An extraordinary debut in the tradition of classic works from authors such as Mark Kurlansky, Mary Roach, and Rose George.
An exuberant and insightful work of popular history of how streets got their names, houses their numbers, and what it reveals about class, race, power, and identity.
When most people think about street addresses, if they think of them at all, it is in their capacity to ensure that the postman can deliver mail or a traveler won’t get lost. But street addresses were not invented to help you find your way; they were created to find you. In many parts of the world, your address can reveal your race and class.
In this wide-ranging and remarkable book, Deirdre Mask 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 for millions of people today, including those who live in the slums of Kolkata and on the streets of London.
Filled with fascinating people and histories, 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.
“An impressive book-length answer to a question few of us consider: "Why do street addresses matter?" In her first book, Mask combines deep research with skillfully written, memorable anecdotes to illuminate the vast influence of street addresses as well as the negative consequences of not having a fixed address....Throughout this eye-opening book, the author clearly demonstrates that package deliveries constitute a minuscule part of the significance of addresses—not only today, but throughout human history....A standout book of sociological history and current affairs.” —Kirkus Review (starred)
“An entertaining and wide-ranging debut....Mask’s fluid narration and impressive research uncover the importance of an aspect of daily life that most people take for granted, and she profiles a remarkable array of activists, historians, and artists whose work intersects with the evolution and meaning of street addresses. This evocative history casts its subject in a whole new light.” —Publishers Weekly (starred)
“Engaging, illuminating, and with highly relevant current subject matter, this book is recommended for all readers, especially fans of popular history and politics." —Library Journal (starred)