Monday, October 24, 2011

Instant City by Steve Inskeep

Part of the Synopsis From The Dust Jacket:

In recent decades, the world has seen an unprecedented change in human life:  for the first time in history, more people now live in cities than in the countrysides.  As Morning Edition co-host Steve Inskeep so aptly puts it, we are living in the age of the "instant city," when vast metropolitan areas emerge practically overnight.  No rising metropolis has experienced this epic migration more dramatically than Karachi, Pakistan, which has grown from four hundred thousand people in the 1940s to more than 13 million today.  Karachi is the largest city in a nation of vital strategic interest to the United States - yet is a place Americans frequently misunderstand.  In his first book, Inskeep explores how this one city illuminates the perils and possibilities of rapidly growing megacities all around the world.

I like to think I'm pretty smart and that I have a decent grasp on world history and current geopolitical events that are shaping the world we live in.  Then I see or read something that makes me realize I really don't have a frickin clue.  These are the moments that I both live for and dread.  I love them because they help me remember that I will never stop learning, that there is so much out there for me to discover that I'll never get bored.  On the other hand, it's almost too much to comprehend.  There are times I feel I should be concentrating on one subject for the rest of my life, if I don't, I'll never know what I need to.  Reading Instant City was one such moment.

When I decided I wanted to read/review this book, I wasn't thinking too deeply about it.  There were really only two reasons I wanted to do so.  I'm a fan of Steve Inskeep, I listen to NPR all the time, and I want to know more about Pakistan, a country I don't know all that much about.  That, and this sounds really superficial, but every time I think of Karachi, I think of the last segment of one of my favorite movies.  At the end of Auntie Mame, as she is telling Patrick's son about the sites and sounds he is going to see on their trip, Karachi is one of the place she is telling him about.  Silly reason to read a book, but I'm glad I did.

What I enjoyed the most about this read, even though it made me feel a little dumb at times, was finally being able to understand a little of the history of the region and why India and Pakistan are always at each other's throats.  I know I heard of the partition before, but I never thought about it and the ramifications of splitting apart such a large country into smaller ones.  The concept of it being done along religious lines, gave me a better understanding of the history and and current troubles in the region.

Karachi serves as a perfect petri dish for studying the very modern phenomenon of an Instant City.  When you have mass migration from rural to urban settings, whatever the reasons, it's bound to cause problems that nobody really thought through or prepared for.  Buy investigating Karachi, even by narrowing down to one bloody day in December of 2009, Steve Inskeep is able to look at the subject from all angles.

I would like to thank Trish of TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read/review this book.  Please visit the  tour page to read some really insightful reviews on this one.


Katy said...

This sounds really interesting, Ryan. I need to expand my reading horizons more--I tend to focus on the US too much. I think I'll look for this at the library. :) Thanks for the review!

bermudaonion said...

I knew the name Steve Inskeep sounded familiar! I read Burnt Shadows which is about the same region and thought it was fascinating, so I have a feeling I'd love this book too.

Staci said...

Excellent review and I'm glad that you read/reviewed this even if it was something silly that led you to it...there's really no such thing as coincidence. You were meant to read this one for a reason.

Jenny said...

I know what you mean about being sort of overwhelmed with all the information there is out there! I love your Karachi reason for wanting to read this. I do things like that too. =)

Anonymous said...

Auntie Mame is a good reason as any to read a book :)

I just love it when I gain a better understanding of complex, pertinent issues like this. And I found out about Partition from a book too!

Anonymous said...

"Then I see or read something that makes me realize I really don't have a frickin clue." I know what you mean about both hating and loving those moments. They can be seriously life-altering.

I'm glad this book was such an eye-opener for you. Thanks for being on the tour Ryan!