Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Hilary Weston Prize for NonFiction Series: 7 Things You Need to Know About Charles Montgomery's Happy City

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Hilary Weston Prize for NonFiction Series: 7 Things You Need to Know About Charles Montgomery's Happy City

Non-fiction has a special place in our reading landscape, with the power to educate, influence and improve, all while entertaining us. The Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction honours those achievements, so we're hosting a new series with the Writers' Trust celebrating non-fiction: The Hilary Weston Prize Dinner-party Digestible: 7 Things You Need to Know, featuring seven fascinating facts about and related to each title nominated for this year's award. Consider this an appetizer to the book's full feast, whetting your appetite for great reading.

The seven points on today's list come from Charles Montgomery's timely and fascinating Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design (Doubleday Canada). Walking through any city, it is immediately apparent that things like public transportation, parking, green spaces and access to natural light have intense emotional and psychological impact on our lives.

The jury praised Happy City saying: "Refitting cities for sustainability, and for a new, necessary kind of ‘happiness,’ may sound utopian, but Charles Montgomery builds a vision and argument out of real people, real situations, real solutions... [Happy City is] witty, erudite, and intrepid."

7 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT… Charles Montgomery's Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design

  1. In 2006, the UN announced that more than half of the world’s citizens were living in cities, and that figure is continually rising.

  2. Urban density could be the greenest way to live — requiring less energy for heat, light and transportation — but through ineffective design, cities are currently disproportionally contributing to climate change.

  3. You are likely to have more friends and feel less lonely if you live in a house than in a condo tower, even if the house is in an equally dense urban neighbourhood. Human relationships = happiness.

  4. Money can’t buy happiness. There is a natural human tendency to shift our expectations along with our changing fortunes, which is why greater wealth in North America has not equated to more happiness. Psychologists call this the “hedonic treadmill.”

  5. Sharp architectural angles light up the brain’s fear centres much like the sight of a knife or a thorn, releasing stress hormones that make us less likely to pause and engage with places and people. (Hint: think of how empty the sidewalk often is in front of the Michael Lee-Chin crystal at the ROM).

  6. In Bogota, mayor Enrique Penalosa introduced a “sexy” lipstick red bus that was supposed to help ease anxiety — and it worked!

  7. It will never again be inexpensive to fill a gas tank — we need to find alternative transportation solutions. But cars are enemies of happiness in urban centres anyway.



The Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction has rapidly become the preeminent Canadian non-fiction award, with shortlists featuring Canada's finest non-fiction writers, including authors such as Richard Gwyn, Thomas King, Graeme Smith and many more. The winner of the prize receives $60,000, while finalists receive $5,000. The 2014 winner will be announced at an event in Toronto next week on October 14.

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