the notion that we've hit 'peak burb.' This book presents a strong case for America's increasing preference for higher density lifestyles and the resulting trend to manage our lives via the information highway, not the paved kind!" 
Scott W. Griffith, former chairman and CEO, Zipcar

"Have you ever wondered whether the Great Recession will halt the process of gentrification in major American cities? Or what will happen to the empty suburban sprawl that is the result of the housing boom and bust? Or how most of us will live in a world where oil is expensive? Leigh Gallagher's crisp, entertaining, and fact-filled new book answers these questions and many more." 
Bethany McLean, coauthor, The Smartest Guys in the Room and All the Devils are Here: The Hidden History of the Financial Crisis 

Kirkus Reviews
Fortune editor and public speaker Gallagher presents illuminating, persuasive data on the recent preference for vibrant city life over softer suburbia. An admitted West Village "city girl," the author reminisces about her "almost comically idyllic" childhood in suburban Media, Pa., and then smoothly examines how attitudes about the upholstered American dream of life in a bedroom community with "a house and a yard" have permanently shifted. She attributes this urban renaissance to several factors: lengthy, impractical commutes; environmental consciousness; an influx of poverty-stricken citizens into the suburbs forcing the wealthy to the city; changing familial demographics; and, most importantly, the economic crash that either plunged many mortgage-bound homeowners underwater or made them fear foreclosure. This point is highlighted best with Gallagher's story of her drive through a once-flourishing subdivision in Las Vegas, now riddled with foreclosed homes poorly camouflaged by desperate realtors. The author presents suburbia from a historical perspective that's entertaining and educative and juxtaposes the old with the new using unfiltered opinions from builders, homeowners, "sprawl refugees" who fight for suburban redevelopment, and developers pushing rural, mixed-use "city replicas." Though she focuses on a marked downturn in suburban affinity, Gallagher's reportage is evenhanded and comprehensively researched. In fairness, she notes that there are a large number of suburbs attempting their own reinvention in an effort to adapt to the changing climate of smaller communities and the myriad challenges they face. Good or bad, "a new kind of Great Migration is taking place," though the author admits it's still too early to elaborate further on any concrete solutions for those still harboring that pastoral American dream. A somewhat melancholic reality report made pleasant and palatable by the author's congenial delivery and promising vision.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781469027418
Publisher:
Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Publication date:
02/01/2014
Edition description:
Unabridged
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 5.80(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
“Fascinating reading on changing trends in how and where we live.”
Booklist

“Required reading for anyone interested in the future of the United States.”
Kenneth T. Jackson, professor of history, Columbia University

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