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Book of the Week: Catie Marron's City Parks

Paris’ Jardin du Luxembourg, photographed by Oberto Gili, from City Parks

The mercury is rising, flowers are blooming… if you haven’t spent a spring day outside yet, do so — stat. It’s essential for your well-being. No, really. Just 20 minutes outside can boost your mood, says Dr. Samantha Boardman, citing a number of studies. And for those who live in city spaces, she adds, a little green can act as a buffer against stress. The good doctor points us to Catie Marron’s City Parks: Public Places, Private Thoughts, which highlights various urban parks around the world through a series of personal essays by Ian Frazier, Candice Bergen, Zadie Smith and Norman Foster, among others. Here, a few excerpts from the book to get you in the alfresco mood.

“The Luxembourg Garden [in Paris] is not a garden, nor is it a municipal park, but like a paradigm of Paris, it is both highly artificial and as natural as children playing hide-and-seek in an orchard.” — Amanda Harlech

“No money has to be spent in a garden, and no awkward foreign conversation need be made, and no one thinks you odd or provincial if you consult your guidebook in front of a statue or a lake. In public parks it is a little easier to feel you belong.” — Zadie Smith

“[The Maidan] is the one lung that allows the millions of Calcuttans to draw breath in a place that seems otherwise never to have the time for silence or reflection. You see people walking alone, expressions of a mysterious inner bliss on their faces. Without the Maidan, I sometimes think, Calcutta would go mad.” — Simon Winchester

“Parks are a vital and humanizing part of the infrastructure of our cities; they are critical to the health and well-being of urban dwellers. By creating a sense of place, they often symbolize the very identity and soul of the city. To paraphrase Gertrude Stein, they ensure that ‘there is a there there.’” — Norman Foster

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