reading

Some of the books I've recently enjoyed reading or re-reading

The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better
by Richard Wilkinson & Kate Pickett
Hard on the heels of the credit crunch it's time to talk seriously about equality and this book does it. Using vast amounts of powerful data, the authors demonstrate that equlity is not just better for the poor but just about everybody. My MUST READ book of 2009.

Trust: How We Lost it and How to Get it Back
by Anthony Seldon
A searing indictment of how over the last decade we have all come to trust each other less and how we have allowed the profit motive, legal contract and the security industry to take over the space where human interaction, compassion and politics used to be.

Cosmopolis II: Mongrel Cities of the 21st Century
by Leonie Sandercock
The first book that coherently brought new thinking about diversity and migration into the insular professional fields of the city planner and architect.

The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies
Scott E. Page
I don't read many books by mathematicians, and Page is certainly a geek's geek, but this book brings a new perspective to the table. Basically it's the most persuasive case I've seen up to now that heterogeneity out-performs homegeneity.

The Death and Life of Great American Cities
by Jane Jacobs
This book is nearly as old as me but it just seems to get more and more relevant as years go by. Jacobs makes the case for why we need diversity of every kind in our cities to make them thrive. I am still staggered and alarmed whenever I meet a town planner who hasn't read this book.

The Creative City: a toolkit for urban innovators
by Charles Landry
Sadly, when most people talk about the 'creative city' they are talking about a glitzy, elitist, shallow and vacuous idea of the city. Landry's concept is much deeper and wide-ranging and is only now - 10 years after publication - coming to be fully understood. I was very glad to play a small part in helping bring this important book to fruition.

The Art of City Making 
by Charles Landry
Landry's more recent book in which he luxuriates in the city as a living work of art. He asks us to reconceive the city through using all of of our senses and to think of the places in which we live not as machines but as organism who's well-being must be carefully nurtured.

The Big Sort: why the clustering of like-minded America is tearing us apart
by Bill Bishop
A stern warning of what happens when the science of marketing and the politics of choice go on the rampage. People sort themselves into enclaves with others like themselves. Then they start to distrust those who are not like them and - before you know it - you are on the way to a segregated society. Technology is speeding the process up alarmingly.

End of Millennium
by Manuel Castells
One of a triliogy of great books produced by Castells in the mid-90s but still very much alive today. whilst everyone else at that time was frothing at the mouth in excitement about the knowledge economy and the 'end of history', Castells was already looking at things that have made the last decade so disconcerting: identity, fundamentalism, global crime, the rise of China etc. One of the greats.

Rethinking Multiculturalism: cultural diversity and political theory
by Bhikhu Parekh
One of our foremost thinkers on the subject. He reaches well beyond the short-term headline grabbing noise that usually dominates discussion. If implemented his earlier report on the Future of Multi-ethnic Britain could have seen the UK move to become the first authentically intercultural society. Sadly and disgracefully it was sabotaged by the Blair government.

The Triumph of the Political Class
by Peter Oborne
Normally this guy is writing rabble-rousing diatribes in the Daily Mail that have the value of tomorrow's chip paper. This book shows he has a more profound side to him. He forensically builds the case to demonstrate that Britain (and by extansion many other places too) has surrendered its democratic institutions and traditions to a self-serving and increasingly dynastic oligarchy of political professionals.

Loose Space: possibility and Diversity in Urban Life
by Karen Franck & Quentin Stevens
As our cities fall increasingly under regimes of control, surveilance and commerce, this book is a celebration of freedom and surprise. It inspires us to seek out those spaces around us that haven't been coralled, to resist further homegenisation and create and legitimise new ways of living in the city.

The Atlas of the Real World: mapping the way we live
by Danny Dorling, Mark Newman & Anna Barford
Generally geographers don't strike you as the the most radical of people, but this one is. Danny Dorling has for many years been representing obtuse statistics to produce gob-smacking maps of the iniquities and absurdities of British society. Now he has done it for the world.

Community: Structure of Belonging
by Peter Block
You would think it wouod be hard to come up with anything new to say in a book called Community, but Peter Block does it with knobs on. He makes the case for a restorative approach to counteract the retributive attitudes that currently dictate the running of our towns and neighbourhoods. he proposes new questions leading to a new conversation from which may spring a new citizenship.

Eden
by Tim Smit
Of all the hundreds of regeneration projects in the UK over the last 2 decades Eden might just be my favourite. the conversion of a vast redundant clay pit into a magical kingdom of glass biomes of resplendent nature. Tim Smit is the guy who sweated blood to make it happen and this is how it happened. he's not the world's greatest writer but he doesn't have to be. it's the story that matters.

The Rest is Noise: listening to the Twentieth Century
by Alex Ross
The history of the twentieth century through its music from Rite of Spring to the Velvet Underground. A wonderful antidote to the increasingly anodine and pre-packaged times.

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