#NonficNov: Be/Ask/Become the Expert

November 16, 2020 Uncategorized 28

Welcome to week 3 of Nonfiction November! I hope you’re enjoying it as much as I have been. I have to admit that it hasn’t been the best reading month for me, but I’ve loved reading your posts more than ever. It’s been so lovely hearing what you’ve all been reading this year. This week we’ll be moving on to another well loved prompt, with the opportunity for you to share or find books on a topic you’re excited about. Visit Rennie at What’s Nonfiction this week to share your responses to the following prompt:

Be/Ask/Become the Expert: Three ways to join in this week! You can either share 3 or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert).

Be The Expert – Urban Planning

I’ve not done a Be The Expert post for this topic for quite some time, so I’m excited to share a bit about all the reading I did on urban planning earlier this year. I read a wide variety of books, both older and newer, that came at this topic from many different angles. It’s a subject that interests me because it involves a question that has always interested me – what makes people happy? – with questions I’ve become interested in more recently, about what community should look like and how government should function. For that reason, even if you think urban planning sounds a bit dull, I suggest checking some of these books out if you’ve previously enjoyed books about how to be happy personally. It might surprise you!

I first looked at three books about what makes a good city. Of these, I’d mostly highly recommend Happy City, which was an easy, engaging read and included some research that could be helpful for individuals deciding where to live.



Then I read three books about hopeful futures for cities. I think the book from this group most likely to appeal to others is A History of Future Cities. As an American who didn’t learn much about other countries in school and who has done a poor job educating myself since, I loved learning what cosmopolitan cities have looked like throughout history and around the world.


Last but not least, I read two incredible, but very dense academic books about problems with cities. Both books were great looks at issues like racism and gentrification, but I’d definitely only recommend them to someone truly into this topic, because they were such challenging reads.


Have you read any books on urban planning that you’d recommend? Do you think you might be interested in picking up any of these?

28 Responses to “#NonficNov: Be/Ask/Become the Expert”

  1. Andrew Blackman

    Thanks for the roundup—I enjoyed reading your other posts. I like the idea of digging into a subject like this in detail. It’s something I keep meaning to do but never seem to get around to—there are always new books and different subjects to explore. Oh, and one other thing I’ve been meaning to do for years is read Jane Jacobs, so thanks for the nudge!
    Andrew Blackman recently posted…The History of Serbia by Cedomir Antic: ReviewMy Profile

    • DoingDewey

      For some reason, it’s really hard to find the time for a project like this! I’ve been trying to dig more deeply into individual topics for over a year and this has been my most successful attempt, although I’ve read two or three smaller book groupings on single topics. I did enjoy the Jane Jacobs a lot, so I definitely recommend it 🙂

    • DoingDewey

      It really is fascinating! I like that it’s something that actually impacts my daily life and that I could even potentially impact through local politics 🙂

  2. Jen at Introverted Reader

    Interesting topic! One of the good things I’ve found in 2020 is that so much of our life has moved outside. I like outdoor dining in the summer. I love when cities block off streets and pedestrians are able to meander freely. After taking a couple of vacations in Europe, I keep wishing that more American cities would incorporate that sort of piazza lifestyle. I don’t even know if that really has anything to do with urban planning but it’s what came to mind!
    Jen at Introverted Reader recently posted…Characters I Would Name a Pet AfterMy Profile

    • DoingDewey

      I think the way we’re currently using our outdoor spaces is a great example of urban planning and I’ve enjoyed the changes too! While I’ve still avoided sitting down at restaurants, I’ve enjoyed their being more streets blocked off and downtown areas feeling more lively with the changes that have been made.

    • DoingDewey

      Ha, yeah, I’m in the Bay Area, so part of the reason I got interested in this topic is that I think urban planning has gone wrong here. There’s an unforgivable amount of resistance to creating denser housing, for example, which could reduce housing costs, gentrification, segregation, etc. Hopefully it will improve in the future!

  3. Eva @ The Paperback Princess

    I wouldn’t say I’ve read deeply about this but I’ve touched on it. How to Kill A City comes to mind. As does Evicted by Matthew Desmond (even though that’s less about the physical city space and more about the policies that trap people in poverty).

    • DoingDewey

      Yes! I saw How To Kill a City in your post and was very excited about. It’s definitely another book that’s at least urban planning adjacent that I’d love to get to. And I did read Evicted and thought it was very good. Thanks for the recommendations 😀

  4. Lex @ Lexlingua

    Urban Planning? This is an intriguing theme. I know people have made careers out of urban planning, but I always thought it was only about “designing” street networks and residential vs. commercial areas. Your post makes me realize that urban planning spans philosophical questions too. Learnt something new today. Happy NFN!
    Lex @ Lexlingua recently posted…#NonFicNov Week 3: Books on the Good LifeMy Profile

    • DoingDewey

      Reading these books, I definitely found that there are many interesting questions to decide in terms of how we live, including things we take for granted but should possibly revisit. Street designing and zoning were a big part of the story too though 🙂

  5. Rennie

    This is such a fascinating topic. I’m not sure it’s something I could read deeply on but I admire your exploration into it!

    • DoingDewey

      I’m sure it’s not for everyone! Some of the books I read were quite approachable and might appeal to anyone who reads narrative nonfiction (A History of Future Cities, especially), but others felt more niche or even academic.

  6. booker talk

    I’m delving deep into the recesses of my brain but haven’t found anything there to indicate I’ve read books on this topic. The nearest I can offer is one chapter about the growth of cities like London back in the 15th century that appeared in a book called Time Travellers Guide to Medieaval England!

    • DoingDewey

      I suspect I’d really enjoy that! I read The Time Traveller’s Guide to Elizabethan England by the same author and thought it was fascinating, so I should really try to get to his other, similar books.

  7. stargazer

    This is such an interesting topic which affect all of us. Well, those of us living in cities, anyway. I have seen some examples of what constitutes bad urban planning, but it would certainly be interesting to read some expert opinions on the topic.
    stargazer recently posted…The Cosy Autumn Book TagMy Profile

    • DoingDewey

      It’s true! A large part of why I got interested in this book is because of the impact it has in my daily life. I suspect that unless someone lives somewhere pretty rural and doesn’t even go into a city to do shopping, etc, most people are probably impact by some decisions that would be considered urban planning. I’d be curious to read more about how decisions about street planning and so on are made in more rural areas, because that definitely wasn’t the focus of any of the books I picked up.

  8. Harry @ Unsolicited Feedback

    You might want to check out the works of Jane Jacobs. Her books, The Death and Life of American Cities and Cities and the Wealth of Nations, are classics in the field.

    • DoingDewey

      The Death and Life of American Cities is one I picked up early on and I did really enjoy it. It’s definitely a classic for a reason! While I typically prefer more evidence-based books, I found the conclusions she drew from her personal observations compelling. I’d love to check out some of her other books as well 🙂

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.