The Address Book is one of many published in early 2020 which likely suffered from a distracted world. Early 2020 was a rough time to publish and attempt to publicize a book. But thanks to lists of books you missed I’m glad this one came to my attention. Separately, recognizing Hollywood, Florida the city next to my hometown listed alongside much larger cities seemed a perfectly good reason to add this book to my reading list.
If you think about street addresses, it is likely in their place in ensuring that mail is delivered, or that a person doesn’t get lost. What I found out from Deirdre Mask’s book (but probably should have pieced together on my own beforehand) is that street addresses were not invented to help you find your way – they were created to find you. There is a lot I hadn’t really thought about as far as the practicalities of addresses, and the sheer amount of people and places in the world that don’t have one. But Deirdre Mask has, and she’s done the research and interviewed the right people to be able to write eloquently about the topic. Each chapter is focused on a particular question about addresses and a city that shines light on the topic (For Hollywood it’s what we can learn about racism from street names).
The Address Book 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 from those who live in the slums of Kolkata and on the streets of London. 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.
I was fascinated by this book for most of its chapters. There were new ways of looking at things, new questions to ask, new information to add to what I already knew. It reminded me of times of another book I read earlier this year, The Color of Law, but that book focuses on American cities while Mask’s book instead hops and skips around the world and through a variety of sizes of communities.
Bingo Square: Rec’d (This book is featured on The Atlantic’s The Books Swallowed by the Black Hole of the Coronavirus.)