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The Definitive Urban Book Thread

life_boy

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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).
 

BKM

Cyburbian
Messages
6,463
Points
29
Great: Death and Life of American Cities (Jane Jacobs)

Guilty Pleasure: The James Howard Kunstler diatribes.
 

jordanb

Cyburbian
Messages
3,232
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25
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.
 

mendelman

Unfrozen Caveman Planner
Staff member
Moderator
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14,141
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58
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.
 

JNA

Cyburbian Plus
Messages
25,986
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63
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
 

The Irish One

Member
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2,267
Points
25
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.
 

life_boy

Member
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9
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0
jordanb said:
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.
 

Budgie

Cyburbian
Messages
5,270
Points
30
The Irish One said:
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.
 

donk

Cyburbian
Messages
6,970
Points
30
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.
 

tsc

Cyburbian
Messages
1,905
Points
23
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....
 

JNA

Cyburbian Plus
Messages
25,986
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63
Were you thinking/suggesting -

Design on the Land: The Development of Landscape Architecture by Norman Newton
 

thewholething

Member
Messages
16
Points
1
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
 

The Irish One

Member
Messages
2,267
Points
25
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.
 

Lee Nellis

Cyburbian
Messages
1,369
Points
29
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.
 

Lee Nellis

Cyburbian
Messages
1,369
Points
29
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.
 

jresta

Cyburbian
Messages
1,474
Points
23
Any Lewis Mumford or Jane Jacobs

Also Murray Bookchin:

Libertarian Municipalism

The Limits of the City

Urbanization without Cities
 

jresta

Cyburbian
Messages
1,474
Points
23
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.
 

Gedunker

Moderating
Staff member
Moderator
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11,551
Points
42
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.
 

The Irish One

Member
Messages
2,267
Points
25
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!
 

Otis

Cyburbian
Messages
5,169
Points
29
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.
 

Miles Ignatius

Cyburbian
Messages
368
Points
12
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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