Reading List

This is a list of books I’ve read on transportation, planning, cities, and other related topics.  I’ll try to separate books by subject, but the broad nature of urbanism many of these books seek to tackle often defies a narrow definition.

This list is by no means authoritative or complete, I’ll work on adding to it over time.


The Death and Life of Great American Cities Jane Jacobs (1961)

If there’s one classic of American urbanism, this is it.

How Cities WorkAlex Marshall (2001)

An excellent summary of the systemic transportation issues facing cities and regions in the US.  Marshall approaches the issues as a journalist, not a planner, offering unique insights and accessible explanations of how our cities evolve following their transportation skeletons.

Cities in Full – Steve Belmont (2002)

Belmont tackles every issue regarding the physical form of cities and regions in this book, from density to transportation.  An excellent synthesis of the multitude of elements and feedback loops in our cities.


The High Cost of Free ParkingDonald Shoup (2005)

The ultimate inquiry into market based allocation of parking resources and the implications for urbanism.  It’s a lengthy read, but well worth it for anyone interested in urbanism.  Transportation is vital to urbanism, and parking is often forgotten as a key element in transportation.

The Great Society SubwayZachary Schrag (2006)

A comprehensive history of the circumstances leading up to the planning and building of DC’s Metro.  A must-read for any DC resident interested in transportation.  Like all things urban, the history of the transportation system carries with it a great deal of the history of the city, as well.

Urban Design:

The Image of the CityKevin Lynch (1960)

A classic urban design book, dealing primarily with conceptual understandings of space, wayfinding (the book coins the term), and navigation.

The City ShapedSpiro Kostof (1991)

An excellent history of urban design, touching on the main elements of cities throughout the evolution of human civilization.  The book features amazing visuals in illustrations accompanying the text.  Kostof’s prose can be over the top, but the combination with the visuals makes for a superb primer on the elements of urban design.

Urban Sociology:

SidewalkMitchell Duneier (1999)

Duneier’ ethnography of sidewalk vendors in Greenwich Village offers unparalleled insight into the day to day life of various street people in New York.  Thanks to Duneier’s painstaking research, the book offers a readable narrative that captures the details of daily life while also addressing the larger issues of city life.

Gang Leader for a DaySudhir Venkatesh (2008)

‘Rogue’ sociologist Sudhir Venkatesh (of Freakonomics fame) offers an excellent documentation of life and the drug trade within Chicago’s Robert Taylor Homes.


5 Responses to “Reading List”

  1. Reading List « city block Says:

    […] By Alex Block I’ve added a ‘reading list‘ page to the sidebar.  It’s the beginning of something  I hope to build on.  […]

  2. Christopher Says:

    I’d add Social Life of Small Urban Spaces by Whyte and an anthropology book which is good for understanding community: Imagined Communities.

  3. Thoroughly Educated Says:

    Thank you for this! What a wonderful resource.

  4. Sorry for the convenience « city block Says:

    […] Schrag notes in his great history of Metro that escalators were one of the design principles of the system – futuristic, modern […]

  5. Sorry for the convenience – City Block Says:

    […] Schrag notes in his great history of Metro that escalators were one of the design principles of the system – futuristic, modern […]

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