Planning Books That Shaped America

Library of Congress Logo

Last week, the Library Of Congress unveiled a list of 88 “Books that Shaped America”.

There are many books that you would expect to be on such a list, like Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird or Thomas Paine’s Common Sense.

There are two books on the list that are always mentioned in urban planning circles: Jacob Riis’ How The Other Half Lives (1890) and Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962). Riis’ book about New York City tenement living led to much housing law reform, while Carson’s book is cited for helping to start the contemporary environmental movement.

One other book is on the list, Christopher Colles’ A Survey Of The Roads Of The United States Of America (1789), is not mentioned frequently among planners, but it had a tremendous impact on American planning. The LOC’s summary:

Irish-born engineer and surveyor Christopher Colles produced what is considered the first road map or guidebook of the United States. It uses a format familiar to modern travelers with each plate consisting of two to three strip maps arranged side by side, covering approximately 12 miles. Colles began this work in 1789 but ended the project in 1792 because few people purchased subscriptions. But he compiled an atlas covering approximately 1,000 miles from Albany, N.Y., to Williamsburg, Va.

Jacob Riis’ How The Other Half Lives can be downloaded for free at Google Books.

[image via goodlogo!com]

Will Independent Bookstores Return When Davis Borders Is Liquidated?

Borders - Davis, CA

In 1998, the City of Davis won its lawsuit to get a Borders built in its downtown, much to the chagrin of residents and many of the local independent bookstores.

For over a decade, Borders was the anchor of the Davis Commons Shopping Area. As of 18 July 2011, Borders failed its attempt to find a buyer, and will close each of its remaining 399 stores and fire almost 11,000 employees. All thanks to the miscalculation of expanding ahead of the digital era and a couple of recessions.

It’s a bittersweet ending for the Davis Borders. First, many city residents reviled the book store before it was even constructed. Second, almost all of the local independent bookstores closed after Borders’ opening. Third, not much complaint about those bookstores closing; more laments. If anything, it gave the city more room for additional restaurants and bars. (Lucky those drinking age students.)

But now, local leaders can squabble about how to fill that empty space, which frankly only another Big Box Retailer can fill (unless major renovation is done). The City received almost fifteen (hopefully good) years from Borders. Hopefully for local residents, additional independent bookstores can return to fill that void for book lovers with Borders’ absence.

Will anyone in Davis cry for the beloved downtown Borders? Probably not. And I wouldn’t bet on a Barnes & Noble, it too has financial problems.

[photo via DavisWiki]