Gifts for someone who is attracted to cities
December 18, 2010 9:10 PM   Subscribe

[XmasGiftFilter] So I'm looking for gifts related to urban planning / urbanism in general. This is sort of an attempt to use Metafilter as a "people who liked x also liked y" function, since it's full of people who like this particular x.

Apologies for cluttering ask.mefi with yet another post about holiday gifts, but, here goes. Posted anonymously, because the person I'm buying gifts for reads metafilter occasionally:

So my girlfriend is very much into urbanism, on both a personal and professional level. Which, well, as someone who is also very much into those things, I feel pretty lucky, right? But I'm a little bit stuck on what to get her for Christmas. I'm looking for things that are related to urban planning, urbanism, and/or municipal politics in the United States, that are also well-written and engaging instead of seeming like work.

She's read Caro's Power Broker and is right now reading, and loving, Jane Jacobs' Death and Life of Great American Cities -- she avoided Jacobs for a while, just on a sense that her stuff wouldn't be current or entirely relevant anymore, but has been pleasantly surprised. If there's anyone out there writing about contemporary municipal planning and politics in a way that's one-tenth as engaging as Jacobs' stuff, I know she'd like it. She also loved Buzz Bissinger's A Prayer for the City (his book on Ed Rendell's administration when he was mayor of Philadelphia). So things about urbanism in the abstract are good, but things about actual city adminstration and campaigns to make cities better are better.

Any thoughts? I'm also looking for things that address some of topics and also are, well, pretty -- really good coffee-table type books on cities, for example, would be welcome.
posted by anonymous to Shopping (18 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Is she also a public transportation geek? There are lots of cool things with subway maps on them. (My urban planning friends are on the transportation end of things - I can't help so much with the neighborhood-y stuff).
posted by maryr at 9:17 PM on December 18, 2010

Book ideas - from an academic perspective, not a coffee table type. I can tell you more about each of these books, if you have questions.

Robert Bailey, Gay Politics, Urban Politics
Amy Bridges, Morning Glories: Municipal Reform in the Southwest
James W. Button, Black and Social Change: Impact of the Civil Rights Movement in Southern Communities
Peter F. Burns, Electoral Politics is Not Enough: Racial and Ethnic Minorities and Urban Politics
Rufus Browning, Dale Marshall, and David Tabb, Protest is Not Enough
Robert Dahl, Who Governs?
Richard DeLeon, Left Coast City
Stephen Elkin, City and Regime and the American Republic
Steven Erie, Rainbow’s End
Karen Ferguson, Black Politics in New Deal Atlanta
Barbara Ferman, Challenging the Growth Machine
Juliet Gainsborough, Fenced Off: The Suburbanization of American Politics
Gerald Gamm, Urban Exodus: Why the Jews Left Boston and the Catholics Stayed
William Grimshaw, Bitter Fruit: Black Politics and the Chicago Machine
Zoltan L. Hajnal, Changing White Attitudes toward Black Political Leadership
Floyd Hunter, Community Power Structure
Jeffrey Henig, et al., The Color of School Reform
Valerie C. Johnson, Black Power in the Suburbs
Bryan Jones and Lynn W. Bachelor, The Sustaining Hand: Community Leadership and Corporate Power
Michael Jones-Correa, Between Two Nations: The Political Predicament of Latinos in New York City Politics
Karen Kaufman, The Urban Voter
Paul Kleppner, Chicago Divided
John Mollenkopf, A Phoenix in the Ashes: The Rise and Fall of the Koch Coalition in New York City Politics
Dianne Pinderhughes, Race and Ethnicity in Chicago Politics
Marcus Pohlmann and Michael Kirby, Racial Politics at the Crossroads: Memphis Elects Willie Herenton
John Portz, Lana Stein, and Robin Jones, City School & City Politics
Douglas Rae, City: Urbanism and its End
Wilbur C. Rich, Coleman Young and Detroit Politics
Wilbur C. Rich, David Dinkins and New York City Politics
Hank Savitch and Paul Kantor, Cities in the International Marketplace
Jeffrey Sellers, Governing from Below
Martin Shefter, Political Crisis, Fiscal Crisis
Kristina Smock, Democracy in Action: Community Organizing and Urban Change
Raphael J. Sonenshein, Politics in Black and White: Race and Power in LA
Clarence N. Stone, Regime Politics
Thomas Sugrue, The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit
Todd Swanstrom, The Crisis of Growth Politics
Alan Altshuler and David Luberoff, Mega-Projects
Jean Anyon, Ghetto Schooling
Jeffrey Berry, et al., The Rebirth Urban Democracy
Nancy Burns, The Formation of American Local Government
Stefanie Chambers, Mayors and Schools: Minority Voices & Democratic Tensions in Urban Education
John Chubb and Terry Moe, Politics, Markets and Schools
Susan Clarke and Gary Gaile, The Work of Cities
Joe T. Darden, et al., Detroit: Race and Uneven Development
Peter Dreier, John Mollenkopf and Todd Swanstrom, Place Matters: Metro-politics in the Twentieth First Century
Ester Fuchs, Mayors and Money: Fiscal Policy in New York and Chicago
Jeffrey Henig, Rethinking School Choice
Jennifer Hochschild and Nathan Scovronick, The American Dream and the Public Schools
David Imbroscio, Reconstructing City Politics: Alternative Economic Development and Urban Regimes
Douglas S. Massey and Nancy A. Denton, American Apartheid
J. Eric Oliver, Democracy in Suburbia
Marion Orr, Black Social Capital: The Politics of School Reform in Baltimore
Paul Peterson, City Limits
Robert O. Self, American Babylon: Race and the Struggle for Postwar Oakland
Dennis Shirley, Community Organizing for School Reform
Clarence Stone, et al., Building Civic Capacity: The Politics of Urban School Reform
Wilbur C. Rich, Black Mayors and School Reform
Ronald K. Vogel, Urban Political Economy: Broward County, Florida
Alexander von Hoffman, House by House, Block by Block
Mark Warren, Dry Bones Rattling: Community Building to Revitalize American Democracy
Kenneth Wong, City Choices: Education and Housing
Richard Wood, Faith in Action: Religion, Race, and Democratic Organizing in America
posted by quodlibet at 9:22 PM on December 18, 2010 [13 favorites]

Are you just looking for books? There are those neighborhood posters that are pretty cool.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 9:25 PM on December 18, 2010 [3 favorites]

On a more philosophical bent, I'd recommend Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino. It's a series of imagined conversations between Marco Polo and the emperor Kublai Khan, in which Polo describes dozens of fantastical cities he has visited. Each one is a reflection of some idea or principle -- where the buildings are built on a cliffside or modeled after a communal dream, or where the intricate web of personal relationships are mapped by thousands of colored strings. You can read some excerpts here.

The prose is vivid and poetic, and the concepts underlying the various cities are intriguing. It would be great for anyone who sees cities as more than just a collection of buildings and infrastructure.
posted by Rhaomi at 10:29 PM on December 18, 2010 [3 favorites]

Another poster: Robert Crumb's A Short History of America.
posted by salvia at 10:39 PM on December 18, 2010

I couldn't put this one down: Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream by Andres Duany, Elizabeth Plater-Zybeck and Jeff Speck.
posted by Dragonness at 10:59 PM on December 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

A Pattern Language
posted by mearls at 10:59 PM on December 18, 2010

I love these maps.
posted by backwards guitar at 11:02 PM on December 18, 2010

Delores Hayden's A Field Guide to Sprawl and Yann Arthus-Bertrand's Earth From Above are both have fabulous aerial photography. Hayden uses it to illustrate and explain her typography of sprawl; Arthus-Bertrand just takes amazing photographs of both familiar and totally unexpected landscapes from the air. (I am pretty sure that both have been subjects of FPPs on Metafilter, also.)
posted by Forktine at 5:34 AM on December 19, 2010

The maps backwards guitar linked to are pretty neat and remind me of the Ork city posters.

For coffee table books, we have and love The Works: Anatomy of a City by Kate Ascher and New York Changing.

If she's a public transit geek, Subwayland is a great read.
posted by kathryn at 7:41 AM on December 19, 2010

Another vote for maps. City map jewelry.
posted by desjardins at 8:23 AM on December 19, 2010

What about tours? Some cities offer tours of their sewer systems or their underground tunnels or whatever.
posted by CathyG at 9:31 AM on December 19, 2010

For public transit history, try 722 Miles: The Building of the Subways and How They Transformed New York. If you can afford it, how about a trip to New York City, one of the urbanest urban places on the planet, and a Metrocard Fun Pass?
posted by Quietgal at 9:50 AM on December 19, 2010

Don't buy an NYC MetroCard Fun Pass unless you're using it before December 30th. They're discontinuing it!

One more gift idea: soft map quilt.
posted by kathryn at 10:57 AM on December 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

City of Quartz by Mike Davis
Cadillac Desert By Mark Reisner
posted by pianomover at 4:24 PM on December 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

I just looked at Los Angeles in Maps" at the bookstore tonight and it's pretty sweet. Lovely historical maps of the city/county with a bunch of essays. It looks like a great coffee table sort of book.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 7:21 PM on December 19, 2010

Dynomighty makes a tyvek NYC subway map wallet (they are amazingly durable)

The book Infrastructure is great, really interesting. Not just about urban areas, also covers what you'll see in rural areas, and gives a sense of the big picture interconnections between urban areas and outer areas they rely on.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:30 PM on December 19, 2010

If she likes New York, she might enjoy the 4-D Cityscape New York City Puzzle from National Geographic. I haven't seen in person but I would love to play with it!
posted by Gor-ella at 9:44 AM on December 20, 2010

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