Imagine a City

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What to expect

Brought to you by Penguin.

A love letter to the cities of the world, from the airline pilot-author of Skyfaring.

Mark Vanhoenacker grew up in his small hometown, spinning the illuminated globe in his bedroom and dreaming of elsewhere – of distant, real cities, and a perfect metropolis that existed only in his imagination. These places were the source of endless comfort and escape, and of a lasting fascination: streets unspooled, towers shone, and anonymous crowds bustled in cities where Mark could be anyone, perhaps even himself.

Now, as a commercial airline pilot, Mark has spent nearly two decades crossing the skies of our planet, touching down in the cities he imagined as a child. He experiences our metropolises in short layover visits that repeat over weeks, months or even years, giving him a unique perspective on the urbanization of the world.

In this intimate yet expansive work that weaves travelogue with memoir, Mark celebrates the cities he has come to know and love, through the lens of the hometown his heart has never left. In chapters that explore emblematic facets of each city’s identity – the sweeping roads of Los Angeles, the gates of Jeddah, the intricate, dream-inspired plan of Brasília – he shows us with warmth and fresh eyes the extraordinary places that billions of us call home.

© Mark Vanhoenacker 2022 (P) Penguin Audio 2022

Critics Review

  • Mark Vanhoenacker is a beautiful, lyrical writer who uses his experience as a pilot to bring us constantly in touch with the transcendent and the other-worldly

    Alain de Botton
  • A enriching memoir of how a sensitive, introverted boy’s yearning for escape and acceptance found its fulfilment in the life of an airline pilot… A touching survey of human dreams and endeavours and a hymn to the quiet pleasures of returning, in the flesh or in memory, to the intimate geography of one’s hometown

    Patrick Gale
  • Refreshingly personal and moving… This absorbing modern twist on the age-old story of flying the nest, yet yearning for home, will transport you around the globe and back again without leaving your seat

    Mark Ovenden, author of AIRLINE MAPS and LONDON UNDERGROUND BY DESIGN
  • An utterly remarkable and original travel book. Like Jan Morris and Pico Iyer, Vanhoenacker weaves memoir and travelogue, using his unusual perch as a pilot to take us on an incredible journey to dozens of cities around the world. Like Italo Calvino, he somehow weaves it all into one, a painfully beautiful cubist city of memory and dreams that rises out of his warm and lyrical prose

    Andrew Blum, author of TUBES and THE WEATHER MACHINE
  • A tour de force of descriptive power and honesty; I can think of no other book like this one

    Tom Zoellner, winner of the 2020 National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction

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