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

tags: geography

This is an entertaining book that falls prey to what I call “The Malcolm Gladwell Syndrome,” which says “just find a bunch of anecdotes and connect them together with the barest whisper of an over-arching premise.”

To be fair, this makes for some interesting books. But those books stray pretty far from their claims.

This book, for example, is really a…meditation (?) on the concepts of addresses and physical place. Every chapter is some anecdote about addresses – about how a bunch of people in Haiti don’t have one and how this makes life hard, or how they represent class and vanity in Manhattan and people will do anything to get the “right” address, etc.

All the chapters have the common theme of addresses and the written representation of physical space, but they vary wildly in scope and purpose. And, again, they’re not really woven together in any systematic narrative.

But that’s okay. The book is interesting, just like most Malcolm Gladwell books are. And the book did get me thinking about addresses in general, and particularly how I take them for granted since I’ve only ever lived in the developed world, I have always had an address, and I have never been homeless. In that sense, I guess the book accomplished what it set out to do.

I’m a better person for having read it.

Book Info