Shareable's Top 6 New Books About Cities

A lot of attention is being given to cities these days, and for good reason. While nation states falter, cities are uniquely positioned to effect positive change on a broad scale. As one of the panelists at last week’s SHARE Conference pointed out, “The city is the middle actor. It’s not the top down and it’s not the bottom up.”

This transformative potential of cities is at the heart of Shareable’s Sharing Cities Network. It’s also the topic of numerous books. Here we’ve rounded up six of the best new books that tap into the growing body of work about cities. If you want more, check out our other recent book roundups (here, here and here) which feature titles about the commons, community, civic engagement and more.

1. Guide to Greening Cities, by Sadhu Aufochs Johnston, Steven S. Nicholas , Julia Parzen , Gloria Ohland (Island Press): If Hurricane Sandy taught us anything, it’s that our cities are ill-prepared to deal with natural disasters and that we need to reexamine our urban infrastructure. A growing number of city leaders and municipalities are getting proactive about this, focusing on resilience-building on a city-level. In The Guide to Greening Cities, the authors, who are “seasoned green city leaders,” present numerous case studies and strategies of those leading the way in creating city-greening programs, developing high-priority initiatives, creating partnerships, tracking progress, raising funds and engaging their communities.

2. Beyond Smart Cities: How Cities Network, Learn and Innovate, by Tim Campbell (Routledge): While the global economy is driven by individual cities, author Tim Campbell, chairman of the Urban Age Institute, argues in Beyond Smart Cities that in creating a global smart culture, it’s imperative that cities take the knowledge and networks found within their bounds and share them with other cities. This moving beyond smart cities will generate a broader understanding of “how cities construct, convert and manipulate relationships that grow in urban environments.” Among the cities used for case studies are Amman, Barcelona, Charlotte, Juarez, Portland and Turin.

3. The Enabling City, Volume 2: Enhancing Creative Community Resilience, by Chiara Camponeschi (Enabling City): Three years after The Enabling City: Place-Based Creative Problem Solving and the Power of the Everyday, Chiara Camponeschi is back with a second volume. The Enabling City: Enhancing Creative Community Resilience is a broad overview of the power of citizens to transform our cities with small actions around resiliency, poverty, community-building, governance, resource use and quality of life. At the core of the book is the notion that we are more than consumers—we are participants, makers, re-thinkers and co-designers of our cities, and that cities as commons are fertile ground for creative innovation.

4. Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design, by Charles Montgomery (Farrar, Straus and Giroux): Cities, with their density, resources and proximity, are frequently extolled as catch-all fixes to our environmental and resource crises. In Happy City, author Charles Montgomery explores a pressing question: As more people than ever are moving into cities, are we becoming happier? A journey through numerous case-studies of people who are building community into their cities one project at a time, Happy City is, at it’s essence, a reminder that community happiness is a necessary part of sustainability and that green, shareable, happy cities are absolutely possible.

5. The City as Interface: How New Media Are Changing the City, by Martijn de Waal (nai010 publishers): In The City as Interface, author Martijn de Waal, assistant professor at the University of Amsterdam, poses a question that many of us have probably pondered: is our digital connectedness bringing us closer together or moving us further apart. He then explores how the widespread integration of digital media into our urban environments affects us as individuals and a society and presents a scenario in which digital media may enable “a new definition of the urban public sphere.”

6. Cities Are Good for You: The Genius of the Metropolis, by Leo Hollis (Bloomsbury Press): In Cities Are Good for You, author Leo Hollis points out that we’ve already passed the threshold where more people live in cities than live outside of them and that by the year 2050, 70 percent of the global population will live in urban centers. This means that we need to rethink how we design, organize and connect cities. Exploring a range of topics from traffic flow, resiliency and poverty, to the future of work and civic engagement, Hollis presents anecdotes, studies, interviews, observations and more to make a case that well-planned cities, which are made by and for people, are imperative to societal happiness and well-being.

What did we miss? Is there a new book about transformational potential of cities that you'd add to this list? Please let us know in comments.


All books include affiliate links to Amazon. Resulting purchases support Shareable, a nonprofit. Many of these books are available at local, independent bookstores, a choice we recommend too. Top photo by Kham Tran (CC-BY-2.0). Follow @CatJohnson on Twitter


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