Four Lost Cities: Annalee Newitz with Amal El-Mohtar

Wed. Feb 17, 2021 8:00pm - 9:00pm EST
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Event Description

The acclaimed science journalist and founder of io9 journeys into the spectacular and forgotten past of four cities to figure out why they were abandoned. 

In their new book, Annalee Newitz explores the rise and fall of four ancient cities, each, at different times, the center of a sophisticated civilization: the Neolithic site Çatalhöyük in Central Turkey, the Roman vacation town of Pompeii on Italy's southern coast, the medieval megacity of Angkor in Cambodia, and the indigenous metropolis Cahokia that stood beside the Mississippi River. Newitz traveled to each site and investigated the cutting-edge archaeological research that reveals the mix of environmental changes and political turmoil that doomed each settlement. Along the way, they trace the early development of urban planning and sketch the lives of the anonymous workers who put those plans into action. Though the places and the people are largely forgotten, they have the capacity to inform us about the potential fates of our present-day urban landscape.

LIVE from NYPL is made possible by the support of Library patrons and friends, as well as by the continuing generosity of Celeste Bartos, Mahnaz Ispahani Bartos and Adam Bartos, and the Margaret and Herman Sokol Public Education Endowment Fund.

Annalee Newitz
, a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, is a founder of io9 and former editor-in-chief of Gizmodo. They are the author of Scatter, Adapt, and Remember and the novels Autonomous and The Future of Another Timeline. They live in San Francisco.

 Amal El-Mohtar is an award-winning writer of fiction, poetry, and criticism. She is the science fiction and fantasy columnist for The New York Times Book Review and the co-author, with Max Gladstone, of This Is How You Lose the Time War, which has received several honors including the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus Awards. She teaches creative writing at the University of Ottawa. You can find her on Twitter at @tithenai, read more of her work at, and subscribe to her newsletter at

If you have a NYPL library card—or live in New York state and want to apply for one now—you can borrow Four Lost Cities: A Secret History of the Urban Age free with our e-reader app SimplyE, available for iOS and Android devices. The title is available in accessible formats for community members who do not use standard print. Find out more at: You can also request this book, and more, for pickup at one of our Grab & Go locations.

Readers everywhere who wish to purchase copies of Four Lost Cities: A Secret History of the Urban Age can do so at The New York Public Library Shop. Proceeds benefit the New York Public Library. 

This program will be streamed on Zoom and simulcast to YouTube. You must register with your email address in order to receive the link to participate. Please check your email shortly before the discussion to receive the link.

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Annalee Newitz © Sarah Deragon

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