Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design, Charles Montgomery, 369 pages.
“Full of rich historical detail and new insights from psychologists and Montgomery’s own urban experiments, Happy City is an essential tool for understanding and improving our own communities. The message is as surprising as it is hopeful: by retrofitting our cities for happiness, we can tackle the urgent challenges of our age. The happy city, the green city, and the low-carbon city are the same place, and we can all help build it.”
Neighborhood Defenders: Participatory Politics and America’s Housing Crisis, By Katherine Levine Einstein, David M. Glick, and Maxwell Palmer, 228 pages.
“The book draws on sweeping data to examine the dominance of land use politics by ‘neighborhood defenders’ – individuals who oppose new housing projects far more strongly than their broader communities and who are likely to be privileged on a variety of dimensions. Neighborhood defenders participate disproportionately and take advantage of land use regulations to restrict the construction of multifamily housing. The result is diminished housing stock and higher housing costs, with participatory institutions perversely reproducing inequality.”
No Place Like Home: Wealth, Community and the Politics of Homeownership, By Brian McCabe, 219 pages.
“In No Place Like Home, Brian McCabe argues that such beliefs about the public benefits of homeownership are deeply mischaracterized. As owning a home has emerged as the most important way to build wealth in the United States, it has also reshaped the way citizens become involved in their communities. Rather than engaging as public-spirited stewards of civic life, McCabe demonstrates that homeowners often engage in their communities as a way to protect their property values. This involvement contributes to the politics of exclusion, and prevents particular citizens from gaining access to high-opportunity neighborhoods, thereby reinforcing patterns of residential segregation.”
Green Metropolis: Why Living Smaller, Living Closer, and Driving Less Are the Keys to Sustainability, By David Owen, 357 pages.
“Owen offers some nifty but politically challenging prescriptions. For mass transit to work, he writes, cities must not only achieve a threshold of mixed-use density, but driving must become an exceedingly unpleasant alternative.”
The Death and Life of Great American Cities, By Jane Jacobs, 640 pages.
“The Death and Life of Great American Cities was described by The New York Times as perhaps the most influential single work in the history of town planning… Jane Jacobs, an editor and writer on architecture in New York City in the early sixties, argued that urban diversity and vitality were being destroyed by powerful architects and city planners. Rigorous, sane, and delightfully epigrammatic, Jane Jacobs’s tour de force is a blueprint for the humanistic management of cities. It remains sensible, knowledgeable, readable, and indispensable.”
Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time, By Jeff Speck, 321 pages.
“Speck reveals the invisible workings of the city, how simple decisions have cascading effects, and how we can all make the right choices for our communities.
Bursting with sharp observations and real-world examples, giving key insight into what urban planners actually do and how places can and do change, Walkable City lays out a practical, necessary, and eminently achievable vision of how to make our normal American cities great again.”
Urbanism in the Age of Climate Change, By Peter Calthorpe
“‘Cities are green’ is becoming a common refrain. But Calthorpe argues that a more comprehensive understanding of urbanism at the regional scale provides a better platform to address climate change. In this groundbreaking new work, he shows how such regionally scaled urbanism can be combined with green technology to achieve not only needed reductions in carbon emissions but other critical economies and lifestyle benefits.”
“In the vein of Jane Jacobs’s The Death and Life of Great American Cities and Edward Glaeser’s Triumph of the City, Jonathan F. P. Rose—a visionary in urban development and renewal—champions the role of cities in addressing the environmental, economic, and social challenges of the twenty-first century.”
Streetfight: Handbook for an Urban Revolution, By Janette Sadik-Khan
“Like a modern-day Jane Jacobs, Janette Sadik-Khan transformed New York City’s streets to make room for pedestrians, bikers, buses, and green spaces. Describing the battles she fought to enact change, Streetfight imparts wisdom and practical advice that other cities can follow to make their own streets safer and more vibrant.”
Human Transit, By Jarrett Walker
“Public transit is a powerful tool for addressing a huge range of urban problems, including traffic congestion and economic development as well as climate change. Jarrett Walker believes that transit can be simple, if we focus first on the underlying geometry that all transit technologies share. In Human Transit, Walker supplies the basic tools, the critical questions, and the means to make smarter decisions about designing and implementing transit services.”
The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America, By Richard Rothstein
“The Rothstein book gathers meticulous research showing how governments at all levels long employed racially discriminatory policies to deny blacks the opportunity to live in neighborhoods with jobs, good schools and upward mobility.”
Historic Capital: Preservation, Race, and Real Estate in Washington, DC, By Cameron Logan
“Urban historian Cameron Logan examines how the historic preservation movement played an integral role in Washingtonians’ claiming the city as their own. Going back to the earliest days of the local historic preservation movement in the 1920s, Logan shows how Washington, D.C.’s historic buildings and neighborhoods have been a site of contestation between local interests and the expansion of the federal government’s footprint.”
“In Carving Out the Commons, Amanda Huron theorizes the practice of urban “commoning” through a close investigation of the city’s limited-equity housing cooperatives. Drawing on feminist and anticapitalist perspectives, Huron asks whether a commons can work in a city where land and other resources are scarce and how strangers who may not share a past or future come together to create and maintain commonly held spaces in the midst of capitalism.”
The Geography of Nowhere, By James Howard Kunstler, 303 pages.
“The Geography of Nowhere traces America’s evolution from a nation of Main Streets and coherent communities to a land where every place is like no place in particular, where the cities are dead zones and the countryside is a wasteland of cartoon architecture and parking lots.”