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The most pressing need now is to weave together a host of seemingly disparate elements – an experimental farm, a private golf course, a local park, the spaces of a cluster subdivision, the edge of a new freeway right-of-way.
William Whyte

Readings: Livability


Livability Readings

This bibliography includes literature specific to the "Livability" Program area, which CHG defines as the mixture of assets that make life enjoyable.

For the complete Readings page click here.

Beatley, Timothy and Kristy Manning. The Ecology of Place: Planning for Environment, Economy, and Community. Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 1997 (265 pp.). Beatley is one of the most perceptive and knowledgeable scholars writing on the themes of place and sustainability, and this book is one of the best publications for communities that wish to move in a more sustainable direction.

Daily, Gretchen C. and Katherine Ellison. The New Economy of Nature: The Quest To Make Conservation Profitable. Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 2002 (260 pp.). Just as ecotourism and heritage tourism use the natural and cultural environments for economic benefits, a new breed of ecological entrepreneurs is experimenting with programs and approaches that will help save our disappearing natural resources and make money at the same time. MORE

de Graaf, John, David Wann and Thomas H. Naylor. Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., 2001 (268 pp.). There are numerous books about how we’re ruining the environment, how over-consumption spoils communities, how advertising entices us to buy what we don’t need. The value of this book is that it pulls these ailments together into a whimsical critique of our quest to have more stuff – and connects it all to the shape and purpose of community. MORE

Duany, Andres, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk and Jeff Speck. Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream. New York: North Point Press, 2000 (294 pp.). Duany and wife Plater-Zybeck have become the Pied Pipers of New Urbanism, or Neotraditionalism, as it is also called. This popular book outlines the basic thesis of their architectural approach to designing livable places. MORE

Dutton, John A. New American Urbanism: Re-forming the American Metropolis. New York: Abbeville Publishing Group, 2000 (223 pp.). While intended primarily for architecture students and city planners, this highly readable and beautifully illustrated book is appropriate for any reader concerned about the design of the American landscape. MORE

Florida, Richard. The Flight of the Creative Class: The New Global Competition for Talent. New York: HarperCollins, 2005 (326 pp.). This follow-up to economist Florida's bestselling The Rise of the Creative Class argues that cities, regions, and nations must prepare for the "creative economy" if they are to succeed. Florida suggests, however, that the U.S. is in danger of losing out because it is not attracting or growing the talented individuals who will help to expand the creative class – stuck in an Industrial Age economy. State and local directors of economic development should at least be familiar with Florida's ideas. 

Florida, Richard. The Rise of the Creative Class: And How It’s Transforming Work, Leisure, Community and Everyday Life. New York: Basic Books, 2002 (404 pp.). Florida’s bestselling and controversial work argues that a new "Creative Class" is central to the emerging knowledge-based economy. He suggests communities should position themselves to attract the Creative Class, because of their high income and education levels. What this group is looking for, he maintains, are communities that are diverse, tolerant, and dynamic – the opposite of many manufactured places.

Fodor, Eben. Better Not Bigger: How To Take Control of Urban Growth and Improve Your Community. Gabriola Island, B.C.: New Society Publishers, 1999 (175 pp.). Fodor is a long-time activist in the growth battles in Portland, Oregon, one of the few cities that has enacted policies like Urban Growth Boundaries. This book stems from his research into the costs and consequences of the growth machine. MORE

Forbes, Peter. The Great Remembering: Further Thoughts on Land, Soul, and Society. San Francisco: The Trust for Public Land, 2001 (95 pp.). The former vice president of TPL, Forbes suggests that instead of treating the symptoms of our misuse of land (chronicled in detail here), we need to transform “the root of the problem” – our relationship with nature. “The ecological solution,” he writes, “is to rethink land conservation as the conservation of culture.” He suggests land agencies focus too much on “how” to save land (a technical solution) and not enough on “why” they do what they do (the human side of the question). He asks, “Can we grow from a technical movement to a social movement?” The new “radical center” Forbes proposes is a blend of science and human values. This short but helpful text includes a recipe for success, and includes many examples of people and organizations working to enhance the land and human culture simultaneously.

Gammage, Jr., Grady. Phoenix in Perspective: Reflections on Developing in the Desert. Tempe: Arizona State University, 1999 (180 pp.). It’s clear Gammage cares about the future of Greater Phoenix. Although he’s a lawyer who represents developers, all of his recommendations do not fall into the growth-at-any-cost school of thought. The title suggests he is attempting to explain why the region looks as it does; and while he can explain it historically, that doesn’t mean we have to agree with it – or continue it. MORE

Garreau, Joel. Edge City: Life on the New Frontier. New York: Anchor Books, 1991 (548 pp.). Journalist Garreau coined a new concept with "edge city," those developments that are neither city nor suburb, but have evolved into their own new community form. Garreau is aware of the problems edge cities create for community-building, but he also understands and even condones their existence.

Gladwell, Malcom. The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2000 (301 pp.). This wonderful bestseller explores a number of sociological, cultural, and historical trends and events to explain why a thing "tips" – that is, why something, like Sesame Street, a certain politician, or a new clothing style, suddenly becomes fashionable. Gladwell's analysis covers a lot of ground, much of it psychological, but the interesting thing for community building is his observation that "small things" (see the title) are what matters, not new stadiums, malls, convention centers, and the like.

Gratz, Roberta B. Cities Back from the Edge: New Life for Downtown. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1998 (361 pp.). Gratz’s well-known book is somewhat of a modern rendition of Jane Jacob’s 1961 classic The Death and Life of Great American Cities, in that she examines the best practices for making cities livable. She may be a little too black-and-white for some, but her voice is an important one. MORE

Greider, William. The Soul of Capitalism: Opening Paths to a Moral Economy. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003 (366 pp.). Greider's analysis joins the growing number of voices calling for a new understanding of what "success" looks like for capitalism. Rather than toss out the benefits that capitalism has brought to many citizens, he asks us to build on this solid infrastructure, yet add a social dimension that is missing in most economic calculations. In other words, similar to books such as Savitz's The Triple Bottom Line, Greider includes social and environmental ingredients in his evaluation of capitalism's success. His approach also depends on civic engagement, since he believes most corporations and governments are unable, or unwilling, to imagine a different economic system. Highly recommended, filled with many best practices.

Hart, Stanley and Alvin Spivak. The Elephant in the Bedroom: Automobile Dependence and Denial. Pasadena, CA: New Paradigm Books, 1993 (173 pp.). This short but highly provocative book has become a controversial classic in the field of transportation studies. Hart and Spivak argue that we unfairly subsidize our car culture while cheating public transit. MORE

Jacobs, Jane. The Death and Life of Great American Cities. New York: Random House, 1961 (458 pp.). Although she’s gone on to write many other books on the nature of cities, economies, and civilization in general, Jacobs’ Death and Life is still required reading for anyone interested in the shape of communities. Most of her observations and recommendations have been validated by contemporary planners; the New Urbanists, in particular, often sound like Jane Jacobs updated. It’s amazing how prescient this New York neighborhood activist was.

Jackson, Kenneth T. Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1985 (396 pp.). Nearly two decades after its publication, Jackson’s sweeping history is still one of the finest and clearest overviews of how American-style suburbs came to dominate the landscape – showing how the automobile, federal programs, racism, and economic conditions created the perfect storm that pushed development outward, ruining cities in the process. MORE

Judd, Dennis R. and Susan S. Fainstein (eds.). The Tourist City. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999, (340 pp.). This anthology of sixteen essays explores the ways in which major cities have incorporated tourism into their economic, social, and cultural development. Although a bit uneven, the book skillfully shows how large cities, in particular, do or don’t manage to incorporate tourism into the larger social and economic structures. MORE

Kay, Jane Holtz. Asphalt Nation: How the Automobile Took Over America and How We Can Take It Back. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1997 (418 pp.). Kay’s encyclopedic indictment of America’s auto-mandatory culture probably won’t sit well with folks in sprawling megalopolises that remain addicted to their cars. Still, the book is without doubt one of the most expansive and well-written histories of how the automobile came to trump every other form of public transportation – and what this has meant to the shape of community. MORE

Kemmis, Daniel. Community and the Politics of Place. Norman: Univ. of Oklahoma Press, 1990 (150 pp.). The former mayor of Missoula, Kemmis focuses most of his insights on the notion of "place" – what he has called "bio-regionalism." In his view, one’s commitment to the common good begins with a sense of place, and he makes a strong case that understanding one’s history and heritage is central to healthy communities. MORE

Kemmis, Daniel. The Good City and the Good Life: Renewing the Sense of Community. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1995 (226 pp.). In some ways, this is a sequel to Community and the Politics of Place, in that it is less theoretical and more grounded in Kemmis’s experiences of a city that works (Missoula, where he was mayor). He includes many examples of small citizen-initiated activities that help make communities livable. MORE

Kunstler, James Howard. The Geography of Nowhere: The Rise and Decline of America’s Man-Made Landscapes. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993 (303 pp.). Kunstler’s first and still most widely read critique of modern architecture, urban design, and suburban lifestyles should be read by anyone concerned about the nature of place-making in America. Often funny, always witty, Kunstler says what a lot of us have always thought: many of our towns are ugly but they don’t have to be.

Kunstler, James Howard. Home from Nowhere: Remaking Our Everyday World for the 21st Century. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996 (318 pp.). In some ways an epilogue to The Geography of Nowhere, Kunstler provides more examples of how to redress some of the problems he documented in the earlier book. His recommendations fall in line with those of New Urbanists and other traditionalists.

Leccese, Michael and Kathleen McCormick, eds. Charter of the New Urbanism. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2000 (194 pp.). This is a helpful primer for anyone wanting to know the history and basic philosophy of the New Urbanism movement. It includes dozens of short essays and designs by practitioners, mostly architects and city planners. MORE

Louv, Richard. Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books, 2005 (334 pp.). Louv's book is already something of a classic among environmental and place-making organizations. He explains with facts, personal anecdotes, and many other stories why children need nature. Beyond their individual benefits, however, Louv illustrates how connecting youth to wilderness also helps create a healthier community and better quality of life for everyone. A must-read for any parent, teacher, or community activist.

Marshall, Alex. How Cities Work: Suburbs, Sprawl, and the Road Not Taken. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2000 (243 pp.). This is both a frustrating and invigorating book, one that has insightful observations to make about the nature of place-making (mostly related to transportation), but which is too disparaging of others’ attempts to create community in their own way. MORE

McDonough, William and Michael Braungart, Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things. New York: North Point Press, 2002 (193 pp.). This classic study of sustainable design has tremendous implications for building healthy communities, something rarely mentioned in the book. The authors discuss Triple Bottom Line economic theory, the importance of being "native to place" in terms of product development (rather than homogenous and copycat), and reaching audiences that are "buying green" – voting with their wallets. Whenever McDonough and Braungart, who are longtime practitioners of eco-efficiency and industrial ecology, describe their processes for designing new cars or buildings, just transfer their ideas to the larger community context.

McHarg, Ian. Design with Nature. Philadelphia: Natural History Press, 1969 (198 pp.). One of the forerunners of ecological planning, McHarg demonstrates in this classic book how communities can save their natural, historical, and built heritage, at the same time they enhance economic development. Design with Nature includes both philosophical arguments and practical case studies that feature many maps and other visual demonstrations.

Mumford, Lewis. The City in History. San Diego: Harvest, 1961 (657 pp.). Mumford’s sprawling, comprehensive, and insightful look at the history of urban forms throughout the world is a "must read" for any student of community. His comments concerning the effects of the car and transportation systems on downtowns and their expanding suburbs are most prophetic.

Nabhan, Gary Paul and Stephen Trimble. The Geography of Childhood: Why Children Need Wild Places. Boston: Beacon Press, 1994 (184 pp.). We love this book and just about everything Gary Nabhan, an esteemed ethnobotanist, writes. The theme here is summed up in the title: children need wildness and exposure to the natural world for their own development and to better understand their role in the wider community. Great stuff.

Pink, Daniel. A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future. New York, Berkley Publishing Group, 2005 (275 pp.). Pink's whole-mind literature is an important supplement to the work of creative economists like Richard Florida. Pink argues that successful businesses in the future will tap into people's creativity, including their ability to think conceptually and holistically. Although he does not address community development specifically, Pink's work relates to place-making because of its focus on using a creative approach to create meaning.

Quinn, Bill. How Wal-Mart Is Destroying America (and the World): And What You Can Do About It. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press, 2000 (171 pp.). A bit on the "rant" side (to say the least!), Quinn’s short but provocative book is one of the essential manuals for activists trying to keep the Big Box from Arkansas our of their communities. Quinn’s passionate little book is filled with references to assist local planning committees.

Roseland, Mark. Toward Sustainable Communities: Resources for Citizens and Their Governments. Gabriola Island, B.C.: New Society Publishers, 1998 (240 pp.). This new edition of Roseland’s previous volume of nearly the same title provides many more resources for communities, especially since the advent of the Internet and the wealth of information one can find there. Filled with best practices from around the world, Toward Sustainable Communities is an excellent beginner’s tool for places looking to develop more sustainable policies. MORE

Rybczynski, Witold. City Life. New York: Touchstone, 1995 (256 pp.). Popular urbanist Rypczynski begins with a question: "Why don't American cities look like those in Europe, with their history, culture, and livability?" This accessible history – for lay readers, not architectural historians – argues that cities here once did express the "civic arts" one finds in Europe. Eventually, though, practical and commercial concerns, combined with modernism in architecture and the flight to the suburbs, created the sprawling metropolitan area. Rybczynski suggests a new kind of city is emerging, one that combines the best of both urban and suburban environments.

Rypkema, Donovan. The Economics of Historic Preservation: A Community Leader’s Guide. Washington, D.C.: The National Trust for Historic Preservation, 1994 (131 pp.). Rypkema provides a wonderfully readable and practical guide for historic preservation activists who need ammunition to keep city councils and developers from ripping down old structures. Let’s hope more city councils hear the arguments in this book. MORE

Oldenburg, Ray. The Great Good Place: Cafes, Coffee Shops, Community Centers, Beauty Parlors, General Stores, Bars, Hangouts, and How They Get You Through the Day. New York: Paragon House, 1989 (338 pp.). Oldenburg’s interesting and lively look at what he terms "third places" – those spaces where citizens meet in informal ways – has become one of the classics of place-based literature, and with good reason. The eradication of third places goes a long way toward explaining the shape of our communities. MORE

Schor, Juliet. The Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline of Leisure. New York: Basic Books, 1992 (247 pp.). This award-winning book looks not so much at the facts and statistics of the work phenomenon, but at the value systems that drive us to work more – and what this means for community building. MORE

Schumacher, E.F. Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered. New York: Harper & Row, 1973 (305 pp.). Including the often-anthologized chapter "Buddhist Economics," this prophetic book was one of the earliest to question the "growth-is-good" and "more-is-better" philosophies that underpin most economic theories. The book is really a collection of Schumacher's essays and lectures, most of which not only attack status quo development thinking, but which also provide practical examples of how economics can lead to a better quality of life. Many of Schumacher's ideas show up today in the trend toward downsizing or the more sustainable approaches to economics, such as Natural Capitalism. Today, the Schumacher Society carries on his work.

Whyte, William. The Last Landscape. Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1970 (428 pp.). Author of The Organization Man and well-known treatises on urban planning, Whyte turns his attention here to open space and the natural world. Unfortunately, many of the negative outcomes he forecast have come true, whereas the optimism he expresses for some land-use issues is hard to muster today.