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Dar Williams on the Rise of Large Towns and Small Cities

In her new book, the singer-songwriter identifies her own recipe what makes a strong community.
Dar Williams performs with Jackson Browne at a benefit concert in Tucson, Arizona, in 2011.
Dar Williams performs with Jackson Browne at a benefit concert in Tucson, Arizona, in 2011.Joshua Lott/Reuters

The singer-songwriter Dar Williams’ music is a revelation—The New Yorker has described her as "one of America’s very best singer-songwriters”—and so, it turns out, is her writing about cities. In her fantastic new book, What I Found in a Thousand Towns, Williams provides an insightful flâneuse’s take on what makes for a thriving community (full disclosure: I liked the book so much I blurbed it). She draws on her travels to cities and towns across America to set out the ingredients of a successful community—a perfect alchemy that allows some towns to thrive. This book describes that recipe for urban success, which Williams likens to magic, and tells the colorful stories of many people and places along the way. I talked to Williams about her new book and her distinct ideas about community.

I’ve been a lot of places, but I don’t think I’ve been to a thousand towns. How long did it take you to visit a thousand towns?