The most recommended skyscrapers books

Who picked these books? Meet our 13 experts.

13 authors created a book list connected to skyscrapers, and here are their favorite skyscraper books.
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Book cover of Twin Towers: The Life of New York City's World Trade Center

Jason M. Barr Author Of Cities in the Sky: The Quest to Build the World's Tallest Skyscrapers

From my list on real estate titans built New York skyline.

Why am I passionate about this?

As an economics professor, I’ve spent the past twenty years researching why cities build upward. Though I mostly look at cities through the lens of statistics and data, every building has a personal and dramatic story that exists behind the numbers. And no matter where you go in the world, great cities with their towering skyscrapers all owe a debt to New York—every city wants its own version of the Empire State Building to signal its economic might. New York is the world’s metropolis. As the (now cliché) song line goes, “If I can make there, I’ll make it anywhere,” is a true today as a century ago.

Jason's book list on real estate titans built New York skyline

Jason M. Barr Why did Jason love this book?

From 2000 to 2001, I worked two blocks south of the Twin Towers. During my lunch breaks, I would grab take-out lunches and sit in the plaza of the World Trade Center, with the towers keeping me company. When completed, the Twin Towers generated immense controversy because they were “slum clearance” projects, and a government agency was erecting record-breaking buildings to compete with the private sector.

Gillespie’s book chronicles the creation of the Twin Towers and how the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, a port and transportation agency, suddenly found itself as a real estate titan. The book captures a moment in post-World War II New York that will likely never be replicated. It remains a key history in our post-9/11 world.

By Angus Kress Gillespie,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A readable account of both the history of the construction of the Twin Towers and the life of the people who work there.

The Twin Towers of the World Trade Center are more than office buildings. They are symbols of America, just as the Eiffel Tower and Big Ben represent their countries. Commissioned in 1962 and completed in 1976, these edifices are still the tallest man-made structures in New York City. Indeed, the builders intended the towers to make a statement about the importance of the Port of New York and New Jersey. The complex rises like Emerald City, with…


Book cover of Fly High, Fly Low

Jorey Hurley Author Of Nest

From my list on birds for little kids.

Why am I passionate about this?

While developing Nest, I lived in the Presidio National Park. A plum tree grew right outside the kitchen window and I had a year-round view of the robins living there. Those backyard birds were magical - from their flying and singing to their feathers and eggs. Spending hours watching them while cooking inspired me to share their world with my world. I have a degree in art history from Princeton and a law degree from Stanford. I worked as a textile designer in New York before going out on my own as an author and artist. Currently, I share a studio with my architect-husband and I draw every day.

Jorey's book list on birds for little kids

Jorey Hurley Why did Jorey love this book?

This book was a favorite from my own childhood and, more recently, I loved reading it to my own kids. The story has just the right amount of drama as the father bird searches high and low for his missing family. I also think it’s fun to see a story about birds with a predominantly urban setting (it is about pigeons living in San Francisco), though I may be biased because it’s set near where I live today. 

By Don Freeman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Fly High, Fly Low as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 3, 4, and 5.

What is this book about?

A Caldecott Honor book from the highly acclaimed author and illustrator of Corduroy!

Sid the pigeon is very choosy about finding just the right home in the magnificent city of san Francisco. And find it he does, in the loop of a huge b in an electric sign high up on a skyscraper. Sid's view of San Francisco is without equal. So Sid asks the lovely dove Midge to share his home. But one morning, while Midge is taking her turn sitting on two eggs, disaster strikes. A truck comes and workers take down the letters on the skyscraper one…


Book cover of Archidoodle: An Architect's Activity Book

Stephanie Travis Author Of Sketching for Architecture + Interior Design: A Practical Guide on Sketching for Architecture and Interior Design Students

From my list on introducing architecture and interior design to everyone.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a design-obsessed George Washington University (Washington, DC) professor, author, architect, interior designer, sketcher, modernist, city lover, traveler, and University of Michigan alumni who writes about topics on architecture and interior design for people of all ages and backgrounds. Everyone lives in the built environment, but not everyone understands it. For example, sketching is one of the best ways to understand a piece of furniture, interior, or building. You will never see the object the same way after you draw it! All of the books on this list are approachable, interesting, fun, and most importantly inspiring. Enjoy!

Stephanie's book list on introducing architecture and interior design to everyone

Stephanie Travis Why did Stephanie love this book?

This is a fun sketching book to let your imagination run wild. More than just a coloring book, there are visual prompts that allow the user to modify or redesign an iconic building, or create one from scratch. It provides the framework; you provide the artistry. For kids and adults of all ages, this book will provoke creativity and encourage the architect in everyone.

By Steve Bowkett,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This innovative book is the first to provide a fun, interactive way to learn about architecture. Filled with an array of beautiful and elegant drawings, it poses all manner of architectural challenges for the user: from designing your own skyscraper, to drawing an island house or creating a Constructivist monument, plus many others more.

Aimed at anyone who loves drawing buildings, it encourages the user to imagine their own creative solutions by sketching, drawing and painting in the pages of the book. In so doing, they will learn about a whole range of significant architectural issues, such as the importance…


Book cover of The Empire State Building

Jason M. Barr Author Of Cities in the Sky: The Quest to Build the World's Tallest Skyscrapers

From my list on real estate titans built New York skyline.

Why am I passionate about this?

As an economics professor, I’ve spent the past twenty years researching why cities build upward. Though I mostly look at cities through the lens of statistics and data, every building has a personal and dramatic story that exists behind the numbers. And no matter where you go in the world, great cities with their towering skyscrapers all owe a debt to New York—every city wants its own version of the Empire State Building to signal its economic might. New York is the world’s metropolis. As the (now cliché) song line goes, “If I can make there, I’ll make it anywhere,” is a true today as a century ago.

Jason's book list on real estate titans built New York skyline

Jason M. Barr Why did Jason love this book?

The Empire State Building is not only the world’s most iconic skyscraper but is also my personal favorite. No other building captures the spirit of New York in quite the same way. During the Roaring Twenties, it was built from a cocktail of profit and ego.

The developers engaged in a height competition against Walter Chrysler and his skyscraper. It is a better building because of the competition rather than despite it. Tauranac provides a fascinating account of how Al Smith, former governor of New York, and John Raskob, former General Motors executive, decided to enter the Manhattan real estate game in the hopes of making themselves the skyscraper kings of New York. In the process, they changed New York and world history.

By John Tauvanac,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Empire State Building is the landmark book on one of the world's most notable landmarks. Since its publication in 1995, John Tauranac's book, focused on the inception and construction of the building, has stood as the most comprehensive account of the structure. Moreover, it is far more than a work in architectural history; Tauranac tells a larger story of the politics of urban development in and through the interwar years. In a new epilogue to the Cornell edition, Tauranac highlights the continuing resonance and influence of the Empire State Building in the rapidly changing post-9/11 cityscape.


Book cover of A Girl Can Build Anything

Patricia Toht Author Of Dress Like a Girl

From my list on picture books to encourage young girls to dream big.

Why am I passionate about this?

In grade school, when Apollo 11 landed on the moon, I was immediately swept up in the craze for space and dreamt of being an astronaut. Until I was told by my teacher that girls weren’t allowed to be astronauts. I added that to a growing list of things I was told girls couldn’t do. Flash-forward to 2017, when a prominent man insisted that females should “dress like a woman” at work. Women from all walks of life–athletes, astronauts, emergency workers, and scientists posted photos of themselves in gear appropriate for their jobs, not the dress-and-heels implied. I was inspired by those photos and my childhood feelings of injustice.

Patricia's book list on picture books to encourage young girls to dream big

Patricia Toht Why did Patricia love this book?

Celebrate girls who love to tinker and build! It begins with an idea for something big or small. Materials found, tools gathered, and building begins! If a creation wobbles or collapses, “failure isn’t final,” the book reassures.

I am grateful that my parents recognized my early love of woodworking and bought me a tool kit at a young age. This is the perfect picture book to pair with a set of tools for small hands!

By Pat Zietlow Miller, e.E. Charlton-Trujillo, Keisha Morris (illustrator)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Girl Can Build Anything as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

A brilliant, inclusive ode to self-expression, girl power, and the many things readers can create.

Have you ever dreamed of building something? Maybe something little—like a birdhouse? Or something big—like a skyscraper? If you can envision it, you can build it! A Girl Can Build Anything is a playful celebration of all the different ways girls can make things—from tinkering to tool wielding, from ideas on paper to big, lived-out dreams that require brick and mortar. This fun and empowering ode to self expression will inspire readers to jump up and immediately start to build. Because they can. They can…


Book cover of Moscow Monumental: Soviet Skyscrapers and Urban Life in Stalin's Capital

Brandon M. Schechter Author Of The Stuff of Soldiers: A History of the Red Army in World War II Through Objects

From my list on books about Soviet stuff.

Why am I passionate about this?

Things have always been a window into the past for me, and from an early age I was fascinated by communism as a rejection of the world in which I was raised. Looking at how people from a very different society made and used stuff allows you to access aspects of their experience that are deeply human. As such my research has focused on how people interacted with things as a way to examine how politics, ideology, and major historical events play out on the ground – as a way of capturing individual human experience.

Brandon's book list on books about Soviet stuff

Brandon M. Schechter Why did Brandon love this book?

If you have spent any time in Moscow, you can’t help but notice the seven Stalinist vysotki (“tall buildings” – not to be confused with capitalist skyscrapers) that dot the landscape. I love how this book provides a full history and context of how these buildings embodied many aspects of Soviet ideology, with all of its contradictions.

Zubovich combines this with the stories of the people connected with them – those displaced to make way for their construction, Gulag inmates who were key to their construction, and the Soviet elites who lived in them. 

By Katherine Zubovich,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An in-depth history of the Stalinist skyscraper

In the early years of the Cold War, the skyline of Moscow was forever transformed by a citywide skyscraper building project. As the steel girders of the monumental towers went up, the centuries-old metropolis was reinvented to embody the greatness of Stalinist society. Moscow Monumental explores how the quintessential architectural works of the late Stalin era fundamentally reshaped daily life in the Soviet capital.

Drawing on a wealth of original archival research, Katherine Zubovich examines the decisions and actions of Soviet elites-from top leaders to master architects-and describes the experiences of ordinary Muscovites…


Book cover of Underground

Stephen Graham Author Of Vertical: The City from Satellites to Bunkers

From my list on the subterranean of cities.

Why am I passionate about this?

I've been obsessed with the material aspects of places - and the infrastructures that make them work - since I was a really young boy! (I remember, aged around 7, sitting on a bridge over the M6 motorway near Preston watching the traffic). This obsession was channeled into studying Geography, becoming a qualified urban planner, and completing a Ph.D. on how digital technologies effect urban life. A preoccupation with the subterranean realms of cities is also long-standing; it drove the 'Below' parts of my 2016 book Vertical: The City From Satellites to Bunkers. (I must admit I suffer from both claustropobia and vertigo! So, sadly, a lot of my work is necessarily desk-based!)

Stephen's book list on the subterranean of cities

Stephen Graham Why did Stephen love this book?

Because the ground itself obscures virtually all of the subterranean worlds of cities, the best way to actually represent and visualise them is through drawings and diagrams.

This book opened my eyes – as it has done for many – to the complexity, density, and depth of the foundations, pipes, tunnels, conduits, and infrastructures below cities.

In it, David Macaulay uses his unequalled drawing skills to illustrate everything from sewer valves; skyscraper foundations; the worlds beneath manholes to an amazing cross-section of New York showing shipping lanes, deep transport tunnels, and huge skyscrapers whose hidden, deep pile foundations can be almost as deep as their above-surface structures. 

By David Macaulay,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

David Macaulay takes us on a visual journey through a city's various support systems by exposing a typical section of the underground network and explaining how it works. We see a network of walls, columns, cables, pipes and tunnels required to satisfy the basic needs of a city's inhabitants.


Book cover of City Of The Dead

Lee Taylor Author Of BEDBUGS (Can you see them?)

From my list on horror that should be movies.

Why am I passionate about this?

My name is Lee Andrew Taylor. I write novels and screenplays, mostly in the horror genre, with a few signed by Producers since 2021. I write what I see. It’s worked for me so far, with many discussions with producers in the past few years. If I can see a movie when I read someone’s story then there’s a great chance other people will see the same thing. I am always creating new worlds inside my mind, new stories to write, and new paths to take.

Lee's book list on horror that should be movies

Lee Taylor Why did Lee love this book?

This book offers a different approach to a zombie-style story. Whatever the enemy is in this book, it’s got that zombie vibe to it. But they speak, shoot guns, and even drive. It was a very different but enjoyable read. The author has written many more novels but this was one of the first books I bought after taking up writing.

By Brian Keene,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The sequel to one of those most popular zombies of all time in a new, uncut, author's preferred edition!

In this sequel to THE RISING, cities are overrun with legions of the undead, intent on destroying what's left of the living. Trapped inside a fortified skyscraper, a handful of survivors prepare to make their last stand against an unstoppable, merciless enemy. With every hour their chances diminish and their numbers dwindle, while the ranks of the dead continue to rise. Because sooner or later, everything dies. And then it comes back, ready to kill.

Deadite Press is proud to present…


Book cover of Form Follows Finance: Skyscrapers and Skylines in New York and Chicago

Jason M. Barr Author Of Building the Skyline: The Birth and Growth of Manhattan's Skyscrapers

From my list on the New York City skyline.

Why am I passionate about this?

If you told me as a kid, growing up in the suburbs of Long Island, that I would someday spend nearly all my working hours reading and writing about skyscrapers and skylines, I would have thought you were nuts. But somehow, in my twenties, as I spent more time in New York City, I came to feel a deep connection with the metropolis. Its skyscrapers and skyline speak to its history as a city of strivers. I’ve been lucky that I’ve been able to merge my personal passions with my professional life as an economist. My recommended books are ones that excited me in my journey to understand better the city that I love.

Jason's book list on the New York City skyline

Jason M. Barr Why did Jason love this book?

A great account of the interaction between economics and architecture in the rise of the New York and Chicago skylines. Willis is the founder and director of the Skyscraper Museum in New York City. This book was one of the first that I read as I started to do research on the economics of skyscrapers. I was fascinated by Willis' account. Arguably, this book, more than any other, helped to define my 15 years of research on the topic.

By Carol Willis,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Although fundamental factors of program, technology, and economics make tall buildings everywhere take similar forms, skyscrapers in New York and Chicago developed very differently in the first half of the twentieth century. In contrast to standard histories that counterpose the design philosophies of the Chicago and New York "schools," Willis shows how market formulas produced characteristic forms in each city"vernaculars of capitalism"that resulted from local land-use patterns, municipal codes, and zoning. Refuting some common clichs of skyscraper history such as the equation of big buildings with big business and the idea of a "corporate skyline," Willis emphasizes the importance of…


Book cover of High Rise: How 1000 Men and Women Worked around the Clock for Five Years and Lost $200 Million Building a Skyscraper

Jason M. Barr Author Of Cities in the Sky: The Quest to Build the World's Tallest Skyscrapers

From my list on real estate titans built New York skyline.

Why am I passionate about this?

As an economics professor, I’ve spent the past twenty years researching why cities build upward. Though I mostly look at cities through the lens of statistics and data, every building has a personal and dramatic story that exists behind the numbers. And no matter where you go in the world, great cities with their towering skyscrapers all owe a debt to New York—every city wants its own version of the Empire State Building to signal its economic might. New York is the world’s metropolis. As the (now cliché) song line goes, “If I can make there, I’ll make it anywhere,” is a true today as a century ago.

Jason's book list on real estate titans built New York skyline

Jason M. Barr Why did Jason love this book?

I came of age in the 1980s. It was the time when I first discovered my love of New York. It was also a time when America was in the heady throws—partially fueled by cocaine—of an economic and real estate boom. More skyscrapers were erected in Gotham than in any other period, even more than during the Roaring Twenties. It was a time when every developer thought that if they bought a well-located lot, they could turn dirt into gold by building a skyscraper—a post-modernist one at that. 

Jerry Adler’s book follows the up and down fortunes of the young and ambitious New York developer Ian Bruce Eichner as he painstakingly assembled a large lot, raised financing, and erected a skyscraper on Broadway in Times Square. And then, just when he thought he had achieved his greatest glory, the real estate market tanked, and his crowning achievement became a ghost…

By Jerry Adler,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Chronicles the money, art, passion, and politics behind the design and construction of a skyscraper