Book Review: New to Cleveland: A Guide to Rediscovering the City

Let me start out by saying the author of this book is a friend and neighbor of mine for whom I have a tremendous amount of respect. Former Associated Press reporter and Detroit Shoreway resident Justin Glanville teamed up with illustrator Julia Kuo (who you will remember from 100 days of Cleveland) to produce this beautifully composed guide to Cleveland for newcomers, and old-timers looking to rediscover Cleveland neighborhoods.

I was lucky enough to win a copy of this book at the release party at Happy Dog last week and since then I’ve had a chance to look it over. Being that I am a relative newcomer to Cleveland (just about 3 years now) I was curious to see whether the book would take a boosterish marketing-type approach to this city.

Glanville, however, approaches his topic like a journalist and offers a very balanced and very enlightening view of the city, in my opinion. He notes some of Cleveland high points (arts institutions like the museum and the orchestra) as well as some of the low (an orientation towards sprawl over the last few decades that forces many people to drive everywhere).

I was particularly amused by some of the observations Justin has gleaned from folks who have moved to the city from larger metros (Justin himself returned to the city from a stint in New York City not too long ago).

TRUTH: Cleveland can be a bit couple-centric and single newcomers might feel a little left out. YES! When I first moved to the city I spent my first couple years hanging out with a (extremely awesome) group of people who had all married their highschool/college sweethearts. After a while, I sorta started to feel like there was something wrong with me because I wasn’t coupled up.

TRUTH: Clevelanders can sometimes seem unfriendly to outsiders. YES! Justin notes that many Clevelanders have an inner circle that dates back to their high school days. Some newcomers can find it hard to break in. In an odd way though, Clevelanders are friendly too, he notes. Maybe it depends on where you’re from.

TRUTH: Real estate is astonishingly cheap. But Justin has some good advice to give about playing it cool with respect to homeownership. He does a good job of explaining when it makes sense to buy and when it might be better to rent.

TRUTH: I like that Justin focuses on quality-of-life amenities that are important to the young professional crowd. The stuff that makes Cleveland neighborhoods livable, this book emphasizes, are walkability, transit access, cultural amenities, recreational opportunities (like yoga studios), and even (and I really like this one) diversity.

In my view Justin’s appraisal of city neighborhoods is much more honest and thoughtful that the usual appraisals we get in Cleveland, e.g. Cleveland Magazine’s “rating the suburbs” which encourages readers to adopt lifestyle choices that are liable to have their spending all their free time sitting on the driver’s seat of a car or on the couch (while “saving” a few precious dollars on taxes). Also the artwork and overall composition is just beautiful.

This book is highly recommended reading for those who are seriously considering a move to Cleveland or have recently moved here. Also, a good guide for suburbanites who are intrigued by some of the urban redevelopment efforts and want to explore from a safe distance.

Check it out further at newtoclevelandbook.com

-A.S.

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