What we're reading - THE URBAN REVIEW
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What we’re reading


The Price of Peace – Zachary D. Carter (read more here


“A biography of John Maynard Keynes.” – Ryan Johnson, MUP ’22


Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life – Eric Klinenberg (read more here)


“‘Palaces for the People” reveals through various case studies how necessary it is to incorporate social, or “soft” infrastructures in our cities. The book studies various types of soft infrastructures (libraries, community gardens) in several U.S. cities, making the case for how integral to the well-being of individuals and the urban realm as a whole are tied to these places. It has proven to me how much social infrastructure needs to be planned for, designed, and implemented along with our physical infrastructure systems.” – Mary Geschwindt, MUP ’22


Transcending Boundaries: Zhejiangcun: the Story of a Migrant Village in Beijing – Biao Xiang 


“An in-depth anthropological research of a migrant village in Beijing.” – Mengyao Li, MUP ’22


The Secret Life of Groceries – Benjamin Lorr (read more here


This unexpected page-turner aims to expose the “dark miracle of the American supermarket” by covering a wide range of topics including the early history of Trader Joe’s, slave trade on Thai shrimping vessels, exploitation of long-distance refrigerated truck drivers, the blurry world of “fair-trade” certification, and an enigmatic salsa/coleslaw hybrid condiment called “Slawsa.” If you’re looking for peer-reviewed research on food systems for a paper, look elsewhere – for anyone who eats food and is looking for something equally fun and terrifying, this is a great gonzo-style account exposing both the literal and metaphoric funk hiding beneath the Whole Foods fish counter.” – Asher KaplanMUP ’21


Street Fight: Handbook for an Urban Revolution – Janette Sadik-Khan (read more here)


“This book is a colorful and insightful look into the tactical, street transformations of New York City in the last decade. What really brought this book to life was hearing Janette Sadik-Khan talk about this book and her work as transportation commissioner in NYC under Mayor Bloomberg at the GSD!” – Sarah Zou, MUP ’20


Common Ground: A Turbulent Decade in the Lives of Three American Families – J. Anthony Lukas (read more here)


“Lukas shares the story of Boston’s busing in the 1960s and 1970s from the perspective of three Boston parents: an African-American single mother in Roxbury, an Irish Catholic single mother in Charlestown, and a Harvard-educated couple moving to the South End. Their lived experiences tell the history of Boston’s neighborhoods, critical to not only any resident of Boston, but anyone seeking to better understand race relations in American cities. Lukas’s own reflection gets to the heart of the book: ‘The realities of urban America, when seen through the lives of actual city dwellers, proved far more complicated than I had imagined.’” – Margaret Haltom, MUP ’20


Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 – John Barry (read more here)


“I regularly return to Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. It documents the making of the Louisiana delta’s complex water infrastructure system, and how the flood of 1927 not only changed the way we think about top-down infrastructure in the US, but the power dynamics and shifting nodes of contestation that planners must consider when looking at any comprehensive infrastructural system.  It’s also a thrilling read!” – Andy Lee, MUP/MLA ’20


Poems as Maps – curated by Taiyon J. Coleman for Places Journal (read more here)


“This a wonderful short, yet emotionally rich series from Places Journal that invites us to read poems as we do maps, whose ‘lines trace and transgress boundaries of identity and experience.’ Highly recommend.” – Alex Rogala, MUP ’19


On Planning the Ideology of Planning – in The Urbanization of Capital by David Harvey (read more here)


“One of the seminal readings in urban planning theory and practice, Harvey traces the limits of the planning profession to the fatalism of the capitalist economic system. He argues that despite good intentions, planners are but handmaidens to power structures and ultimately become a tool in social reproduction. But instead of concluding that the planner is ‘a mere defender of the status quo,” Harvey argues something fundamental. Read to find out what he says!” – Hung Vo, MUP ‘9


Solidarity: How to Build Joyful Economies – Yes! Magazine (read more here)


“I have been regularly returning to this collection of stories of “communities full of generous people who are finding ways to lift each other up.” They are inspiring stories and insightful reminders when capitalism has got you down.” – Katie Gourley, MUP ’19


How the Other Half Lives: Studies among the Tenements of New York – Jacob Riis (read more here)


“I first learned of Jacob Riis’ work in a high school American History class. Picking up the actual text now as a graduate student, I am still struck by the effectiveness and rigor of his analysis. Riis is first and foremost a journalist and photographer, and his incredible imagery is paired with insightful and thoughtful commentary that would do any contemporary planner or urban designer proud.” – Jeremy Pi, MUP ’19


Oosterwold (view here)


“A video and a few pages of English description introduce us to a fascinating new urban project in The Netherlands: Oosterwold. The project, shepherded by Dutch Architecture firm MVRDV, allows for development absent building codes or land use regulations, requiring in exchange that settlers provide themselves what is usually provided public (roads, infrastructure, etc.). Is this is an attempt to build…an anarchist utopia? The ultimate neoliberal enclave? Something entirely different? Is it a flash in the pan or a potential new model of development?” – Stefano Trevisan, MUP ’19