Ever wonder what books planners read? Me neither. On the off chance that you are, just as I listed some podcasts a few months ago, I have put together a list of books I am fond of. Some are new and some are very old. Feel free to locate them online and at your local library. Best of all, please feel free to let me know if you have any suggestions.
Other than the first book, none are in order or prioritized:
A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction
by Christopher Alexander, Sara Ishikawa, and Murray Silverstein (1976)
This book is a great example of keeping ideas simple, understandable and yet still very intelligent and thought provoking. This book, which is broken into sections offering ideas about home, neighborhood, community and regional development, breaks these sections into core ideas. It then takes those ideas and builds upon them. It was created by a group at the University of Oregon and examines the ways age old communities have continued to thrive.
The Death and Life of Great American Cities
by Jane Jacobs (1961)
This well known book looks at returning people to the City and speaks to what elements make cities safe, how they function, and why all too many official attempts at saving them have failed.
The City in History: Its Origins, Its Transformations, and Its Prospects
by Lewis Mumford (1972)
Lewis Mumford was an urban historian who produced revelatory work looking at the historical forms and functions of the city throughout the ages. It can read like a text book, but that shouldn't be held against it.
The Practice of Local Government Planning (Municipal Management Series)
by Charles Hoch (2000)
This reference text is now called simply "The Green Book", and has become the benchmark for planning in the United States. It offers exactly what it says, a primer on public sector planning.
Civilizing American Cities: Writings on City Landscapes
by Frederick Law Olmsted (1997)
Frederick Law Olmsted was the co-designer of Central Park in NYC (his firm also did work in Dover) and in many ways he was my inspiration for becoming a planner. He wrote many books, and Civilizing American Cities is collection of his plans for New York, San Francisco, Buffalo, Montreal, Chicago, and Boston; his suburban plans for Berkeley, California and Riverside, Illinois; and a generous helping of his writings on urban landscape in general.
The Image of the City (1960)
Site Planning (1962)
Good City Form (1981)
by Kevin Lynch
Kevin Lynch is, in my mind, the Dean of site plan review, he has multiple books I could recommend. All of them look at the meaning of a city's form, how its form impact people and what can the city planner do to make the city's image more vivid and memorable to the city dweller. These books look at connections between human values and the physical forms. One thing I like best is that he constantly speaks to the city as an organism that should be reviewed holistically.
Cities of Tomorrow: An Intellectual History of Urban Planning and Design in the Twentieth Century
by Peter Geoffrey Hall (1996 Updated Edition)
I had to read this book for Grad School. It acts as an overview of many of the ideas, events, and personalities that have shaped world urbanization since 1900.
The Geography of Nowhere: The Rise and Decline of America's Man-Made Landscape
by James Howard Kunstler (1995)
A true classic. Kunstler, whose podcast I have mentioned before, is an urbanist who relishes in examining the point where the development of the Country moved from Main Streets to strip malls. From a nation with places, to a nation where sprawl detracts from coherency and character.
Design With Nature
by Ian L. McHarg (1995)
This highly influential book was one of the first to introduce ideas that later became common place through geographic information systems. It points out the value in overlaying ecology atop plans and reviewing the environmental impapcts.
by Allan B. Jacobs (1995)
This is a fun book that looks at street layout and how we have changed the physical, designable characteristics of them over time. What I enjoy is that it has over 200 illustrations in place to compare and contrast roman, medieval and modern street design.
A Better Way to Zone: Ten Principles to Create More Livable Cities
By Donald L. Elliott (2009)
I attended a seminar by Elliott and was intrigued by his idea that by moving away from traditional, “Euclidean” zoning practices, planners have the opportunity to lighten up and be more flexible with what goes where. He discusses ways to be traditional and innovative in how we zone land and the pitfalls of not involving the public.
Last Harvest: How a Cornfield Became New Daleville
by Witold Rybczynski (2008)
Rybczynski is a very interesting writer. He takes great care in crafting his urban studies and in the Last Harvest, he looks at an attempt to create a neotraditional housing subdivision in exurban Pennsylvania. What is most impressive is that he documents the entire development process and all the bumps and bruises experienced along the way. Interestingly, it is clear this was written within a year of being published and you can see the downfall of the housing market as the book progresses.
Planning and Urban Design Standards
American Planning Association (2007)
Not for the faint at heart, this book is second only to the green book as a valuable reference tome. There are untold number of illustrated examples and in-depth information to aid in the creation of planning documents, reports and findings. It has model codes as well as thoughtful discussion.
Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream
by Andres Duany, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, and Jeff Speck (March, 2000)
The main idea behind this book is a return to traditional, urban development, through progressive town planning. The authors, who are the founders of the Congress for New Urbanism, describe what they feel are the ills of urban sprawl, while advocating neotraditional development patterns.
Planning the Built Environment
By Larz T. Anderson (2000)
I love this book. It is a tremendous asset when trying to translate planning concepts and engineering realities. I used it to get through grad school. It covers many topics and areas in the planning and implementation of the built environment, including land, utilities, transportation, and Residential Areas. One excellent feature is that after each chapter there is a list of recommended reading and
sources of additional information.
Ok, still with me? I know that's a lot of books, so get cracking and I'll recommend more in 6 months.