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The bestselling author of A Splintered History of Wood uses a walk around his hometown to explore how every part of our urban landscape - from manhole covers and recycling bins to pedestrian crossings and bike lanes - impact and shape our lives in this fascinating work of popular science. A simple walk around the block set Spike Carlsen off on an investigative journey to discover everything he could about every thing we take for granted in our everyday life. Leading readers on a spirited tour of his hometown, and a few other environs, he teaches us how to best appreciate and make the best use of the world's most useful things with illuminating narrative tales about the hidden world outside and underneath our front door. With wit and everyman expertise, Carlsen explains the engineering marvels, unheralded utilities, and how to make the best use of the world's most useful things, including: How the addition of a front porch reduces crime and increases property valueHow planting a $10 boulevard tree cuts air-conditioning costs by 20 percent, while generating approximately $30,000 worth of oxygen and $31,000 worth of erosion control.

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