Now reading

The Global Grid's Holiday Book List - 2017/2018 Winter E...

The Global Grid's Holiday Book List - 2017/2018 Winter Edition

Holidays are for family, friends, good food, getaways and postponed reading in our favorite nooks. At The Global Grid, the holidays have always been the occasion to review and update our books-to-read (or re-read) list. This winter, we’re inaugurating a new tradition and are sharing fifteen titles from our reading list. Our selection includes new

by Sarah Essbai December 18, 2017
Head article image

Holidays are for family, friends, good food, getaways and postponed reading in our favorite nooks. At The Global Grid, the holidays have always been the occasion to review and update our books-to-read (or re-read) list. This winter, we're inaugurating a new tradition and are sharing fifteen titles from our reading list. Our selection includes new publications as well as a few older must-read volumes for anyone engaged in urban studies and city planning.


The Well-Tempered City by Jonathan RoseThe Well-Tempered City: What Modern Science, Ancient Civilizations, and Human Nature Teach Us About the Future of Urban Life
by Jonathan Rose
Harper Wave (2017)
480 pages

In this book, Jonathan Rose draws from his experience as a developer and urban planner working with cities and nonprofits to build green affordable housing and community centers. Presenting a new perspective on the critical role of cities in building the future of human civilization.


Toward an Urban Ecology by Kate Orff

Toward an Urban Ecology: SCAPE
by Kate Orff
The Monacelli Press (2016)
272 pages

"Toward an Urban Ecology" presents a selection of projects, successful strategies, and tools developed by SCAPE, the author’s own landscape architecture firm. The book argues for a positive and sustainable relationship between social and ecological systems in our cities through the practice of landscape architecture.


Start-Up City by Gabe Klein & David Vega-Barachowitz

Start-Up City: Inspiring Private and Public Entrepreneurship, Getting Projects Done, and Having Fun
By Gabe Klein & David Vega-Barachowitz
Island Press (2015)
256 pages

How is innovation changing our cities and how can local governments keep-up with the energy and the fast-paced world of entrepreneurship? Gabe Klein leverages his experience in the startup world and as a city transportation commissioner to provide an insider's look into how to bridge the private-public gap.


Zoned in the USA by Sonia A. Hirt

Zoned in the USA: The Origins and Implications of American Land-Use Regulation
By Sonia A. Hirt
Cornell University Press (2014)
256 pages

Why are US cities different from their counterparts in Europe, Australia, Canada or Japan? It might all come down to zoning regulations. “Zoned in the USA” explores American zoning theory and practice from a historical perspective, supported by comparative insights into land-use laws from around the world.


The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein

The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America
by Richard Rothstein
Liveright; 1st edition (2017)
368 pages

This list wouldn’t be complete without “The Color of Law.” In one of this year’s most acclaimed publications, Richard Rothstein explores how segregation in American cities is deeply institutional. His thesis is supported by an extensive body of research into the laws and policies passed by local, state, and federal governments in the United States.


The Timeless Way of Building by Christopher Alexander

The Timeless Way of Building
by Christopher Alexander
Oxford University Press (1979)
552 pages

This Christopher Alexander classic is more relevant than ever. The book advocates for a practice of architecture and building based on collective rather than individual genius; using a common language. It lays the theoretical foundation for its second part “A Pattern Language,” in which the author expands more on forms and patterns.


Cartographic Grounds

Cartographic Grounds: Projecting the Landscape Imaginary
by Jill Desimini & Charles Waldheim
Princeton Architectural Press (2016)
272 pages

We love maps and always want to learn more: cartographic techniques, graphics, and the science behind them. This book promises a visually satisfying journey through ten map-making methods as they evolved through time.


Rural Studio

Rural Studio: Samuel Mockbee and an Architecture of Decency
by Andrea Oppenheimer Dean
Princeton Architectural Press (2002)
185 pages

This book showcases the work of Auburn University School of Architecture Rural Studio, led by Samuel Mockbee. For ten years, together with his students, Mockbee built more than twelve homes and community buildings for low-income communities in Alabama using low-cost materials and resources.


The Power Broker by Robert Caro

The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York
by Robert A. Caro
Vintage (1975)
1,344 pages

Reading about Jane Jacobs’s battle for New York and decades-long tug of war with Robert Moses, one can only become curious about the man. Another classic on our list, this biography tells the story of Robert Moses' ascension to power and how he became a prolific builder in America.  


Seeing Like a State by James Scott

Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed
By James C. Scott
Yale University Press (1998)
468 pages

Why do planning utopias fail? James Scott reviews and analyzes cases of government-designed plans and development schemes, and explains why ideologies are doomed to fail. This book is insightful, packed with historical knowledge, and evidence. If you haven’t read it yet, it’s time to put it on your list.


Owning the Earth by Andro Linklater

Owning the Earth: The Transforming History of Land Ownership
By Andro Linklater
Bloomsbury USA (2013)
497 pages

Much of the land development patterns in the world can be understood through land ownership systems. While not everyone will agree with Andro Linklater views on the ideal land ownership system, the book provides some valuable insights into the history and evolution of land use and property across the five inhabited continents.


Creating Cities by Marcus WestburyCreating Cities
by Marcus Westbury
Niche Press (2015)
194 pages

How did Newcastle, Australia turn from a deserted town in 2008 to one of the top ten cities to visit in the world in 2011? “Creating Cities” placemaking fairy-tale is told by the broker of one of Australia’s most successful urban renewal plans. The book argues for an urban development built upon small-scale interventions and the leverage of local talent and energy.


Detroit City is the Place to Be by Mark Binelli

Detroit City Is the Place to Be: The Afterlife of an American Metropolis
By Mark Binelli
Metropolitan Books (2012)
349 pages

“Detroit City Is the Place to Be” is a sobering read about a city that is reinventing itself. The book chronicles the events that led to the city’s decline and how, slowly but surely, through the steady efforts of those who were most hit by the crisis, Detroit is making a comeback.


City Squares by Catie Marron

City Squares: Eighteen Writers on the Spirit and Significance of Squares Around the World
by Catie Marron
Harper (2016)
304 pages

This is a collection of literary essays by eighteen renowned writers about eighteen public squares and plazas in eighteen cities around the world. The book tells stories of culture, geopolitics, and history, that emphasize the role of public spaces as anchors of the identities of our cities.


Street Smart by Samuel Schwartz

Street Smart: The Rise of Cities and the Fall of Cars
By Samuel I. Schwartz & William Rosen
PublicAffairs (2015)
312 pages

We had to make a choice between “Street Fight: Handbook for an Urban Revolution” and “Street Smart” and we went for the latter. Written by New York City former traffic commissioner, Samuel Schwartz, the book presents the principles of smart transportation and sustainable urban planning and the tools to plan for a population increasingly making active transportation choices.


Did any of these titles strike a chord? Stay tuned as we are planning to review and giveaway (yes, that’s a Giveaway Alert) copies of a few of these over the course of 2018.

Are there other titles that have recently joined your reading list? Let us know about your favorite reads in the comments below and join our new Goodreads group where we will be sharing and discussing our reading list titles, as well as our reviewed books.

By purchasing, using the links on this page, you'll be supporting The Global Grid. A small portion of the sales come back to us to support our work and book lists like this.

Intern photo

Sarah Essbai is an architect, urban planner and independent researcher based in Zaandam, in The Netherlands. As of September 2017, she is leading the communications and marketing efforts of The Global Grid.

Tuesdays, in your inbox.

Weekly local urbanist news and jobs. 

You have Successfully Subscribed!