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Southron

Recommended Reading

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I saw a similar thread elsewhere at UP and thought this would be a good one for us here at UP{sodEmoji.{sodEmoji.|}}Alabama. What books would you recommend that we all read?

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I'll start out on-topic with three books that had a profound effect on my layman's understanding of urbanism and the state of our built environment:

Duany, Andres, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, and Jeff Speck. Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream. New York: North Point Press, 2000.

Jacobs, Jane. The Death and Life of Great American Cities. New York: Random House, 1961.

Kunstler, James Howard. The Geography of Nowhere: The Rise and Decline of America's Man-made Landscape. New York: Touchstone, 1994.

Check 'em out if you haven't already. :thumbsup:

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I've read the first two books but I haven't read Kunstler's book. When I was a undergrad I had an email discussion with Kuntsler that turned into multi-paged incoherent ramblings on his part. To me he comes off as an alarmist, self-righteous, jackass.

I think many people spend too much time reading books on urbanism than actually going to the places and seeing good vs. bad for themselves.

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I would recommend all to read Alabama in the Twenieth Century by Auburn Univerity Political Science professor, Wayne Flynt. It gives you all the insite into why this state culture is so unique and screwed up in some many areas, and who is keeping this place from being true potential.

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It really doesn't talk about any county in specific, but it does discuss some of the issues Mobile faces.

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I've read the first two books but I haven't read Kunstler's book. When I was a undergrad I had an email discussion with Kuntsler that turned into multi-paged incoherent ramblings on his part. To me he comes off as an alarmist, self-righteous, jackass.

I think many people spend too much time reading books on urbanism than actually going to the places and seeing good vs. bad for themselves.

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For those interested in Mobile or the effects of urban renewal, the late Eugene Walter wrote a whimsical little pamphlet (only 23 pages) titled Jennie the Watercress Girl: A Fable for Mobilians and a Few Choice Others. The book was published by the legendary old Haunted Book Shop and is out of print, but copies can still be found in Mobile and possibly other bookstores around the state.

Walter left Mobile for several decades, returned from Europe in the 1970s, and was appalled by the ravages of urban renewal. Below are some quotes from one of the characters in the story.

"Change should be a graceful hybrid of old and new, not an illegitimate accident of present circumstance. I'm no reactionary, nor any periwigged throwback. It's just that I'm sensitive to the weights which really shift the balance of life; I know which side of the scale Change is touching and which side Tradition. The thing is, Change has been bearing down, and far as the eye can see -- my eye, that is -- everything has lit up and says TILT."

"Now a few dollarbrained souls have gotten so confused about the importance of Progress in its Sunday-paper-view-of-ships-unloading-at-the-State-Docks meaning, that lo, you have the spectacle of a town dismantled, a town pillaged by those who should be her lovers. Oh, such fantastic demolishments occur in the name of improvement."

"There are some people -- and I look askance at them -- who can't see that embodiments of beauty and character in a town are as important in a financial sense as the presence of a box factory. I suspect our people of haste, waste and a tendency to besoil their nest, and I suspect the People in Charge of being asses."

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Walter's description of downtown porch life in 1929 Mobile can be read here.

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