26 books you should read this summer – University of Sydney

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photo of a book cover with the words The Address Book

The Address Book: What Street Addresses Reveal About Identity, Race, Wealth and Power by Deirdre Mask (2020)  Recommended by Professor Bill Pritchard, geographer and Head of School, Geosciences 

Until reading this book, I never thought to ask the question why addresses exist. But in this book, Deirdre Mask tells the history of how street addresses came into being. Not to plot-spoil the saga too much, but it was part extension of the state (no taxation without a way of sending tax bills), part social climbing (a street address can bring cachet) and part navigation (that place where the bakers are we should call Baker Street). At different points in history, the imposition of street addresses was accompanied by riots, as citizens saw this as their freedoms trampled. But in the final chapters of this book, Mask arcs forward to the present, and asks what it’s like not to have an address. In the slums of Kolkata and the homeless kerbsides of New York, not having an address means not being able to access social services. And in the backwoods of West Virginia, not having an address was seen as a libertarian badge of honour until people found they couldn’t get Amazon deliveries. This is a great geographical journey through the most assumed of commonplace things. 

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