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  • Writer's pictureKatie MacQueen

Discovering The Soul of Cities: A Book Review of "Imagine A City"

As someone who loves both traveling and reading, I recently got lost in the pages of Mark Vanhoenacker's delightful book "Imagine A City," published in 2022. This book isn't just about cities; it's a poetic exploration of urban life, seen through the eyes of a thoughtful writer with a passion for storytelling.


Vanhoenacker, known for his wonderful prose in works like "Skyfaring," takes us on a journey through various cities around the world in "Imagine A City." Each chapter is like a mini-adventure, filled with personal anecdotes, historical tidbits, and philosophical reflections that bring these cities to life. From Liverpool to Abu Dhabi to Pittsfield, MA, Vanhoenacker paints vivid pictures that go beyond the surface.

Book cover for "Imagine A City"; a black-and-white aerial city photo folded into a paper airplane shape on a bright yellow background with black lettering


What truly fascinates me about "Imagine A City" is how Vanhoenacker delves into the essence of each city, transcending the typical tourist landmarks. Rather than focusing solely on iconic sites like the London Eye or Tower Bridge, he uncovers the hidden gems—the poetic gates, the tucked-away cafes where locals gather, the quiet corners steeped in literary history. Vanhoenacker's approach encourages us to see beyond the surface and appreciate the nuances that make each city a unique tapestry of human experiences.


In Liverpool, for instance, he doesn't discuss the Beatles' legacy or the city's vibrant music scene, its working-class spirit, and the rich cultural heritage that continues to shape its identity. Liverpool makes him think of his flight training, and letters from his Mom. His exploration of Abu Dhabi goes beyond skyscrapers and luxury hotels, revealing the deep-rooted traditions, hospitality, and aspirations of its inhabitants. Even in smaller locales like Pittsfield, MA, he uncovers the layers of history and community that often go unnoticed by casual visitors.


Vanhoenacker's reflections extend beyond physical spaces to capture the emotional resonance of cities—the sense of belonging, the aspirations of its people, and the stories embedded in everyday life. This nuanced perspective encourages us to engage with cities on a deeper level, fostering a greater appreciation for the human connections that define urban landscapes.


A man wearing a beard and warm outer layers, kneeling in a train station thoroughfare, holding a sign that reads "seeking human kindness"

For those who revel in the intersection of travel, literature, and culture, "Imagine A City" is a must-read. Vanhoenacker's lyrical prose invites readers to embark on a profound journey of discovery, where every street corner becomes a gateway to understanding and empathy. Whether you're planning your next adventure or simply seeking inspiration from afar, this book will ignite your curiosity and reshape your perspective on the cities we inhabit and explore.


"Imagine A City" is more than a travelogue; it's a testament to the richness of urban life and the enduring power of storytelling and I'm so glad I could write this book review. Pick up a copy, immerse yourself in its pages, and rediscover the magic that awaits in the heart of every city.

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