Urban Planning Books for Under Your Tree

12.18.2013 | Seven days and counting …until you’re that guy (because it is only guys) who rushes to Walgreens on Christmas Eve. Don’t be that guy. For the urban planners on your list, get thee to a bookstore.

Brent Todiarian is making it easy. A devoted city planning geek, he has listed his 100 favorite urban planning/ metro development books. Here’s his top 10 to make it easy on you. And I’m adding a few more at the end, including a new one from the University of Illinois Center for Urban Planning and Policy that addresses metro resilience post-recession.

10. Life Between Buildings
Jan Gehl
9. The Image of the City
Kevin Lynch
8. Townscape
Gordon Cullen
7. The Art of Building Cities
Camillo Sitte
6. A Pattern Language
Christopher Alexander et al (& his whole series, including A New Theory of Urban Design; The Timeless Way of Building, etc.)
5. City: Rediscovering The Center
William H. Whyte
(includes its smaller predecessor, “the Social LIfe of Small Urban Spaces”)
4. Great Streets
Allan Jacobs
3. The Death and Life of Great American Cities
Jane Jacobs
2. The Art of City Making
Charles Landry
1. Cities for People
Jan Gehl


I’d be remiss if I didn’t add books by BRR members to the list.

And finally, Metropolitan Resilience in a Time of Economic Turmoil, a new book edited by Mike Pagano. The book is a recap of the 2012 UIC Urban Forum on lessons from the Great Recession. The chapters on legacy costs, including pensions and infrastructure, were particularly insightful.

My own personal favorite of 2013? While it had little directly to do with urban planning (nor published in 2013), Robert Caro’s, “Lyndon Johnson: The Passage of Power” was high on my list (probably because it took me most of the year to read it, topping out at 700 pages.) It had it all: the drama of the Kennedy assassination, the masterful way Johnson broke the logjam in Congress, not unlike the logjam today, a Machiavellian power struggle, and the early days of the War on Poverty. It’s hard to believe it was 50 years go. Some things never change.


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