There are lots of great urbanist reading lists out there.
But if you’re looking for something a little outside the usual urbanist wheelhouse, you might enjoy this diverse list!
While these selections aren’t strictly cannon, they share a perspective shifting quality about streets and our daily reality that we think you or someone you love who lives in and/or interested in cities will greatly enjoy.
In one sense, this book is a simple chronicle of 11 walks along city streets. Yet when these walk are accompanied by different individuals each with their own experiences and expertise, formerly familiar streets become a treasure trove of hidden gems and rich meaning.
See, hear, and even smell how the same street can present such radically different realities with a simple shift in perspective.
GREAT STREETS OF THE WORLD
A richly illustrated book for kids or a vibrant coffee table book for adults, this selection brings to life the richness of some of the most vibrant and interesting streets from around the world.
The energetic, almost Crayon-like illustrations makes these pages wonderful to explore for any age.
Milo is a bored child. Like too many children and so many adults, he has long grown accustomed to and bored of their lives.
Enter a mysterious Tollbooth which bends and twists reality in delightful and unexpected ways, playfully challenging young Milo to re-see that which has disappeared from his consciousness.
Meet a wonderfully bizarre collection of characters, make your own sense, and rediscover the magic of reality in the strange lands beyond the Phantom Tollbooth.
50 Adventures On Foot
So often, out of town visitors ask us for recommendations for places to see, foods to try, and music to hear, only to make us to realize just how little of our own city we ourselves haven’t explored or experienced!
As the title suggests, these city-specific sets of cards (alright, you got us, this one isn’t a book) are city walks specifically curated with multiple points of interest.
These cards can help inspire us to get out and about on two feet, explore our own city, and help us get out of our routine and into parts of town that we had never really explored before.
THE GREAT GOOD PLACE
We’ve always wondered why this amazing book has such a clunky title, especially when its core thesis, “third places,” would have made an excellent title.
The Great Good Place talks about third places. Those spaces that are not home and not work; places such as coffee shops, pizzerias, pubs, town squares, etc. Sociologist Ray Oldenburg articulately describes how these humble places are actually the very heart of civil society and his critique of the lack of these third places in American life is even more prescient and relevant today than when the book was first published in 1989
His prose are quiet, yet his statements, powerful and profound. We think this book will have a deep and lasting impact on the way any reader sees their own life, their city, and even the country as a whole.
WHY LA? POURQUOI PARIS?
An Artistic Pairing of Two Iconic Cities
These last two selections are Los Angeles specific
LA is often derided as an unwalkable city full of cars and traffic. Which is why juxtaposing Los Angeles with the much more elegant, extremely walkable Paris seemed absurd on it’s face.
However exploring the pages of this book helped us remember the richness of LA. It helps bring a fresh, childlike perspective to the adult who has taken LA for granted and has forgotten how to appreciates its magic.
NEVER BUILT LOS ANGELES
Sometime it can feel like LA is in a rut: like our city councils are too provincial and disjoined, our Mayor too weak and uninspired, and our fellow citizens too complacent and apathetic.
It can feel like we don’t have the will or even the imagination to think and act boldly, or even to enterntain the notion of a better future for our city.
This book might exaccerbate those feelings.
Or it might spark something dormant lying in all of us. It might help us remember how to imagine. It might help us dare to think boldly.
If our city is to embrace change and aspire for a better future, we must first believe it can change. Seeing the various possible projects that never became, both good and bad, might help us realize that cities are alive, that they change all the time, that things could have been different, and that things will be different.
How different is up to us.