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Thread: The Definitive Urban Book Thread

  1. #1

    The Definitive Urban Book Thread

    Perhaps this has already been addressed more thoroughly and poetically in a different thread (if so, please redirect) but I've done some searches and haven't really found a definitive thread on the great books on urban planning or the built environment. Try to limit the list to around five books and if you want you can give a little synopsis of what you like about the book. As a common citizen who is interested in city planning but is not an actual planner, books are all I really have right now as far as an urban environment education. I'd like to use the lists put up to help make my future reading list/s and this thread could also be the definitive thread on urban books. So, no, it's not just a clever title (hopefully).

  2. #2

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    Great: Death and Life of American Cities (Jane Jacobs)

    Guilty Pleasure: The James Howard Kunstler diatribes.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian jordanb's avatar
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    Everything by Jacobs.

    The City in History by Lewis Mumford.

    I'd name a lot more but you seem to want to keep it short. Really though, this thread would be a lot more useful (and definitive) if it tried to be comprehensive. Maybe I'll start a thread about that, where everyone justs lists all of the good urban plannining books they like. I'd like to see books like Far From Home and High Hopes in there too.

  4. #4
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    As i mentioned in your intro thread, begin reading and digesting the work of Kevin Lynch

    Good City Form is his best. It the does the best, I think, at describing the optimal means for developing a built environment. He develops great mechanisms for dealing with the human built environment not only in terms of the daily functionality, but also its evolution through time.

    Death and Life of Great American Cities is also great, but keep in mind that she wrote it at a certain historical point in the history of planning theory. It is pivotal though.

    The Good City, The Good Life by Daniel Kemmis is great too. It is more about the social impacts of urban design and also concentrates mostly on social community building (social, not socialist)

    Ranches, Rowhouses, and Railroad Flats by Christine Hunter is wonderful. It is about the forms of housing in the US and the roles that the above forms of housing have played, both in urban design and society

    Lynch may be the most difficult to understand of the above chioces, but definitely give it a try. Once you understand what he's saying it will change the way you look at your city.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Plus
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    The Green Book - The Principles and Pratices of Urban Planning - Classic and Standard Textbook

    Ditto on The Good City and The Good Life - Daniel Kemmis
    Joshua and the City - Joseph F. Girzone
    The Citizen's Guide to Planning - Herbert H. Smith - Classic
    A Sand County Almanac - Aldo Leopold - Classic
    Oddball
    Why don't you knock it off with them negative waves?
    Why don't you dig how beautiful it is out here?
    Why don't you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?
    From Kelly's Heroes (1970)


    Are you sure you're not hurt ?
    No. Just some parts wake up faster than others.
    Broke parts take a little longer, though.
    From Electric Horseman (1979)

  6. #6
    I'm not saying these are definitive but I liked them in one way or another.

    My first planning related book was With People in Mind -Kaplan, Kaplan, Ryan. This led me to look at the bigger picture.

    Now the list includes:

    The Economy of Cities- Jane Jacobs
    The Nature of Economies- Jane Jacobs
    The Death and Life of Great American Cities - Jane Jacobs
    Asphalt Nation- Jane Holtz Kay
    Community Planning- Kelly and Becker
    Home From Nowhere- Kunstler
    The City in Mind- Kunstler
    The Geography of Nowhere -Kunstler
    Suburban Nation- Duany, Zyberk, Speck
    The Next American Metropolis-Peter Calthorpe

    I'm interested to read books about The Garden CIty and The City Beautiful.

  7. #7
    Originally posted by jordanb
    Everything by Jacobs.

    The City in History by Lewis Mumford.

    I'd name a lot more but you seem to want to keep it short. Really though, this thread would be a lot more useful (and definitive) if it tried to be comprehensive. Maybe I'll start a thread about that, where everyone justs lists all of the good urban plannining books they like. I'd like to see books like Far From Home and High Hopes in there too.
    No, go for it. I wasn't trying to make this an extremely regemented thread, I just didn't want 35 replies consisting of planners' entire bookshelves. I wanted the best of the best books, but if you have some others that you'd like to have mentioned because things like Jacobs, Lynch, and Kunstler have been mentioned a few times already, be my guest. I think that might be a good thing, anyway.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Budgie's avatar
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    Originally posted by The Irish One
    Now the list includes:

    The Economy of Cities- Jane Jacobs
    The Nature of Economies- Jane Jacobs
    The Death and Life of Great American Cities - Jane Jacobs
    Asphalt Nation- Jane Holtz Kay
    Community Planning- Kelly and Becker
    Home From Nowhere- Kunstler
    The City in Mind- Kunstler
    The Geography of Nowhere -Kunstler
    Suburban Nation- Duany, Zyberk, Speck
    The Next American Metropolis-Peter Calthorpe
    DITTO ------

    For a rural prespective read, "Holding Our Ground" by Tom Daniels.

  9. #9
    For a rural prespective read, "Holding Our Ground" by Tom Daniels.
    I will

  10. #10
    Cyburbian donk's avatar
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    Any Kevin Lynch.

    I enjoyed Tom Wolfe's From Bauhaus to Our House. More for wolfe's writing style, but it did provide some interesting points to ponder. (Time for a reread)

    Of the Kunstler's, I'd go with Geography of Nowhere.
    Too lazy to beat myself up for being to lazy to beat myself up for being too lazy to... well you get the point....

  11. #11
    Cyburbian
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    Christopher Alexander et al, A Pattern Language
    I don't dream. I plan.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Add...

    Streetcar Suburbs by Warner
    City Comforts: How to Build an Urban Village by Sucher

  13. #13
    Cyburbian tsc's avatar
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    History of Landscape Architecture... a book detailing peoples relationship to the land. It was a college text book of mine years ago.... It actually may have been titled History of the American Landscape....
    "Yeehaw!" is not a foreign policy

    Renovating the '62 Metzendorf
    http://metzendorf.blogspot.com/

  14. #14
    Cyburbian Plus
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    Were you thinking/suggesting -

    Design on the Land: The Development of Landscape Architecture by Norman Newton
    Oddball
    Why don't you knock it off with them negative waves?
    Why don't you dig how beautiful it is out here?
    Why don't you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?
    From Kelly's Heroes (1970)


    Are you sure you're not hurt ?
    No. Just some parts wake up faster than others.
    Broke parts take a little longer, though.
    From Electric Horseman (1979)

  15. #15
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    Does anyone recommend "American Skyline"?

    I don't have it in front of me at this moment, but I do recall it's an old book from the 1950's. Not exactly "current" info but I heard it was a good read to see what the perspective was like during that time.

    Anyway! Let me know, I'd like to know what anyone thinks before I start reading it.

    And I jotted down a few of the books mentioned, for my off time

    NP-F

  16. #16
    A Pattern Language
    Please someone elaborate on this book! Isn't this the same guy that has interior and exterior design books, make that volumes? Seems like Kunstler was really excited about A Pattern language in Geography of Nowhere, if I remember correctly. If you've read A Pattern Language I'd like to hear your thoughts on the book, thanks in advance.

  17. #17
    Cyburbian SlaveToTheGrind's avatar
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    American City Planning Since 1890. 650 pages of more stuff than you probably want to know.

  18. #18

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    Irish One: Re the Pattern Language. This is a book every planner should know about. C. Alexander and his associates propose patterns for everything from the regional metro structure down to individual bedrooms. It is an incredible intellectual accomplishment. The application to immediate planning issues isn't always direct, but it does show you the way toward having a truly comprehensive vision. I especially like Alexander's assertion that buildings over four stories tall make people crazy.

  19. #19

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    Hope that is doesn't seem too egotistical to promote your own product, but The Planning for Reuslts Guidebook is a darned good overview of the planning process. You can order it from the National Association of Counties (naco.org) for a mere $12.00.

  20. #20
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    Any Lewis Mumford or Jane Jacobs

    Also Murray Bookchin:

    Libertarian Municipalism

    The Limits of the City

    Urbanization without Cities
    Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the élite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens.

  21. #21
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    Also - it's not planning related in the sense of design but i've always been interested in the things communities do for themselves outside of "government" - the spontaneous, grass-roots stuff and how communities operate without authoritarian structures (like police, mayors, and national guard) so for that I have to reccomend:

    The Many Headed Hydra
    by Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker

    It's a thick read but it has some incredible history on independent communities of the North Atlantic over the last 300 years.
    Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the élite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens.

  22. #22
    Italo Calvino Invisible Cities Read it in a few hours, front to back. Put it down for some time and come back to it later. You'll appreciate the depth better the second (or third) time on.
    On pitching to Stan Musial:
    "Once he timed your fastball, your infielders were in jeopardy."
    Warren Spahn

  23. #23
    It's a thick read but it has some incredible history on independent communities of the North Atlantic over the last 300 years
    The Many Headed Hydra


    I'm all over that and my dad will love it as well. Thanks!

  24. #24
    Cyburbian Otis's avatar
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    Also Mumford, The Culture of Cities
    Ian Mcharg, Design With Nature

    And maybe Edge Cities by ol' what's his name.

    There's a whole raft of second tier books, too.

  25. #25

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    Great List!

    To what's already listed, my only add would be Robert Caro's epic magnum opus The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York to read as a study on when planning function and political power were placed in the hands of one man and how that functioned...or, didn't. Caro's a great writer and this is a must read for anyone seeking to understand American urban development in the last half of 20th Century

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