100 books like Order without Design

By Alain Bertaud,

Here are 100 books that Order without Design fans have personally recommended if you like Order without Design. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America

Aubrey Fox Author Of Gradual: The Case for Incremental Change in a Radical Age

From my list on how government works in practice – and when it doesn’t.

Why am I passionate about this?

My father advised me that to be a good writer, I should first learn a trade and particular subject matter from the inside out. As a working criminal justice practitioner for the last two decades, I’ve been lucky to work with some of the smartest people and best run organizations in the country. I’ve always been a big reader and someone who likes to link the sometimes brutally practical, day-to-day work of running an organization (I lead New York City’s main pretrial services agency) to larger philosophical issues. My life’s goal is to show how big ideas play themselves out in the day-to-day practice of public policy. 

Aubrey's book list on how government works in practice – and when it doesn’t

Aubrey Fox Why did Aubrey love this book?

I am a huge fan of mystery novels written by Michael Connelly featuring the detective Harry Bosch, so I was delighted to read Jill Leovy’s account of real-life homicide detectives in Los Angeles working under very difficult circumstances to provide a measure of justice to otherwise ignored crime victims and their families.

The book does a wonderful job of documenting the craft of good police work and shows how poorly functioning formal legal systems – a legacy of Jim Crow – negatively impacts Black communities.

As the fictional detective Harry Bosch likes to say, “everyone counts or no one counts.”

Leovy’s book shows what it takes for that vision of everyone counting to become a reality. 

By Jill Leovy,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE, USA TODAY, AND CHICAGO TRIBUNE • A masterly work of literary journalism about a senseless murder, a relentless detective, and the great plague of homicide in America

NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD FINALIST • NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The New York Times Book Review • The Washington Post • The Boston Globe • The Economist • The Globe and Mail • BookPage • Kirkus Reviews

On a warm spring evening in South Los Angeles, a…


Book cover of Improbable Scholars: The Rebirth of a Great American School System and a Strategy for America's Schools

Aubrey Fox Author Of Gradual: The Case for Incremental Change in a Radical Age

From my list on how government works in practice – and when it doesn’t.

Why am I passionate about this?

My father advised me that to be a good writer, I should first learn a trade and particular subject matter from the inside out. As a working criminal justice practitioner for the last two decades, I’ve been lucky to work with some of the smartest people and best run organizations in the country. I’ve always been a big reader and someone who likes to link the sometimes brutally practical, day-to-day work of running an organization (I lead New York City’s main pretrial services agency) to larger philosophical issues. My life’s goal is to show how big ideas play themselves out in the day-to-day practice of public policy. 

Aubrey's book list on how government works in practice – and when it doesn’t

Aubrey Fox Why did Aubrey love this book?

We don’t have enough books that celebrate how thoughtful and patient reform strategies can pay big dividends over time.

Journalist and Public Policy Professor David Kirp embedded himself in the community of Union City, New Jersey and documented how the school district has worked to improve educational outcomes in decidedly non-flashy ways.

As Kirp writes, all too often education reform has a “flavor of the month” and faddish quality to it, trapped in seemingly endless cycles of unrealistic big bang-style reforms and inevitable disappointments.

Improbable Scholars provides a hopeful counternarrative, showing that large-scale change is possible beyond a single stand-out school or teacher.

By David L. Kirp,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The conventional wisdom, voiced by everyone from Bill Gates to Education Secretary Arne Duncan, is that public schools are so terrible that simply reforming them won't do the trick. Instead, they must be "transformed," blown up and then rebuilt, if they're going to offer students a good education. We relish stories about electrifying teachers like Jaime Escalante, who made math whizzes out of no-hoper teenagers in East LA, or inner city charter schools like the KIPP
academies. But success in the public schools of an entire city-a poor, crowded city, with more than its share of immigrant Latino youngsters, the…


Book cover of A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles

John Iceland Author Of Why We Disagree about Inequality: Social Justice vs. Social Order

From my list on explaining political polarization.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a Penn State professor of sociology and demography who is interested in social inequality, demography, and public opinion. My family moved frequently when I was growing up—I lived in Colombia, Greece, and Mexico. I attended Brown University and worked at the U.S. Census Bureau as an analyst and Branch Chief for several years before returning to academia. My interest in inequality dates back to living in different countries with different cultures, politics, and standards of living. While I have long been interested in the demographics of poverty and inequality, in more recent years I’ve become interested in political polarization and why people disagree about a variety of social issues.

John's book list on explaining political polarization

John Iceland Why did John love this book?

Liberals and conservatives strongly disagree on the appropriate scope of government. No book has helped me understand why more than Thomas Sowell’s Conflict of Visions.

He describes how the ideological difference results from disagreements about the malleability of human nature. The unconstrained vision, typically associated with liberals, sees human nature as altruistic and perfectible. The government should be used expansively to promote social justice and equality to realize this vision. 

In contrast, the constrained vision, typically associated with conservatives, sees human nature as limited, selfish, and imperfectible. The government should play a limited role in society, as elites cannot hope to restructure society without unintended destructive consequences.

By Thomas Sowell,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked A Conflict of Visions as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this classic work, Thomas Sowell analyzes the two competing visions that shape our debates about the nature of reason, justice, equality, and power: the constrained" vision, which sees human nature as unchanging and selfish, and the unconstrained" vision, in which human nature is malleable and perfectible. He describes how these two radically opposed views have manifested themselves in the political controversies of the past two centuries, including such contemporary issues as welfare reform, social justice, and crime. Updated to include sweeping political changes since its first publication in 1987, this revised edition of A Conflict of Visions offers a…


Book cover of Policymaking for Social Security

Aubrey Fox Author Of Gradual: The Case for Incremental Change in a Radical Age

From my list on how government works in practice – and when it doesn’t.

Why am I passionate about this?

My father advised me that to be a good writer, I should first learn a trade and particular subject matter from the inside out. As a working criminal justice practitioner for the last two decades, I’ve been lucky to work with some of the smartest people and best run organizations in the country. I’ve always been a big reader and someone who likes to link the sometimes brutally practical, day-to-day work of running an organization (I lead New York City’s main pretrial services agency) to larger philosophical issues. My life’s goal is to show how big ideas play themselves out in the day-to-day practice of public policy. 

Aubrey's book list on how government works in practice – and when it doesn’t

Aubrey Fox Why did Aubrey love this book?

In writing our book, my co-author Greg Berman and I relied heavily on Derthick’s classic 1979 account of the development of Social Security in its first 15 years.

Derthick shows that its intentionally incremental development became the key to its later success as the largest and most successful anti-poverty program ever developed.

Derthick shows how two unheralded government bureaucrats nurtured and protected the program in its early years, including against a very popular and more immediately radical alternative.

The book does a good job of showing that choices made by the architects of government programs in their early days help set their long-term trajectories – an understudied topic.

By Martha A. Derthick,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Policymaking for Social Security as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Comprehensively analyzes the American social security program, considering its history, politics, policies, and troubled future and advocating a realistic and less reverent approach to its modification.


Book cover of Cities and the Wealth of Nations: Principles of Economic Life

Charles L. Marohn Jr. Author Of Strong Towns: A Bottom-Up Revolution to Rebuild American Prosperity

From my list on thinking like a Strong Towns advocate.

Why am I passionate about this?

Everyone should be able to live a meaningful life in a place they love, where their day-to-day efforts participating in society result in the community becoming a more prosperous place over time, for themselves, and for those who come next. I founded Strong Towns to help people recognize that they have this opportunity, that they and their neighbors working together have the capacity to make things better, despite everything else going on. Cities are works in progress. It is not our job to finish ours, but we all have a role to play in making it stronger.

Charles' book list on thinking like a Strong Towns advocate

Charles L. Marohn Jr. Why did Charles love this book?

I was introduced to Jane Jacobs as required reading during graduate school. I’m convinced that most urban planners who claim to adore Jacobs have not actually read her, particularly Cities and the Wealth of Nations, which is my favorite. Its thoroughly brutal logic stands in contrast to nearly everything we still do to manage our cities. Jacobs is an insightful genius.

By Jane Jacobs,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In this eye-opening work of economic theory, Jane Jacobs argues that it is cities—not nations—that are the drivers of wealth. Challenging centuries of economic orthodoxy, in Cities and the Wealth of Nations the beloved author contends that healthy cities are constantly evolving to replace imported goods with locally-produced alternatives, spurring a cycle of vibrant economic growth. Intelligently argued and drawing on examples from around the world and across the ages, here Jacobs radically changes the way we view our cities—and our entire economy. 


Book cover of The Economy of Cities

Katrina Gulliver Author Of Modern Women in China and Japan: Gender, Feminism and Global Modernity Between the Wars

From my list on the history of cities.

Why am I passionate about this?

I became interested in cities through my research on culture in Asia. I came to appreciate how much cities generate culture - and are the exchange points for different ideas. I’ve hosted a podcast on urban history, edited a book (Cityscapes in History: Creating the Urban Experience), and written about urban space for various magazines and websites.

Katrina's book list on the history of cities

Katrina Gulliver Why did Katrina love this book?

This book discusses how the first cities formed, and how they operated. We assume they had to be centers of trade and production, but Jacobs really drills down into how that worked. In contrast to other scholars who argue cities emerged as agriculture grew, Jacobs suggests cities were the driving force behind agricultural development. Don’t be put off by the term “economy” if you’re not a numbers person, this isn’t a discussion of tables and percentages, but about the earliest cities would have created culture.

By Jane Jacobs,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In this book, Jane Jacobs, building on the work of her debut, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, investigates the delicate way cities balance the interplay between the domestic production of goods and the ever-changing tide of imports. Using case studies of developing cities in the ancient, pre-agricultural world, and contemporary cities on the decline, like the financially irresponsible New York City of the mid-sixties, Jacobs identifies the main drivers of urban prosperity and growth, often via counterintuitive and revelatory lessons.


Book cover of They Eat Our Sweat: Transport Labor, Corruption, and Everyday Survival in Urban Nigeria

Aili Mari Tripp Author Of Changing the Rules: The Politics of Liberalization and the Urban Informal Economy in Tanzania

From my list on the economy as if people mattered.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in Tanzania, where I discovered the importance of learning first-hand from ordinary people about their lives by accompanying my mother, who was an anthropologist, when she carried out participant observation among coastal people. Much later in my own research, I could see how essential it was to interact with people face-to-face and learn about their aspirations, joys, fears, daily struggles, and creative ways of coping with the challenges of an economy in free fall. I learned to look beyond the “economic data” to more fully appreciate the humanity of the people involved. All of these books I selected are by people who learned about the real urban economy in this way.

Aili's book list on the economy as if people mattered

Aili Mari Tripp Why did Aili love this book?

In this riveting account, Agbiboa dispels the myth that corruption is a culturally accepted norm in Nigeria.

He spent months behind the wheel as a minibus conductor in the informal settlements of Lagos, Nigeria, and experienced first-hand the stark realities of the corrupt interactions between drivers, police, and members of the transport workers union.

Nigerians reject, and simultaneously have little choice, but to participate in the petty corruption that arises from the systematic, violent, and exploitative relationship between the state and union on the one hand, and transport operators and passengers on the other.

Agbiboa shows that binary understandings of formality/informality, public/private, and legal/illegal derived from Western thought do not adequately capture the way that petty corruption is embedded in the state and is driven by elite corruption.

This resonated strongly with my research on the informal economy in Tanzania.

By Daniel E. Agbiboa,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked They Eat Our Sweat as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Accounts of corruption in Africa and the Global South are generally overly simplistic and macro-oriented, and commonly disconnect everyday (petty) corruption from political (grand) corruption. In contrast to this tendency, They Eat Our Sweat offers a fresh and engaging look at the corruption complex in Africa through a micro analysis of its informal transport sector, where collusion between state and nonstate actors is most rife. Focusing on Lagos, Nigeria's
commercial capital and Africa's largest city, Daniel Agbiboa investigates the workaday world of road transport operators as refracted through the extortion racket and violence of transport unions acting in complicity with…


Book cover of Urban Heritage, Development and Sustainability: International Frameworks, National and Local Governance

Matthias Ripp Author Of A Metamodel for Heritage-based Urban Development: Enabling Sustainable Growth Through Urban Cultural Heritage

From my list on understanding that cultural heritage can be part of the solution to climate change.

Why am I passionate about this?

I started my career in tourism but soon discovered my passion for urban heritage. Working as a site manager for a world heritage site, I gathered extensive insights on various levels of heritage management and urban governance from many colleagues around the world. Today there is no single project or meeting that does not address the challenges of climate change. Obtaining my Ph.D. late in life, in Heritage-Based Urban Development, I quickly became convinced that the traditional ideas of what cultural heritage is do not reflect the situation today and hinder giving cultural heritage a role in climate change prevention and adaption, beyond the narrative that it has to be preserved. 

Matthias' book list on understanding that cultural heritage can be part of the solution to climate change

Matthias Ripp Why did Matthias love this book?

The key contribution of this book was the systemic understanding of cultural heritage. The collected articles and case studies represent a holistic and integrated concept of cultural heritage. Seeing cultural heritage as a social and political construct, as the authors describe it, opened the door for two new approaches:

First, the integration of different types of heritage that are usually treated separately, e.g., intangible heritage, tangible heritage, etc. And, second, starting to focus on the social parts of cultural heritage, basically the role of people. In my personal view all heritage is only relevant if it is relevant to people, and this book helped me to shape this conviction.

I truly admire how the author connects the different government levels and doesn't shy away from the obvious complexity this brings forward. This big-picture approach is a refreshing alternative to many case-focused articles and books and naturally speaks to my…

By Sophia Labadi (editor), William Logan (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Urban Heritage, Development and Sustainability as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

More than half of the world's population now live in urban areas, and cities provide the setting for contemporary challenges such as population growth, mass tourism and unequal access to socio-economic opportunities. Urban Heritage, Development and Sustainability examines the impact of these issues on urban heritage, considering innovative approaches to managing developmental pressures and focusing on how taking an ethical, inclusive and holistic approach to urban planning and heritage conservation may create a stronger basis for the sustainable growth of cities in the future.

This volume is a timely analysis of current theories and practises in urban heritage, with particular…


Book cover of The High Cost of Free Parking

Anne Lutz Fernandez Author Of Carjacked: The Culture of the Automobile and Its Effect on Our Lives

From my list on understanding America’s car system.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been interested in car culture since my anthropologist sister and I first began collaborating on a research and writing project on the topic over fifteen years ago. At that time, I had just moved from a transit-rich city to a car-dependent suburb and she had just moved from a suburb to a walkable city, which got us talking about just how much this singular object—the car—shaped our everyday lives. Carjacked was published in 2010, and since then I’ve continued to read and write about transportation, although I also write a lot about education—another obsession for another list of recommended books.  

Anne's book list on understanding America’s car system

Anne Lutz Fernandez Why did Anne love this book?

Having grown up in a home where paying for parking was considered a sin, I was intrigued by the title of this book that’s not just for urban planners. Shoup reveals the common, misguided planning decisions that helped create not just a kind of entitlement culture around parking but a dysfunctional transportation system that we all pay for in too many ways, including economic underdevelopment and higher retail prices.  

By Donald Shoup,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The High Cost of Free Parking as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of the American Planning Association's most popular and influential books is finally in paperback, with a new preface from the author on how thinking about parking has changed since this book was first published. In this no-holds-barred treatise, Donald Shoup argues that free parking has contributed to auto dependence, rapid urban sprawl, extravagant energy use, and a host of other problems. Planners mandate free parking to alleviate congestion but end up distorting transportation choices, debasing urban design, damaging the economy, and degrading the environment. Ubiquitous free parking helps explain why our cities sprawl on a scale fit more for…


Book cover of The Image of the City

Matthew Carmona Author Of Public Places Urban Spaces: The Dimensions of Urban Design

From my list on urban design books that inspired me.

Why am I passionate about this?

Looking at the books I have chosen, one might say they are all rather long in the tooth. They are, yet they are also the books that inspired me to do what I do today which is to teach and research the subject of urban design. I am a Professor of Planning and Urban Design at The Bartlett, UCL and firmly believe that understanding a subject like my own begins from the foundations upwards. Each of these classic texts represents part of those foundations, foundations that my own work attempts to build upon. 

Matthew's book list on urban design books that inspired me

Matthew Carmona Why did Matthew love this book?

This third selection was published contemporaneously with the first two, but while the first two are really polemics, this book reports on empirical research. Perhaps because of that, it may seem a little dry, but the messages it has for us about the way we perceive cities are profound (albeit they have since been challenged). If you want to understand urban design then Kevin Lynch’s body of work is a must, and this is the best place to start.  

By Kevin Lynch,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The classic work on the evaluation of city form.

What does the city's form actually mean to the people who live there? What can the city planner do to make the city's image more vivid and memorable to the city dweller? To answer these questions, Mr. Lynch, supported by studies of Los Angeles, Boston, and Jersey City, formulates a new criterion—imageability—and shows its potential value as a guide for the building and rebuilding of cities. The wide scope of this study leads to an original and vital method for the evaluation of city form. The architect, the planner, and certainly…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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