The most recommended books on gentrification

Who picked these books? Meet our 22 experts.

22 authors created a book list connected to gentrification, and here are their favorite gentrification books.
Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

What type of gentrification book?

Loading...
Loading...

Book cover of Learning in Public: Lessons for a Racially Divided America from My Daughter's School

Shannan Martin Author Of Start with Hello: (And Other Simple Ways to Live as Neighbors)

From my list on cultivating empathy and connection in a divided world.

Why am I passionate about this?

A dozen years ago, my family moved from a homogeneous community where everyone looked, lived, and believed as we did to a vibrant neighborhood filled with difference and complexity. This shifted something deep inside me and ultimately changed the way I see the world and myself within it. It set me on a path toward understanding how authentic, ordinary community holds the power to transform our world. To live as neighbors is to draw near to each other. I have written three books on this central theme and plan to spend the rest of my life reaching for empathy as our best tool in reclaiming the goodness of humanity.  

Shannan's book list on cultivating empathy and connection in a divided world

Shannan Martin Why did Shannan love this book?

I have fourteen sticky tabs marking memorable passages (I just double-checked), along with countless highlights and underlines.

With wit and unvarnished honesty, Martin tells her family’s story about educating her daughters at a racially integrated neighborhood public school. She confronts her mistakes along the way and does not present herself as the hero but rather illuminates how drawing near to difference has the power to make all of us healthier.

Part journalism, part personal narrative, I devoured this book. 

By Courtney Martin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From the time Courtney E. Martin strapped her daughter, Maya, to her chest for long walks, she was curious about Emerson Elementary, a public school down the street from her Oakland home. She learned that White families in their gentrifying neighborhood largely avoided the majority-Black, poorly-rated school. As she began asking why, a journey of a thousand moral miles began.

Learning in Public is the story, not just Courtney's journey, but a whole country's. Many of us are newly awakened to the continuing racial injustice all around us, but unsure of how to go beyond hashtags and yard signs to…


Book cover of Race, Class, and Politics in the Cappuccino City

Tanya Maria Golash-Boza Author Of Before Gentrification: The Creation of DC's Racial Wealth Gap

From my list on how DC became the most gentrified city in the country.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a White person who grew up in a primarily Black DC neighborhood in the 1980s. Growing up in a Black community in DC at a time when the city was experiencing a cascade of crises – from the spread of crack to an AIDS epidemic to a failing school system – has fundamentally shaped my life and my view of the world. When I returned in the early twenty-first century to my city to find it had significantly changed and that many of my Black neighbors had been pushed out, I was compelled to learn more about DC before gentrification and to understand the path the city I love had taken.

Tanya's book list on how DC became the most gentrified city in the country

Tanya Maria Golash-Boza Why did Tanya love this book?

This is a great book if you want to understand how some expressions of blackness can be valued while Black people are being displaced.

Derek Hyra describes gentrification and racial change in the Shaw neighborhood of Washington, DC which went from 90 percent Black in 1970 to 30 percent Black by 2010. Shaw’s status as the cultural epicenter of the Black community in the early twentieth century has become a selling point: many of the new establishments highlight this Black history, with odes to Marvin Gaye, Langston Hughes, and Duke Ellington in their names and featured artwork.

Hyra argues many of the White newcomers to Shaw embrace its Black history while ignoring the needs and preferences of contemporary Black residents. Thus, Black residents are experiencing both political and cultural displacement as they have lost political and economic power in the neighborhood.

By Derek S. Hyra,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Race, Class, and Politics in the Cappuccino City as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For long-time residents of Washington, D.C.'s Shaw/U Street, the neighborhood has become almost unrecognizable in recent years. Where the city's most infamous open-air drug market once stood, a farmers' market now sells grass-fed beef and homemade duck egg ravioli. On the corner where AM.PM carryout used to dish out soul food, a new establishment markets its $28 foie gras burger. Shaw is experiencing a dramatic transformation, from "ghetto" to "gilded ghetto," where white newcomers are rehabbing homes, developing dog parks, and paving the way for a third wave coffee shop on nearly every block.Race, Class, and Politics in the Cappuccino…


Book cover of A Haven and a Hell: The Ghetto in Black America

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.

Why am I passionate about this?

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 civil rights movement was a great triumph, but I’ve always suspected that we lost something along the way–or maybe this solution just created new problems.

Lance Freeman shows how the pre-civil rights ghetto, enforced by racist laws, was often a hothouse of Black culture, Black-controlled institutions, and Black power. The contemporary Black ghetto, largely abandoned by the middle class, is a place of concentrated poverty and despair.

We never want to go back to Jim Crow, but we need to address the concentrated poverty that is eviscerating many neighborhoods. Rejecting simplistic understandings of gentrification, Freeman shows that Black gentrification, under the right circumstances, could make Black spaces havens again. Freeman is not only smart, I think, but brave in challenging conventional wisdom. 

By Lance Freeman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Haven and a Hell as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The black ghetto is thought of as a place of urban decay and social disarray. Like the historical ghetto of Venice, it is perceived as a space of confinement, one imposed on black America by whites. It is the home of a marginalized underclass and a sign of the depth of American segregation. Yet while black urban neighborhoods have suffered from institutional racism and economic neglect, they have also been places of refuge and community.

In A Haven and a Hell, Lance Freeman examines how the ghetto shaped black America and how black America shaped the ghetto. Freeman traces the…


Book cover of The Night Always Comes

Ken Jaworowski Author Of Small Town Sins

From my list on everyday people in arduous circumstances.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a kid I found myself watching cop shows and wondering “These cops seem to be on duty all day and all night. Don’t they have families?” And when I’d read dramas in which characters took lavish vacations and bought expensive cars, I’d think “Doesn’t anyone worry about money?” While I certainly don’t believe that fiction should always strive toward perfect realism (I love fantasy and sci-fi stories!) I do think that adding everyday problems and concerns makes a character much more relatable and interesting. A detective chasing a serial killer is exciting. A detective suffering from an excruciating toothache while chasing a serial killer adds another layer of delicious tension.

Ken's book list on everyday people in arduous circumstances

Ken Jaworowski Why did Ken love this book?

It’s difficult to choose just one book by Willy Vlautin, because the guy is so good at telling the stories of ignored lives in overlooked places. But his most recent, The Night Always Comes, may be his best.

In it, a working-class woman goes on a dangerous odyssey to get money she desperately needs. Valutin is one of those authors I read and think of his characters: “Oh my gosh, I know people just like this.”

By Willy Vlautin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“Willy Vlautin is not known for happy endings, but there’s something here that defies the downward pull. In the end, Lynette is pure life force: fierce and canny and blazing through a city that no longer has space for her, and it’s all Portland’s loss.”—Portland Monthly Magazine

Award-winning author Willy Vlautin explores the impact of trickle-down greed and opportunism of gentrification on ordinary lives in this scorching novel that captures the plight of a young woman pushed to the edge as she fights to secure a stable future for herself and her family.

Barely thirty, Lynette is exhausted. Saddled with…


Book cover of Chocolate City: A History of Race and Democracy in the Nation's Capital

Tanya Maria Golash-Boza Author Of Before Gentrification: The Creation of DC's Racial Wealth Gap

From my list on how DC became the most gentrified city in the country.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a White person who grew up in a primarily Black DC neighborhood in the 1980s. Growing up in a Black community in DC at a time when the city was experiencing a cascade of crises – from the spread of crack to an AIDS epidemic to a failing school system – has fundamentally shaped my life and my view of the world. When I returned in the early twenty-first century to my city to find it had significantly changed and that many of my Black neighbors had been pushed out, I was compelled to learn more about DC before gentrification and to understand the path the city I love had taken.

Tanya's book list on how DC became the most gentrified city in the country

Tanya Maria Golash-Boza Why did Tanya love this book?

Chocolate City covers the last few centuries of history in DC.

This tome provides an in-depth overview of the history of race in Washington, DC from its founding to the present. It traces the history of race and democracy in the nation’s capital – from its days as a trading post for enslaved persons to its emergence as a booming metropolis.

By putting racial dynamics, tensions, and demographics at the center of the narrative, the authors develop a cohesive narrative that helps us to understand the multiple and consistent ways that Black DC residents have been disenfranchised and dispossessed. 

By Chris Myers Asch, George Derek Musgrove,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Monumental in scope and vividly detailed, Chocolate City tells the tumultuous, four-century story of race and democracy in our nation's capital. Emblematic of the ongoing tensions between America's expansive democratic promises and its enduring racial realities, Washington often has served as a national battleground for contentious issues, including slavery, segregation, civil rights, the drug war, and gentrification. But D.C. is more than just a seat of government, and authors Chris Myers Asch and George Derek Musgrove also highlight the city's rich history of local activism as Washingtonians of all races have struggled to make their voices heard in an undemocratic…


Book cover of Black in Place: The Spatial Aesthetics of Race in a Post-Chocolate City

Tanya Maria Golash-Boza Author Of Before Gentrification: The Creation of DC's Racial Wealth Gap

From my list on how DC became the most gentrified city in the country.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a White person who grew up in a primarily Black DC neighborhood in the 1980s. Growing up in a Black community in DC at a time when the city was experiencing a cascade of crises – from the spread of crack to an AIDS epidemic to a failing school system – has fundamentally shaped my life and my view of the world. When I returned in the early twenty-first century to my city to find it had significantly changed and that many of my Black neighbors had been pushed out, I was compelled to learn more about DC before gentrification and to understand the path the city I love had taken.

Tanya's book list on how DC became the most gentrified city in the country

Tanya Maria Golash-Boza Why did Tanya love this book?

Read this book if you want to understand the nuances of blackness in the nation’s capital.

Brandi Thompson Summers argues in her book, Black in Place, that gentrification along the H Street Corridor in DC has involved the embracing of blackness as an aesthetic alongside the displacement of actual Black people. Summers explains how blackness came to be valued as a prized aesthetic at the same time that Black people experienced the heavy policing, predatory lending, and displacement that both make possible and accompany the gentrification of Black neighborhoods.

By Brandi Thompson Summers,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

While Washington, D.C., is still often referred to as "Chocolate City," it has undergone significant demographic, political, and economic change in the last decade. In D.C., no place represents this shift better than the H Street corridor. In this book, Brandi Thompson Summers documents D.C.'s shift to a "post-chocolate" cosmopolitan metropolis by charting H Street's economic and racial developments. In doing so, she offers a theoretical framework for understanding how blackness is aestheticized and deployed to organize landscapes and raise capital. Summers focuses on the continuing significance of blackness in a place like the nation's capital, how blackness contributes to…


Book cover of Hello Beautiful

JJ Elliott Author Of There Are No Rules for This

From JJ's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Oenophile Tennis and Pickleball player Avid reader Mom to teens and bulldogs Cheese fan

JJ's 3 favorite reads in 2023

JJ Elliott Why did JJ love this book?

When I finished this book, I put it down and ugly cried for about 20 minutes. It is a beautiful portrait of love and loss within a family I came to love, warts and all.

The characters were so nuanced and realistic I felt their emotions right alongside them. Loosely (and deftly) based on Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, Hello Beautiful is a book that will live in my heart for a long, long time. 

By Ann Napolitano,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Hello Beautiful as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the New York Times bestselling author of Dear Edward comes a poignant and engrossing family story that asks: Can love make a broken person whole?

“Hello Beautiful is exactly that: beautiful, perceptive, wistful. It’s a story of family and friendship, of how the people we are bound to can also set us free. I loved it.”—Miranda Cowley Heller, author of The Paper Palace

William Waters grew up in a house silenced by tragedy, where his parents could hardly bear to look at him, much less love him—so when he meets the spirited and ambitious Julia Padavano in his freshman…


Book cover of Urban Fortunes: The Political Economy of Place

Beryl Satter Author Of Family Properties: Race, Real Estate, and the Exploitation of Black Urban America

From my list on urban history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I never read much urban history until I wrote one. For me, the problem was that most urban histories felt repetitive – they presented the same story over and over, just set in different locations. This was because most narrated the results of deeper, structural shifts (in spheres such as federal strategies of home finance, technological developments, demographic shifts, the rise or decline of manufacturing, political realignments, etc.) without sufficiently illuminating the causes. Regardless of whether they focus on Las Vegas or Philadelphia or Chicago or Dallas, each of these books – which I am presenting in order of publication date, not quality, as they are all excellent – will leave you smarter about the forces that shape our cities.  

Beryl's book list on urban history

Beryl Satter Why did Beryl love this book?

If you want to understand gentrification, read this book. The authors unpack the municipal power dynamics that fuel that process, but that is only part of what Logan and Molotch uncover in their brilliant sociological analysis of urban space. Their distinction between the use-value and the exchange value of real estate, their dissection of how city elites transform cities into “growth machines,” and their overall, devastating attack on the claim that “growth” is always good, make this book as relevant today as when it was first published in 1987.  

By John R. Logan, Harvey Molotch,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This sociological classic is updated with a new preface by the authors looking at developments in the study of urban planning during the twenty-year life of this influential work.


Book cover of I Hate the Internet

David David Katzman Author Of A Greater Monster

From my list on shattering the conventions of what a novel can be.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a writer, artist, and actor throughout my life, I’ve explored and enjoyed many artistic forms. While I appreciate books across many genres, I elevate to the highest level those works that manage to break conventional boundaries and create something original. In my own work, I have always challenged myself to create something unique with a medium that has never been done before. At the same time, I have sought to discover a process and resulting work that inspires readers’ own creativity and challenges them to expand their imagination. 

David's book list on shattering the conventions of what a novel can be

David David Katzman Why did David love this book?

I Hate the Internet is an uncompromising punch in the face that blends comedy with a didactic, experimental style. It names names and kicks ass. It’s vibrant and energizing. The majority of traditional literary fiction at its core finds its value in teaching empathy through believable characters. And while there’s nothing wrong with that, we still stand today with a world collapsing around us environmentally and politically. We need more books that just say fuck it, conservative forms have not saved us from global warming, political fascism, or dehumanizing capitalism so let’s try something different. At least here’s a unique attempt to rage against the machine. I call it a must-read.

By Jarett Kobek,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked I Hate the Internet as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In New York in the middle of the twentieth century, comic book companies figured out how to make millions from comics without paying their creators anything. In San Francisco at the start of the twenty-first century, tech companies figured out how to make millions from online abuse without paying its creators anything.

In the 1990s, Adeline drew a successful comic book series that ended up making her kind-of famous. In 2013, Adeline aired some unfashionable opinions that made their way onto the Internet. The reaction of the Internet, being a tool for making millions in advertising revenue from online abuse,…


Book cover of Olga Dies Dreaming

R. A. Sinn Author Of A Second Chance for Yesterday

From R. A.'s 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Historian Futurist Sibling Obsessive reader Speculative fiction fan

R. A.'s 3 favorite reads in 2023

R. A. Sinn Why did R. A. love this book?

I loved this book because it evoked the New York City I grew up in during the 1980s and 1990s. I was an outer-borough kid, raised in Queens, then Brooklyn.

Gonzalez does a brilliant job capturing the toll that a life dedicated to political radicalism can take on a person’s kids. The sister and brother at the heart of her story experience hurt and make mistakes, but they also have each other to rely on in the most critical ways. I enjoyed that theme.

By Xochitl Gonzalez,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK · WINNER OF THE BROOKLYN PUBLIC LIBRARY PRIZE • INTERNATIONAL LATINO BOOK AWARD FINALIST

A blazing talent debuts with the tale of a status-driven wedding planner grappling with her social ambitions, absent mother, and Puerto Rican roots—all in the wake of Hurricane Maria

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: Kirkus, Washington Post, TIME, NPR, Vogue, Esquire, Book Riot, Goodreads, EW, Reader's Digest, and more!

"Don’t underestimate this new novelist. She’s jump-starting the year with a smart romantic comedy that lures us in with laughter and keeps…