100 books like Happy City

By Charles Montgomery,

Here are 100 books that Happy City fans have personally recommended if you like Happy City. Shepherd is a community of 9,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Death and Life of Great American Cities

Todd Swanstrom Author Of The Changing American Neighborhood: The Meaning of Place in the Twenty-First Century

From my list on why neighborhoods still matter.

Who am I?

I grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota, in a neighborhood that was stable, safe, and stimulating. After my freshman year in college, I signed up for an “urban experience” in Detroit. It turned out to be the summer of the Detroit riots. I woke up to U.S. Army vehicles rumbling into the park across from my apartment. Over the next month, I witnessed the looting and burning of whole neighborhoods. I remember thinking:  what a waste! Why are we throwing away neighborhoods like Kleenex? I have been trying to answer that question ever since.   

Todd's book list on why neighborhoods still matter

Todd Swanstrom Why did Todd love this book?

The book that propelled the fight against modernist city planning–think urban renewal or interstate highways–is still a thrill to read 62 years after its publication.

Generating most of her insights by walking the city streets and living in Greenwich Village, Jacobs shows how dense neighborhoods with diverse land uses generate valuable "weak ties" while avoiding the suffocating conformity of small towns.

Jacobs did not just talk the talk; she walked the walk–getting arrested for protesting Robert Moses’ plan to slice a highway through lower Manhattan. Embraced by both libertarians and progressive new urbanists, Jacobs still generates controversy, but you can feel her love for urban neighborhoods on every page.  

By Jane Jacobs,

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked The Death and Life of Great American Cities as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this classic text, Jane Jacobs set out to produce an attack on current city planning and rebuilding and to introduce new principles by which these should be governed. The result is one of the most stimulating books on cities ever written.

Throughout the post-war period, planners temperamentally unsympathetic to cities have been let loose on our urban environment. Inspired by the ideals of the Garden City or Le Corbusier's Radiant City, they have dreamt up ambitious projects based on self-contained neighbourhoods, super-blocks, rigid 'scientific' plans and endless acres of grass. Yet they seldom stop to look at what actually…


Book cover of Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier

Alexander Stahle Author Of Closer Together: This is the Future of Cities

From my list on future cities and urban design.

Who am I?

As a city researcher and urban planner I must constantly scan the urban world for trends and plans and projects. It really started when I was writing my PhD thesis on density and green spaces in cities. The thesis title became Compact Sprawl. I like counterpoints. Today I run to companies. Spacescape that is an urban planning consultancy and Placetoplan that is a webapp for citizen participation in planning. My home is covered with books about cities, architecture, transportation, parks, and natural landscapes. I am also a landscape architect, by the way. And I live in downtown Stockholm with two children and no car.

Alexander's book list on future cities and urban design

Alexander Stahle Why did Alexander love this book?

The Harvard professor Ed Glaeser is also a great speaker, and I have seen him live. In his book he describes so well why we have cities and why they are so successful. He travels through history and around the globe to reveal cities and how they bring out the best in humankind. Using analysis, and argument, Glaeser makes a great case for the city's importance, offering proof that the city is humanity's greatest creation and our best hope for the future. It is not only economics, it is about society.  

By Edward Glaeser,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Triumph of the City as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Understanding the modern city and the powerful forces within it is the life's work of Harvard urban economist Edward Glaeser, who at forty is hailed as one of the world's most exciting urban thinkers. Travelling from city to city, speaking to planners and politicians across the world, he uncovers questions large and small whose answers are both counterintuitive and deeply significant. Should New Orleans be rebuilt? Why can't my nephew afford an apartment in New York? Is London the new financial capital of the world? Is my job headed to Bangalore? In Triumph of the City, Glaeser takes us around…


Book cover of Tactical Urbanism: Short-Term Action for Long-Term Change

Alexander Stahle Author Of Closer Together: This is the Future of Cities

From my list on future cities and urban design.

Who am I?

As a city researcher and urban planner I must constantly scan the urban world for trends and plans and projects. It really started when I was writing my PhD thesis on density and green spaces in cities. The thesis title became Compact Sprawl. I like counterpoints. Today I run to companies. Spacescape that is an urban planning consultancy and Placetoplan that is a webapp for citizen participation in planning. My home is covered with books about cities, architecture, transportation, parks, and natural landscapes. I am also a landscape architect, by the way. And I live in downtown Stockholm with two children and no car.

Alexander's book list on future cities and urban design

Alexander Stahle Why did Alexander love this book?

Although the concept sounds theoretical, this book is about very simple techniques on how to cheap and fast change urban spaces, streets, and plazas so that they are for people (not cars). The book provides a toolkit for conceiving, planning, and carrying out projects, including how to adapt them based on local needs and challenges. Tactical Urbanism can inspire and empower citizens, urban designers, land use planners, architects, and policymakers to become key actors in the transformation of their communities.

By Mike Lydon, Anthony Garcia,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Tactical Urbanism as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Short-term, community-based projects - from pop-up parks to open streets initiatives - have become a powerful and adaptable new tool of urban activists, planners, and policy-makers seeking to drive lasting improvements in their cities and beyond. These quick, often low-cost, and creative projects are the essence of the Tactical Urbanism movement. Whether creating vibrant plazas seemingly overnight or re-imagining parking spaces as local gathering places, they offer a way to gain public and government support for investing in permanent projects, inspiring residents and civic leaders to experience and shape urban spaces in a new way. Tactical Urbanism, written by Mike…


Book cover of Frederick Law Olmsted: Designing the American Landscape

R Bruce Stephenson Author Of Portland's Good Life: Sustainability and Hope in an American City

From my list on urban design for human health and happiness.

Who am I?

I was fortunate to grow up in a typical 1960s neighborhood where the good life was an option. This was the storyline in The Wonder Years, and it was not just saccharine reminiscence. The physical environment defined sustainability: suburbs marked the distinction between country and city, obesity was not an epidemic, Nature-Deficit Disorder was unknown, most children walked to school, and vehicle miles traveled were 50 percent lower. If home sizes were smaller, face-to-face interaction was more prevalent and despair less common. I’ve worked to extend this privilege of place on sustainable lines because it is essential to solving the existential crises of our time—structural racism and climate change.  

R's book list on urban design for human health and happiness

R Bruce Stephenson Why did R love this book?

A richly illustrated presentation of a foundational figure, Olmsted believed that parks were integral to physical and mental health and he designed the park to give citizens immediate and visceral contact with nature. His genius was to meld art and psychology on functional lines to produce settings of extraordinary beauty. After his initial masterpiece, Central Park, his vision broadened as he planned his projects in a more comprehensive manner. Riverside, Illinois was an exemplary suburb that harmonized with nature, while Boston’s Emerald Necklace’s array of parks linked by greenways and pedestrian paths was a prototype park system and cultural statement. Its interconnected network of transcendental oases allowed escape from the strident, accelerated movement of a profit-propelled society. Like Henry David Thoreau sauntering through the Concord countryside, urban dwellers could move through the city to their own tune. A timeless vision, it is why Olmsted still inspires the good life of…

By Charles Beveridge, Paul Rocheleau (photographer),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Frederick Law Olmsted as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A man of passionate vision and drive, Frederick Law Olmsted defined and named the profession of landscape architecture and designed America's most beloved parks and landscapes of the past century--New York's Central Park, Brooklyn's Prospect Park, the U.S. Capitol grounds, the Biltmore Estate, and many others. During a remarkable forty-year career that began in the mid-1800s, Olmsted created the first park systems, urban greenways, and planned surburban residential communities in this country. He was a pivotal figure in the movement to create and preserve natural parks such as Yosemite, Yellowstone, and Niagra Falls. He also contrbuted to the design of…


Book cover of The Culture of Cities

R Bruce Stephenson Author Of Portland's Good Life: Sustainability and Hope in an American City

From my list on urban design for human health and happiness.

Who am I?

I was fortunate to grow up in a typical 1960s neighborhood where the good life was an option. This was the storyline in The Wonder Years, and it was not just saccharine reminiscence. The physical environment defined sustainability: suburbs marked the distinction between country and city, obesity was not an epidemic, Nature-Deficit Disorder was unknown, most children walked to school, and vehicle miles traveled were 50 percent lower. If home sizes were smaller, face-to-face interaction was more prevalent and despair less common. I’ve worked to extend this privilege of place on sustainable lines because it is essential to solving the existential crises of our time—structural racism and climate change.  

R's book list on urban design for human health and happiness

R Bruce Stephenson Why did R love this book?

Mixing philosophic insight with the study of history, biology, and social science, Mumford’s penetrating analysis laid bare the prospects and pitfalls of American culture as no writer had done before. The Great Depression revealed the inability to build stable well-balanced communities that Mumford traced to a pioneer heritage predicated on exploiting resources. Setting humanity’s potential within nature’s prescribed limits, The Culture of Cities articulated the next stage in human evolution: balancing "ecological relations" and “consumer desires.” He envisioned a regional city that harmonized the “urban, rural, and primeval landscapes” that prefigured sustainability: “people in all their ecological relations” inhabiting “the compact and coherent form of the actual environment.” The goal, he concluded, was to sustain “the richest types of human culture and the fullest span of human life.”

By Lewis Mumford, Mark Crispin Miller (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Culture of Cities as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A classic work advocating ecological urban planning—from a civic visionary and former architecture critic for the New Yorker.

Considered among the greatest works of Lewis Mumford—a prolific historian, sociologist, philosopher of technology, and longtime architecture critic for the New Yorker—The Culture of Cities is a call for communal action to “rebuild the urban world on a sounder human foundation.” First published in 1938, this radical investigation into the human environment is based on firsthand surveys of North American and European locales, as well as extensive historical and technological research. Mumford takes readers from the compact, worker-friendly streets of medieval hamlets…


Book cover of Urbanism in the Age of Climate Change

R Bruce Stephenson Author Of Portland's Good Life: Sustainability and Hope in an American City

From my list on urban design for human health and happiness.

Who am I?

I was fortunate to grow up in a typical 1960s neighborhood where the good life was an option. This was the storyline in The Wonder Years, and it was not just saccharine reminiscence. The physical environment defined sustainability: suburbs marked the distinction between country and city, obesity was not an epidemic, Nature-Deficit Disorder was unknown, most children walked to school, and vehicle miles traveled were 50 percent lower. If home sizes were smaller, face-to-face interaction was more prevalent and despair less common. I’ve worked to extend this privilege of place on sustainable lines because it is essential to solving the existential crises of our time—structural racism and climate change.  

R's book list on urban design for human health and happiness

R Bruce Stephenson Why did R love this book?

“Our cities and towns have been on a high carbon diet—and our metropolitan regions have become obese,Peter Calthorpe states. Plying a generation of path-breaking work, he reveals how shifting to urbanism, “compact and walkable development,” can mitigate climate change and secure health and happiness. The metrics he presents are essential reading. Three types of neighborhoods—urban, compact, and sprawl—are assessed for their impact on land consumption, energy use, infrastructure, and utility cost, vehicle miles traveled, and greenhouse gas emissions. The information delivers a clear message: technology will not save us, but a lifestyle change will. It is “not radical,” Calthorpe writes, “but simply a shift from large lot single family homes” to the “streetcar suburbs” that once flourished in American cities. This seemingly simple solution is a vast undertaking, but the blueprint is fresh, and the next step requires, as Olmsted averred, “the best application of the arts of…

By Peter Calthorpe,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Urbanism in the Age of Climate Change as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the beginning of his career, Peter Calthorpe has been a leading innovator in sustainable building projects, sustainable development, and walkable communities. A leader in the New Urbanism Movement, he is an important resource for solutions to current problems of urban sprawl, suburban isolation, and the related problems of outsized energy consumption and an outsized share of world emissions. According to 'Ecological Urbanism', relentless and thoughtless development have created a way of living that brings us to a point of reckoning regarding energy, climate change and the way we shape our communities. The answer to these crises is 'Sustainable Development',…


Book cover of Streetfight: Handbook for an Urban Revolution

Alexander Stahle Author Of Closer Together: This is the Future of Cities

From my list on future cities and urban design.

Who am I?

As a city researcher and urban planner I must constantly scan the urban world for trends and plans and projects. It really started when I was writing my PhD thesis on density and green spaces in cities. The thesis title became Compact Sprawl. I like counterpoints. Today I run to companies. Spacescape that is an urban planning consultancy and Placetoplan that is a webapp for citizen participation in planning. My home is covered with books about cities, architecture, transportation, parks, and natural landscapes. I am also a landscape architect, by the way. And I live in downtown Stockholm with two children and no car.

Alexander's book list on future cities and urban design

Alexander Stahle Why did Alexander love this book?

Janette Sadik-Khan is one of my absolute heroes. What she has done to transportation and streets in North America and globally is unprecedented. She has not only described why we must change our view of traffic in cities, she also described how and was able to make it real. As New York City’s transportation commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan managed to transform the streets of one of the world’s greatest, toughest cities into dynamic spaces safe for pedestrians and cyclists. Simply painting a part of the street to make it into a plaza or bus lane not only made the street safer, but it also lessened congestion and increased foot traffic, which improved businesses. Streetfight deconstructs, reassembles, and reinvents the future street.

By Janette Sadik-Khan, Seth Solomonow,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Streetfight as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Like a modern-day Jane Jacobs, Janette Sadik-Khan transformed New York City's streets to make room for pedestrians, cyclists, buses, and green spaces. Describing the battles she fought to enact change, Streetfight imparts wisdom and practical advice that other cities can follow to make their own streets safer and more vibrant.

As New York City’s transportation commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan managed the seemingly impossible and transformed the streets of one of the world’s greatest, toughest cities into dynamic spaces safe for pedestrians and cyclists. Her approach was dramatic and effective: Simply painting a part of the street to make it into a…


Book cover of Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time

Jordan Yin Author Of Urban Planning For Dummies

From my list on planning livable cities from the bottom up.

Who am I?

I’m an urban planner and educator who is fascinated not just by cities and the experience of place, but also by the ideas and actions that go on “behind the scenes” in the planning of cities. Almost all US cities are guided by some sort of local plan and, while no plan is perfect, my hope is always that inclusive planning can help communities solve their problems to make any place a better place. I was raised in Cleveland, Ohio, and have lived mostly in the eastern US – from Michigan to Alabama – where I'm constantly intrigued by the everyday “nooks and crannies” of the places and communities where I live, work, and play.

Jordan's book list on planning livable cities from the bottom up

Jordan Yin Why did Jordan love this book?

Cities have become more pedestrian-friendly over the last decade and Jeff Speck’s book is one of the reasons for this movement. Walkability saves lives, promotes a sense of community, and makes places more sustainable. Speck’s guide to “Ten Steps of Walkability” is an instant classic in the practice of urban planning with approachable ideas such as “mixing uses” and “getting parking right” that can help bridge the gap between activists, politicians, and developers to work together improve any community.

By Jeff Speck,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Walkable City as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Jeff Speck has dedicated his career to determining what makes cities thrive, and he has boiled it down to one key factor: walkability. The very idea of a modern metropolis evokes visions of bustling sidewalks, vital mass transit, and a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly urban core. But in the typical American city, the car is still king and downtown is a place that's easy to drive to but often not worth arriving at. Making walkability happen is relatively easy and cheap; seeing exactly what needs to be done is the trick. In this essential book, Speck reveals the invisible workings of the…


Book cover of Restorative Cities: Urban Design for Mental Health and Wellbeing

Sara Jensen Carr Author Of The Topography of Wellness: How Health and Disease Shaped the American Landscape

From my list on creating, building, and thinking about healthier places.

Who am I?

I am a professor of architecture, urbanism, and landscape at Northeastern University in Boston, as well as a licensed architect and urban designer. I’ve always been fascinated by the ways the design of the world affects our decision-making, health, and opportunities, from the early days of my career designing hospitals to my current work researching and designing for green space equity and considering how we design in the age of pandemics and climate change. I hope these books, as well as my own writing and work, empower people to understand, ask for, and co-design healthier environments wherever they live, work, and play.

Sara's book list on creating, building, and thinking about healthier places

Sara Jensen Carr Why did Sara love this book?

I didn’t discuss mental health in my own book, simply because the topic so vast and nuanced it really needs a book of its own. Luckily, it’s comprehensively discussed in this new volume, with chapters such as “The green city,” “The active city,” and “The playable city.” There are several concrete examples here from the authors’ own research into “neurourbanism,” or the application of neuroscience to urban design and planning, which are fascinating to read. An overarching theme, which I have found in my own research as well, is that the more access everyone has to nature and parks, the more beneficial it is for better mental and physical health. 

By Jenny Roe, Layla McCay,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Restorative Cities as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Overcrowding, noise and air pollution, long commutes and lack of daylight can take a huge toll on the mental well-being of city-dwellers. With mental healthcare services under increasing pressure, could a better approach to urban design and planning provide a solution? The restrictions faced by city residents around the world during the COVID-19 pandemic has brought home just how much urban design can affect our mental health - and created an imperative to seize this opportunity. Restorative Cities explores a new way of designing cities, one which places mental health and wellness at the forefront. Establishing a blueprint for urban…


Book cover of Quirkology: How We Discover the Big Truths in Small Things

Karen C. Murdarasi Author Of Why Everything You Know about Robin Hood Is Wrong: Featuring a pirate monk, a French maid, and a surprising number of morris dancers

From my list on challenging your preconceptions.

Who am I?

As a writer and historian, I’m all about rabbit holes. When something I’ve never heard about before catches my interest, I have to find out more—and sometimes I end up writing whole books on the subject! I have a head full of bizarre little nuggets of information, and I love reading books, like the ones here, that tell me something new and change my way of thinking. 

Karen's book list on challenging your preconceptions

Karen C. Murdarasi Why did Karen love this book?

Quirkology has a whole chapter on jokes, and the search for the funniest one. I listened to this as an audiobook and did a lot of chortling while I was out walking. (Fortunately there weren’t too many people around.) 

But there’s also plenty of serious and handy stuff, about whether you can tell when you are being lied to, what makes some people “luckier” than others, and what to talk about during speed dating. (Men should talk about travel, not films, if they want to make a connection with the opposite sex.) 

There’s also a section on nominative determinism (your name defining your destiny), and the irony was not lost on author and researcher, Dr. Wiseman. 

By Richard Wiseman,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Quirkology as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For over twenty years, psychologist Professor Richard Wiseman has examined the quirky science of everyday life. In Quirkology, he navigates the backwaters of human behavior, discovering the tell-tale signs that give away a liar, the secret science behind speed-dating and personal ads, and what a persons sense of humor reveals about the innermost workings of their mind- all along paying tribute to others who have carried out similarly weird and wonderful work. Wisemans research has involved secretly observing people as they go about their daily business, conducting unusual experiments in art exhibitions and music concerts, and even staging fake sances…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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