A week or two ago, we put out a call to the streets.mn writers for their favorite urban books. We got quite a few responses, and I figured it might make a good shopping list for the holiday consumption season. So here goes. May it serve you well:
(Editor’s note: Instead of linking each title to amazon.com, we encourage you to walk, bus, bike or drive down the street to your local independent bookseller and ask for them there. Here’s a map on Indiebound of several dozen bookstores within fifty miles of the Twin Cities. Moon Palace, at 33rd Street and Minnehaha in the Longfellow neighborhood of Minneapolis, is a personal favorite.)
The Power Broker, Robert Caro
Energy and Equity, Ivan Illich
…those are the only “Perfect” books I’ve read. On the next tier are books I’ve liked that had parts that were well written and informative. Here’s a few random ones–
Getting There: The Epic Battle Between Road and Rail in the American Century, Stephen Goddard
Asphalt Nation, Jane Holtz Kay
For Love of the Automobile, Wolfgang Sachs
The introduction to Public Transit and Land Use Policy by Boris Pushkarev and Jeffrey Zupan is very cool. It’s a brief history of density, going back to ancient times, including some fascinating stuff about New York. The rest of the book looks at optimal density levels for different kinds of transit.
Jamie Lincoln Kitman’s Secret History of Lead was a 33-page (almost book-length) feature article he wrote for The Nation that’s a pretty amazing case study of one of the truly evil things GM did (when it was owned by the DuPont Brothers)– Developing, popularizing and making a fortune off of Tetraethyl Lead as a gasoline additive (knowing that it was toxic). It shows you how companies buy off government, surgeon generals, etc …and manage to establish themselves and their products, no matter how horrible those products might be. You can read most of it on line at–http://www.thenation.com/article/secret-history-lead#
Sean Daniel Hayford O’Leary
Five of my faves:
Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do, Tom Vanderbilt
Effective Cycling, John Forester
Suburban Nation, Andres Duany, et al
Cities for People, Jan Gehl
Learning from Las Vegas, Robert Venturi
- Jane Jacobs
- Geography Of Nowhere
- In the City of Bikes: The Story of the Amsterdam Cyclist
- Jorwerd: The Death of the Village in Late 20th Century Europe.
- Thoughts on Building Strong Towns
- Amsterdam: A brief life of the city
- The Hundred Foot Journey: A Novel
- What Matters?: Economics for a Renewed Commonwealth
- An Italian Home – Settling by Lake Como
- Travel as a Political Act
- Police Unbound: Corruption, Abuse, and Heroism by the Boys in Blue
- Out of Character: Surprising Truths about …
- Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design
Surprisingly, it was harder than I thought to narrow it down. And this doesn’t include soon to be read City Cycling, Village Effect, Transportation Experience, Dead End, How to Study Public Life, Saved: How An English Village …, People Habitat, The End of the Suburbs, World Class Transportation System, Street Design, and I think one or two others.
1. AASHTO Green Book
2. MNDOT State Aid Standards for Highway Design.
My list (in no particular order):
– Jane Jacobs’ Death and Life… (der)
– NACTO Urban Street Design Guide
– High Cost of Free Parking (book? tome?)
– Human Transit, Jarrett Walker)
– Twin Cities by Trolley
– Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do
– Zoned Out: Regulation, Markets, and Choices in Transportation and Metropolitan Land Use
– Walkable City
– Happy City
– Lost Twin Cities
I enjoy more technical reads (and have been spending a considerable amount of time reading technical research lately) for the hard policy-wonk stuff they bring, but also the softer stuff that appeals to human nature (even if much of it is fuzzy to define and sometimes gets over-used by advocates of a certain cause/design/etc).
In no particular order…
- Where the Sidewalk Ends, Shel Silverstein
- Travels with Charley, John Steinbeck
- Voices of Rondo: Oral Histories of Saint Paul’s Historic Black Community, edited by Kate Cavett
- The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs
- The Devil in the White City, Erik Larson
- The Geography of Nowhere: The Rise and Decline of America’s Man-Made Landscape, James Howard Kunstler
- Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, Robert D. Putnam.
- Urban Bikeway Design Guide, NACTO
- Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer, Novella Carpenter
- Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States, Kenneth T. Jackson
Books to add to the list:
The High Cost of Free Parking
How to Lie with Maps
Apple Pie and Enchiladas: Latino Newcomers in the Rural Midwest
Why We Drive, Andy Singer
The Power Broker, Robert Caro
Energy and Equity, Ivan Illich
The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs (Dark Age Ahead is good too).
Divorce Your Car, Katie Alvord.
Internal Combustion, Edwin Black
Transportation for Livable Cities, Vukan Vuchic
Geography of Nowhere, J.H. Kunstler (“KunstlerCast” by Kunstler & Duncan Crary is a good book, too)
All That We Share, Jay Walljasper
Toward the Livable City, Emilie Buchwald editor
The Suburbanization of New York, Jerilou & Kingsley Hammet, editors
PS. You’re also welcome to peruse the “streets.mn bibliography” or David’s post on five must-read books for more ideas.
Two of you listed “Energy and Equity”. In that book Ilich claimed that cycling was the cheapest form of personal transportation, allowing for speed of movement and for the time it takes to earn the money to pay for the various modes.
Have either of you done the math?
I’ve lived the math for many years, and I can’t imagine it’s not true – for about the first 7 years I was biking for my main transportation, I spent a total of $15 on bikes (free, free, $5, free). Even though for part of that I was living in a college town where the buses were free, the bikes were faster and went more places so they’d still win. Cars just can’t even compete because even if the machine is free the gas isn’t. Even buying fairly expensive brand new bikes every 3-5 years, and paying for annual tuneups and accessories like helmets and bags, we don’t spend as much on bikes in my family as we do on just insurance for the boring old 4 door car we own.
Though I guess it would depend how you weighted speed; is 2x as fast worth 2x as much money, or more?
I would add that JH Kunstler is problematic Islamphobe who’s predictions never ever come true.
Where are the truly radical urban theorists, the likes of David Harvey, Henri LeFebvre, Guy Debord?
they would all make my personal list. tough books to read, though! david harvey is the most accessible among them,m, but my favorite of his books, Limits to Capital, is really wonky and probably impossible to understand if you haven’t read Marx.
actually i can’t really stand reading lefebvre, so i take back that part.
CROW Design Manual for Bicycle Traffic.
Since Lindsey mentioned the AASHTO Green Book and Alex the NACTO Guide, I’d recommend that after those readers peruse the CROW Design Manual for Bicycle Traffic.
One Dutch engineer told me that reading the new NACTO guide was like reading their guide from 1972. He said that they’ve come a long way since then. 🙂