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Fundamental books for city-making

Published by USC Bedrosian Center on

by Aubrey L. Hicks

A recent convergence of articles about reading and public policy have got us thinking, and we hope they’ll get you thinking too.  In an Op-Ed in The New York Times  Charles Blow said of reading that: “[R]eading texts is not the same as reading a text. There is no intellectual equivalent to allowing oneself the time and space to get lost in another person’s mind, because in so doing we find ourselves.” It’s that last part that resonates. At Bedrosian, we focus our intellectual energy on the study of effective governance and in building capacity in our public administrators. One of the fundamental building blocks is getting our students to think critically about community and policy implementation. And these recent articles have reminded us how important reading has been in building our philosophies. The fundamental list? It continues to grow, here are a few of the interesting posts on this topic from just the last month.

First, Martin Krieger shared his list of essential books for those who strive for a career in public policy.

Brent Toderian’s post on Plantizen kept popping up on our feeds : The 100 “Best” Books on City-Making Ever Written? In the introduction to the list, he declares the list a non-scientific look at his favorite books on urban planning. Particularly interesting were the books his lists at the end (not included in the 100 “best”) – which included Dr. Seuss and China Mieville. The comments section is also a treasure trove of additions to the list. Lots of notable books were missing (City of Quartz stood out from the comments).

USC Prof Lisa Schweitzer looked at the list and found it lacking in one major area. She added  50 more to the list to bring some diversity to the conversation. 50+ books to add to Brent Toderian & Planetizen’s standard, white city-making books

I really wish urban planners would read more widely and take seriously their job to understand and promote more than one perspective on cities, not just focusing on a perspective that simply creates an echo chamber for the wonderfulness of white urbanism and planning with its bike lanes and its downtown retail. At some point, all intellectual echoing becomes like watching only FoxNews or MSNBC for your news. You live in an intellectual cul-de-sac.

You are not educated until you get off your butt and start learning to see the world from a perspective other than your own.

We say, “Right on!” Read some more, talk some more, go talk to people out in the community. What about an essential city-making film list?

Have you read any good city-making books lately? We’d love to know what you think. You can get in touch with us through Facebook or Twitter, or send us an e-mail.


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