I’m just coming back from a book club (adult conversation? But… but… I’m a parent… Really?). The topic was Jane Jacob’s 1961 classic, The Death and Life of Great American Cities. The six of us gathered in a Collingswood, N.J., coffee shop were all city design geeks and I could barely keep up with the ideas and books that had influenced everyone. Here is a very incomplete list:
- Strongtowns blog and podcast. Charles Marohn
- Geography of Nowhere. James Howard Kunstler’s 1993 book on suburban sprawl, which I loved at the time.
- The Big Sort. Bill Bishop, 2008.
- The Great Good Place. Ray Oldenburg. Popularized the “third places” concept of places people can gather together outside of home and work (as example: the coffee shop in which we met, Grooveground, didn’t seem to mind six people nattering on about urbanism until closing time).
- Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk, “Your body language shapes who you are” (in our context, we were suggesting a correlation between road rage and the physical poses of driving)
- The End of the Suburbs. Leigh Gallagher, 2014
- Fighting Traffic. Peter D. Norton
- Wrestling with Moses. Anthony Flint’s 2009 book that goes behind the scenes of Jane Jacob’s planning battles with the near-mythic highway builder Robert Moses, a subtext that underlies Death and Life but is mostly just hinted at.
- Antifragile: Things That Gain with Disorder. Nassim Nicholas Taleb, 212.
- Jacobin Magazine has published pieces about how Jane Jacob’s insights and language have been coopted by market forces. See “Liberalism and Gentrification” and “The People’s Playground.”
- I kept thinking about a big issue Jacobs kepts skirting about: race. It’s really impossible for me to look at urban patterns without thinking about Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “The Case for Reparations.” Decades of redlining and the racial components of who gets mortgages is a big factor in our social geography (see also TNC’s Atlantic colleague Alexis C. Madrigal’s “The Racist Housing Policy That Made Your Neighborhood” and ponder why charming Collingswood is 82 percent white while adjoining Camden is only 18 percent).
- Robert Moses: The Master Builder of New York. Pierre Christin and Olivier Balez. A graphic novel of Robert Moses (no way!). “How New York Became New York” is an review of the novel.
Update: And also, from Genevieve’s list:
- Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Douglas Adams, for its absurdist humor around the bureaucracies of planning
- Green Metropolis. David Owen,
- “What’s Up With That: Building Bigger Roads Actually Makes Traffic Worse,” an article by Adam Mann in Wired on the phenomenon of induced demand.
- Vision Zero Initiative
- The Pine Barrens. John McPhee, the classic which I brought up.
- The Power Broker. Robert Caro.
- The Ecology of Commerce. Paul Hawken
- Organizing in the South Bronx. Jim Rooney
- Re: race: Dalton Conley’s Being Black, Living in the Red and When Work Disappears by William Julius Wilson.
- Re: bicycles: Urban Bikers’ Tricks & Tips. Dave Glowacz
Excuse me for the next six months while I read. 🙂