The Address Book: A Review

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Hey, Book Friends.

I finished “The Address Book: What Street Addresses Reveal About Identity, Race, Wealth, and Power” by Deirdre Mask. I liked it. It was an entertaining & educational book. It took me a little longer to finish because it’s very informative, and I wanted to take the appropriate time to absorb the material. It reads like an anthology of sociology, urban planning, and history all wrapped into one book.

“The Address Book” sets out to research what street addresses mean, how addresses applied to communities, and what they offer to those communities. 

Mask tasks the approach of a curious student, always asking the right questions, leading to more questions. She structured the book into five sections: Development, Origins, Politics, Race, and Class & Status. Within each section and chapter, she offers readable and scholarly stories about street addresses. For example, in Chapter 2, “Haiti: Could Street Addresses Stop an Epidemic?”, Mask writes about the Cholera epidemic that broke out in my motherland and how the lack of street addresses in particular parts of the country led to a delay in controlling the outbreak brought by UN personnel from Asia. 

I liked this book. I feel smarter having read it, almost a little privileged. The text is under 300 pages, so nothing crazy. I learned a lot, like “today about 70 percent of the world is insufficiently mapped” and how street addresses also offer people identity. For example, Indian citizens need a permanent address to apply for national identification cards required for social services. The problem: millions of people live in slums around the country. What counts as a home in a slum?

Deirdre Mask uses in-person visits, historical documents, interviews with experts, and essential questioning in compiling this book.

“The Address Book” is correctly titled. The idea of going to an address is so simple; the act isn’t so easy.

5 Stars.

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