CNU's Summer Reads

Although the past week has brought some cool August nights our way in Chicago, summer is still in full swing here at CNU HQ. Between our work capping off a successful CNU 19, leading the way for federal housing finance reform, launching the CNU-A Continuing Education Providers Program, partnering with CNU-Illinois for a run down the Bloomingdale Trail, and much more, we've been keeping our summer reading lists up-to-date with an eye on some of the latest NU-related titles.


Smart Growth: From Sprawl to Sustainability - Jon Reeds

Reeds's account of the failings of UK sprawl- and what needs to be done to remedy it- could just as easily be plucked from the American landscape. In Smart Growth, the London-based journalist details the sprawling tendencies that UK policy has encouraged over the past 60 years and that have often mimicked its counterpart across the pond. (See the chapter 'The Death and Life of Great British Cities.') Yet, Reeds argues that the solution for sprawl is also found in the United States -- specifically the movement set forth by Smart Growth principles and leaders.

Garden Cities: The Theory and Practice of Agrarian Urbanism - Andres Duany

A hands-on chapbook of sorts (94 pgs in total) that cuts straight to the heart of Duany's call for Agrarian Urbanism, a movement that weaves agriculture directly into the fabric of urbanist development. Duany succinctly and concretely explains the distinction between "agricultural urbanism" and "agrarian urbanism" and posits forth the tools to design and implement such principles. For a fuller account, read the recent review from New Urban News.

   Cities as Crucibles: Reflections on Canada's Urban Future - Francois Laponte

Longtime CNU member Francois Lapointe presents an intuitively designed and formatted blueprint for the revitalization of Canada's cities. Lapointe sets up the foundation for his action plan by reviewing the history of Canadian urban development, then arguing that Canadian cities must position themselves as paragons of sustainable settlement primed for global competition, efficiency and vibrancy. Luckily, his book outlines the steps on exactly how to accomplish such goals.

    The Plazas of New Mexico- Chris Wilson and Stefanos Polyzoides

Although this book has yet to be released, anticipation has been building since Steafnos Polyzoides's first writings and drawings appeared on the subject almost ten years ago. The book promises to be an invaluable illustration of visuals, essays, theories and thought behind good urban form in often overlooked places.

In addition to the New Urban standbys above, the CNU staff has been engaging in some extracurricular reading as well. Administration and Finance Director Abby Bouzan-Kaloustian has kept busy with a lengthy list of books. Among her many reads this summer have been the intriguingly-titled The Secret Life of Lobsters, Abraham Verghese's Cutting for Stone and  My Own Country: A Doctor's Story, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, high-minded-low-brower Chuck Kolsterman's Sex, Drugs, and Coco Puffs, Yann Martel's Life of Pi, and An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963.

CNU Project Director Nora Beck is currently digging into Brunelleschi's Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture, while CNU Development Director Jeannette Mihalek has been studying the art of Spousonomics, a book Mihalek says is, "not for everyone, especially lovers of serious economic theory. Yet, Spousomonomics proved to be an enjoyable refresher of Econ 101 and provided solid relationship advice through a much more rational lens than most books offering up suggestions on how to have a better, less stressful marriage." Should we send a copy to Congress?

Heather Smith, CNU's Program Director, has been relaxing with Erik Larson's lauded In the Garden of Beasts, Phillipa Gregory's historical novel of pre-Tudor royal struggles The White Queen, Chicago-centric The Lazarus Project, Unsinkable, and is also catching up on The Sprawl Repair Manual.  This very blogger's been spending summer traveling inside the mind of Luigi Barzini and his 1960s-era travelogue/psychoanalysis of his own people, The Italians. Barzini was followed up by some magic-realism courtesy of Gabriel Garcia-Marquez, and New York Times columnist Dan Barry's Bottom of the 33rd: Hope, Redemption and Baseball's Longest Game, a wonderful, if at-times purple prose-y account of the longest baseball professional baseball game ever played, between the minor-league Pawtucket Red Sox and the Rochester Red Wings. (The story of the game is intertwined with the history of Pawtucket, Mass and the redemptive timelessness of America's pastime.) Time at the lakefront has also been spent with Triumph of the City, and most recently, acting on the recommendation of CNU President & CEO John Norquist,  The Financial Lives of the Poets, a hysterical novel of the times that Jonathon Frazen wishes he had the incisive sense of humor to write.

What titles, New Urbanist-related or otherwise, have you been reading this summer? Let us know!



Those look like interesting reads! I've been keeping busy with quite a bit of reading as well, including The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz (which was a fantastic read -- I recommend it to everyone), Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, Choke and Diary by Chuck Palahniuk, Freakonomics by University of Chicago economist Steven Levitt, In the Time of Butterflies by Julia Alvarez, and Glass, Irony and God by renowned poet Anne Carson. 


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