A Field Guide to the Hidden World of Everyday Design

The 99% Invisible City is a New York Times best-selling book by Kurt Kohlstedt and Roman Mars — our beautifully designed and illustrated guide to the built world. Order your US copy today on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Bookshop (or internationally in the UK, Canada and Australia). The audiobook version read by Roman Mars is available on Audible and Libro.fm. There are also a limited number of signed copies in stock at Barnes & Noble as well as participating local bookstores!

Update: New to the 99pi store (while supplies last): signed editions and book plates as well as postcards featuring beautiful illustrations from The 99% Invisible City!

Reviews of The 99% Invisible City

“Here is a field guide, a boon, a bible, for the urban curious. Your city’s secret anatomy laid bare—a hundred things you look at but don’t see, see but don’t know. Each entry is a compact, surprising story, a thought piece, an invitation to marvel. Together, they are almost transformative. To know why things are as they are adds a satisfying richness to daily existence. This book is terrific, just terrific.”

— Mary Roach, NYT bestselling author of Gulp, Stiff, and Grunt

“We usually define cities in terms of their bigness, so it’s easy to forget that our daily experience of any city is made up of countless tiny, intimate encounters. Just as Jane Jacobs did fifty years ago, Roman Mars and Kurt Kohlstedt provide a new way of seeing urban life, finding secrets and surprises behind every sewer grate, storefront, and street sign.”

— Michael Bierut, graphic designer, design critic, and author

The 99% Invisible City brings into view the fascinating but often unnoticed worlds we walk and drive through every day, and to read it is to feel newly alive and aware of your place in the world. This book made me laugh, and it made me cry, and it reminded me to always read the plaque.”

— John Green, NYT bestselling author of The Fault in Our Stars

The 99% Invisible City is not a book, but a pair of magic glasses that transform the mundane city around you into a vibrant museum of human ingenuity.”

— Justin McElroy, three-time NYT best-selling author

“The ideal companion for city buffs, who’ll come away seeing the streets in an entirely different light.”

— Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“Conversational, bite-size entries [and] beautiful tricolor illustrations ….  A field guide for anywhere.”

— Booklist

“A brief review cannot do justice to such a diverse and enlightening book …. The 99% Invisible City is altogether fresh and imaginative when it comes to thinking about urban spaces.”

— Kenneth T. Jackson, book reviewer for The New York Times 

The 99pi City by Roman Mars & Kurt Kohlstedt


Have you ever wondered …

… what those bright, squiggly graffiti marks on the sidewalk mean?
… why you don’t see those iconic metal fire escapes on new buildings?
… how car dealerships became home to those dancing inflatable figures?

99% Invisible is a big-ideas podcast and website about small-seeming things, revealing stories baked into the buildings we inhabit, the streets we drive on, and sidewalks we traverse. The show celebrates design and architecture in all of its functional glory and accidental absurdity, with tales of exceptional designers as well as frequently overlooked everyday designs.

Now, in The 99% Invisible City: A Field Guide to the Hidden World of Everyday Design, show host Roman Mars and producer Kurt Kohlstedt zoom in on intriguing details about how our cities work, exploring the origins and other fascinating stories behind everything from power grids and fire escapes to drinking fountains and street signs.

Published by HMH with over 100 detailed line drawings by artist Patrick Vale and a dynamic design by Raphael Geroni, The 99% Invisible City will captivate devoted fans of the show and anyone curious about design processes, urban environments, and other unsung marvels of the world.

For more of a behind-the-scenes look, here are some videos from our live book tour events with Alexis Madrigal, Kristen Meinzer, Hank Green, and Seth Godin.

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