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Old 11-03-2009, 08:39 PM   #1
kennedy
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The Great Books Thread

This thread is for everyone to post the best books they've read, books they're reading, or books they'd like to read, mostly pertaining to architecture and urbanism. I don't believe a thread like this exists so far, and I'm fairly certain at least some of the posters enjoy reading, and enjoy architecture and urbanism. So, make a suggestion, post a link, give us a summary, hell, write your own book.

I'll start with something that was recommended to me by ablarc and others on the forum (we've got an entire thread dedicated to it,) and probably the quintessential book about cities and planning one can read. I definitely suggest it to anyone even slightly interested in urbanism.

The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs



Note: Mods, if this already exists or you think it's pointless, or you view it as an intellectual coup to undermine your power and transform aB to a book club, feel free to delete the thread.
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Old 11-03-2009, 08:50 PM   #2
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Re: The Great Books Thread

Pharmacotherapy: A Pathophysiologic Approach (7th ed.) by Joseph T. DiPiro

The only book I've read in the past few years.
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Old 11-03-2009, 09:07 PM   #3
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Re: The Great Books Thread

Woah, long time no post? Or am I imagining that?
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Old 11-03-2009, 09:11 PM   #4
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Re: The Great Books Thread

The books that have shaken up my urban/design thoughts in the last five years:

"the ten books on architecture" by Vitruvius
"a thousand years of nonlinear history" de landa
"the landscape urbanism reader" edited by Charles Waldheim
"the sea around us" by Rachel Carson (not urban but it blew my mind)

Currently I'm reading "the city in history" by Lewis Mumford which is more and more likely to be added to that list. I'm still in the early stages of human civilization, but it is a stunning work, quite comprehensive but with a more sophisticated and modern sensibility (especially in terms of female societal urban roles) than I would have expected of a work of it's age (or mumford's!)

K, another classic urban primer up there with Jacobs is "image of the city" (or anything else) by Kevin lynch, former MIT prof who uses Boston as a platform for much of his writing. A newer classic is "delirious new York" by rem koolhaas, which I found to be shockingly readable as a beginner to urbanism.

The best Boston book I've read recently is "public works: unsolicited small projects for the big dig" by meejin yoon and Meredith miller of howeler yoon/ MYStudio. A thoroughly researched critique of the greenway parks and innovative injection of creative--if leftfield-- ideas for intervention.
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Old 11-03-2009, 09:26 PM   #5
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Re: The Great Books Thread

I forgot one reading that really affected my urban experiences and understanding: Walter Benjamin's essay about the "flaneur". I don't recall the exact title or provenance, and it's buried somewhere in a binder from grad school that I'll probably never uncover, but I think that simple description is enough to find it elsewhere in a library or the Internets.
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Old 11-03-2009, 09:41 PM   #6
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Re: The Great Books Thread

Invisible Cities - Italo Calvino

Read it and then read If On A Winters Night A Traveler.


You're welcome.

Edit: This might be undermining my authority but I'm kinda drunk so I don't care at the moment. This thread MIGHT be gone tomorrow morning tho...
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Old 11-03-2009, 11:13 PM   #7
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Re: The Great Books Thread

Happy morning after, Van. For what it's worth, I really like this thread concept.
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Old 11-03-2009, 11:38 PM   #8
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Re: The Great Books Thread

The Image of the City - Kevin Lynch
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Old 11-04-2009, 05:59 AM   #9
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Re: The Great Books Thread

Quote:
Originally Posted by kennedy View Post
Woah, long time no post? Or am I imagining that?
Yeah, I've been coming on pretty regularly, but not posting much at all. Way too busy. This is the last year of actual coursework, but next year is clinical rotations then 3 years of residency. It will never end.
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Old 11-04-2009, 07:10 AM   #10
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Re: The Great Books Thread

Quote:
Originally Posted by Shepard View Post
Happy morning after, Van. For what it's worth, I really like this thread concept.
I was kidding. This IS a great thread concept.
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Old 11-04-2009, 11:33 AM   #11
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Re: The Great Books Thread

The Power Broker - Robert Caro
Delirious New York - Rem Koolhaas

I'm in the middle of 100 Mile City by Deyan Sudjic, which is really good so far.
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Old 01-24-2010, 10:05 PM   #12
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Re: The Great Books Thread

Just picked up a copy of Towards a New Architecture by Le Corbusier. It was a hard choice between that, and Alain de Botton's The Architecture of Happiness. I went with Corbu's because I figured I was more likely to have to read it anyhow.

EDIT: Forgot one, sitting next to Towards a New Architecture was a copy of Vitruvius' Ten Books on Architecture. I'll most likely read that next, because I'll probably end up having to read it as well.

Last edited by kennedy; 01-27-2010 at 04:55 PM.
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Old 01-25-2010, 10:10 AM   #13
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Re: The Great Books Thread

"The BATMAN' is thegood one and Sir Fletcher's bannister.
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Old 01-27-2010, 04:34 PM   #14
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Re: The Great Books Thread

Quote:
Originally Posted by kennedy View Post
This thread is for everyone to post the best books they've read, books they're reading, or books they'd like to read, mostly pertaining to architecture and urbanism. I don't believe a thread like this exists so far, and I'm fairly certain at least some of the posters enjoy reading, and enjoy architecture and urbanism. So, make a suggestion, post a link, give us a summary, hell, write your own book.

I'll start with something that was recommended to me by ablarc and others on the forum (we've got an entire thread dedicated to it,) and probably the quintessential book about cities and planning one can read. I definitely suggest it to anyone even slightly interested in urbanism.

The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs
This is an interesting thread. Here are my thought about the D&L of Great American Cities...I simultaneously think it is the smartest and stupidest book I have ever read. Let me explain. I think a lot of the ideas jacobs has regarding mixed uses are brilliant and now commonsensical but at the time written were in need of someone championing them the way Jacobs did. The whole eyes on the street idea, the use of city parks analysis, and the diversity of different users filtering in and out of city districts throughout different times of day are provide really great insight and are some really important points to keep in mind. The length of blocks I am less sure about, but I'm certainly not in opposition to her ideas, I just can't say it sounds as commonsensical as the rest of what she has to say. Here is where I think it is one of the stupidest things I have ever read: Jacobs comes off overly anthropological and anecdotal. She tells these stories that just seem to be BS or at the very least overly exaggerated to make the point. I think her points are very on point but I think she uses too much anecdote to support them. I'm not looking for a statistical analysis of empirical data either; I just think the points she makes stand on their own without need for illustration. I think the book could have been half as long in pages as it actually was. She makes the same points over and over again and always uses some anecdote that I seriously doubted took place exactly as she wrote it. For instance, there was one section where Jacobs talks about the eyes on the street and mixed use preventing a child from being harassed. according to the book some kid was being bullied and the next thing you knew Joe the barber, jimmy the sales clerk, sue the seamstress and bobby the ice cream vendor were all standing in their doorways and looking out their windows staring down the aggressor until they took off and the street life returned to normal. Okay, this seems plausible, and to an extent probably IS exactly the effect one would expect from mixed use, and the other characteristics championed by Jacobs, but did this really happen as described, I highly doubt it. The thing with this book is that its points are so perfectly logical to me that I agreed with most of them the first time they were presented; then I got the feeling that the anecdotes used to portray and illustrate them were stretching the truth or in some cases completely made up, and this detracts, for me, from the credibility of her argument to some extent. There is another instance where she is on the phone with a city planner from Boston (or a lender I forget) and she directly quotes him as saying something about the north end that perfectly supports the thesis of her work. uh, sure, yeah right. However, the book ultimately did make waves for traditional city planning which was (is?) seriously flawed, and for this reason I think it is one of the greats. I just don't like the way it was presented, but then again Jacobs had no formal training in the subject matter other than anecdotes so I guess I can understand their (over)use. Anybody else feel this way? I hesitated about writing this because it seems like the book is beyond reproach in most peoples' eyes, and I think some of them are just hopping on the bandwagon. It IS a good book don't get me wrong, and people should read it (it was more important when written, however, because now many of its views are commonplace, in large part BECAUSE of people who have read the work)...I'm curious if others thought less of the work than is usually admitted to.
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Old 01-27-2010, 04:49 PM   #15
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Re: The Great Books Thread

^<^ AGEREEing with that.
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Old 01-27-2010, 04:51 PM   #16
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Re: The Great Books Thread

Almost totally agree. It definitely could have been half as long. I'm about 1/4 through Le Corbusier's, and let me tell you, his rhetorical skills are far superior to that of Jacobs. The majority of her ideas are absolutely valid, and were groundbreaking at the time, but she spends too much time on some sections and not enough on others (never really offers solutions, denies certain aspects of city growth). Sometimes she seems to drift into this ideal state, and fails to recognize the forces that act on realistic development. She is no financial guru, she should not try to be. Perhaps she simply tried to tackle too many issues with one book.

I also agree her anecdotal evidence is largely unconvincing, albeit, there were few other forms of evidence available to her at the time. Regardless, her observations of healthy neighborhoods have proven to be very accurate and have guided a great deal of contemporary development - someone needed to write that book, and we're lucky she took that job on.
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Old 01-27-2010, 07:37 PM   #17
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Re: The Great Books Thread

Okay good I am glad there is some consensus on this because I was thinking the book, for all it is talked about, would have been more enjoyable to read. the ideas were great, the reading was not so much.

Try pronouncing Le Corbusier

Leugh Corbuse-eeay

I always read it le cor busy ur in my head, and try not to have to say it out loud...who the heck makes a name like that for themselves...odd fellow.

anyway some of the books I have read on urban planning and enjoyed are as follow:

Cities without suburbs
City Life (witold rybcinski (sp?))
CITY
Great streets (largely illustrational and aimed at professionals)
Cities of Tomorrow (summary or planning theory and history, required for a class but useful and informative)
and Urville (a fantastic illustation book made by an autistic artist who completely dreamed up an entire European City of 12 million and planned it from history to educational institutions and infrastructure etc all in drawings...very interesting to look at.

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Old 01-27-2010, 07:39 PM   #18
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Re: The Great Books Thread

also consider subscribing to CTBUH quarterly journal on skyscrapers......always very interesting and keeps professionals up to date on current trends, best practices, and rban habitat in general. awesome in my opinion.
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Old 01-27-2010, 07:43 PM   #19
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Re: The Great Books Thread

Also, for a list of more urban planning based books, check out planetizen's top 20 for some ideas, some of which have already been mentioned

http://www.planetizen.com/books/20

and metropolis mag is sometimes good.
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Old 01-28-2010, 08:44 AM   #20
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Re: The Great Books Thread

I just started D&L of GAC. So far I am enjoying it, but after only 1/5 of the book, i can already see what you guys are saying about her stories/evidence et. al.
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