Imagine a City is a memoir wrapped within a scholarly travel book, at its heart a moving account of personal unbelonging. Vanhoenacker’s home city was Pittsfield, situated so high in Massachusetts that the local ski slope produced Olympic champions...He’s opaque about the trauma of his parents’ divorce when he was 16, but it was obviously profound...Biographical stuff is woven within meditative themes about the destinations he has explored so often — cities of air, snow, poetry, signs, gates, rivers, the colour blue; and every city bears a story, threads of memory, friendship or adventure...Imagine a City is rich with random facts...Geeky fans will be glad to know that he’s still flying — during lockdown Vanhoenacker flew cargo in 747s, then retrained on the 787 — but this book is not Skyfaring 2...There’s the occasional snapshot from the cockpit, but Imagine a City is not about aviation; it’s something more dreamy and erudite, a slightly reticent personal journey in which I’d have preferred more memoir, less city detail...He remains, however, a most likeable, warm-hearted narrator with an original world view.
As a young boy surrounded by model planes, Vanhoenacker fell under the spell not only of aviation, but also of far-off destinations...Vanhoenacker began piloting long-haul jets all around the world, and he takes readers to Kuala Lumpur, Cape Town, Brasília, Jeddah, Sapporo, and numerous other places that may be exotic or familiar but that he views through a singular lens...Vanhoenacker is a collector of sumptuous details such as the 'imperfect radii or broken spokes' of London’s layout and the difficulties he faced learning Japanese...Philosophically rich without being ponderous, belonging on the same shelf as books by Saint-Exupéry, Markham, and Langewiesche, Vanhoenacker’s book is unfailingly interesting, full of empathetic details on faraway places and lives. It’s an absolute pleasure for any world citizen and a trove for any traveler...A sparkling addition to the literature of flight.
Gazing through the windshield of his 787, commercial airline pilot Vanhoenacker conjures the beauty of cities around the globe in this moving reflection on the meaning of home...After recalling his childhood in 1980s Pittsfield, Mass.—when his yearning to escape home for 'skyscrapers, glittering lights, sweeping roads, a busy harbor, an airport (or three)' first took off—Vanhoenacker takes readers on a dazzling trip through hundreds of locales he’s traversed in his past two decades as a pilot...As he marvels at the locales he’s visited, Vanhoenacker offers a taste of the high life that informs and awes in equal measure. Jet-setters will be enthralled.