A Streets.mn Bibliography

A sidewalk library in St Paul.

A sidewalk library in St Paul.

I got some rare feedback about the Streets.mn podcast the other day, from a listener. Check it out:

Hi,Thanks for the excellent podcast, I’ve been enjoying it. I was
wondering if you guys would consider posting a page that’s just a
reading list of all of the books that get mentioned in passing in the

OK! That’s a good idea. I started making a list right away. Once I began, I couldn’t stop. Here’s a first draft of the list:


Books that are Definitely Mentioned in the Podcast

Jane Jacobs, (1960) The Death and Life of Great American Cities. This is the single most influential book on cities, and the book that got me interested in sidewalks in the first place. I remember reading about it in a Jonathan Franzen essay, and being immediately interested in Jacobs’ ideas. I’ve read it many times since.

Clay McShane (1994) Down the Asphalt Path. A surprisingly fascinating book about the history of road design and paving surfaces. It charts the birth of automobile cities from the 19th century to the 1930s.

Chris Wells (2013) Car Country. This is the guy in the interview. His book is great, similar history to McShane but focusing more broadly on cultural attitudes, land use, and planning policy.

Donald Shoup (2005) The High Cost of Free Parking. The “bible” of parking policy, a long but readable tome with everything you ever want to know about how and why on-street and off-street parking policy is changing America for the worse.

Kenneth Jackson (1996) Crabgrass Frontier. A witty, broad history of post-war suburbia.

Dolores Hayden (2003) Building Suburbia. Another history of suburbia book, focusing more on the history of early 20th century suburbs, their evolution into the 50s and 60s.

Tom Vanderbilt (2008) Traffic. A well written popular science overview of transportation theory and practice, and its variety across the globe. I was especially struck by Chapter 7, “Why Dangerous Roads Are Safer.”

Robert Caro (1974) The Power Broker. A must read biography of Robert Moses, the man who built all the freeways and bridges in New York City, and paved the way for a nation of roads.

James Kunstler (1993) The Geography of Nowhere. An influential, snarky critique of the US urban landscape from an architectural perspective. Kunstler’s best book.


Great Books That Haven’t Yet Made It into the Podcast Conversation 

Thomas Sugrue (1996) The Origins of the Urban Crisis. Fascinating history of racism and housing relations in post-war Detroit. Charts the disparate effects of deindustrialization, which began earlier than I’d thought.

Lewis Mumford (1961) The City in History. The classic book on the topic by one of the most influential urbanists of all time. Totalizing, but still worth reading.

Robert Fishman (1987) Bourgeois Utopias. Another history of the suburbs, tracing their origins back to industrial Manchester.

Robert Fogelson. (2001) Downtown: its Rise and Fall. History of how downtowns emerged in the 19th century, peaked in influence during the 20s and 30s, and struggled to change and adapt to the automobile landscape after the war.

Zach Furness (2010) One Less Car. My favorite book on bicycling, more of a cultural take on the relationship between the bicycle and the world  of “automobility.”

Jeff Speck (2012) Walkable City. A recent short, comprehensive book about how to design urban spaces conducive for walking. Every mayor should have a copy.

Mary Wingerd (2003) Claiming the City. The best Twin Cities urban history book. It charts the differing labor relations in Minneapolis and St Paul, particularly focusing on the role of the Catholic Church.

Larry Millet. The Lost Twin Cities books and the AIA Guide to the Twin Cities. Excellent and indispensable.

William Cronon. (1992) Nature’s Metropolis. An environmental history of the growth of Chicago, charting how the city and the railroads re-shaped the entire middle of the US. There are chapters on lumber, pork, grain, etc. Cronon calls this “second nature.”

Peter Hall (2002) Cities of Tomorrow. The best book on planning theory, going over all the different concepts and types of urban planning. This guy is a British lord.

Kevin Lynch (1960) The Image of the City. Groundbreaking book about how people perceive the world through  images and mental maps.

Christopher Alexander (1977) A Pattern Language. Fascinating architectural typography of just about everything you can think of, from windows to street cafés to neighborhoods.

That’s a start. Some of my other favorites are Michel de Certeau, Mike DavisChristopher Mele, Rem Koolhaas, Spiro Kostoff, Grady Clay, and Richard Fogelsong.  Anyone else, feel free to add suggestions of your favorite books about the city.

Bill Lindeke

About Bill Lindeke

Pronouns: he/him

Bill Lindeke has writing blogging about sidewalks and cities since 2005, ever since he read Jane Jacobs. He is a lecturer in Urban Studies at the University of Minnesota Geography Department, the Cityscape columnist at Minnpost, and has written multiple books on local urban history. He was born in Minneapolis, but has spent most of his time in St Paul. Check out Twitter @BillLindeke or on Facebook.