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September 6 is National read a Book Day! We don’t know who created this national day and how it was created, but we are more than happy to celebrate it by recommending a few readings. We have asked around our office for everyone’s favorite books and came up with a list. Keep in mind, this list reflects the professional experience of our colleagues, transportation and planning geeks, public health, sustainability, and active transportation.  Without further ado, here is our list of books and some thoughts:  

Human Transit by Jarrett Walker 

Recommended by: Justine 

Why I love it: This book is clearly and beautifully written and would be great for both beginners and experienced transit enthusiasts 

A Quick Review: Walker breaks down the most important messages about the value of transit, how we experience it, and its impact on us and the way we think about society in clear, simple language. This is a wonderful book for transit enthusiasts, aspiring transportation planners, anyone who wants an insight on how we should be approaching transit. The book introduces the “Plumbers’ Question” which not only perfectly describes the role of planners but also provides a great example of the kinds of trade-offs that need to be considered when evaluating transportation solutions. 

The Finnish Way by Katja Pantzar 

Recommended by: Justine 

Why I love it: It focuses on the Finnish approach to health, physical activity, and resilience. 

A Quick Review: I was drawn to this book for its focus on physical activity and exposure to nature as key elements of overall wellness and health. After running the rat race and living in mega-cities all her life, Pantzar moves to Finland for a fresh start and finally gets a chance to explore all the small ways the Finnish people commit to being “in the elements” despite all odds and how they ground themselves in health, simplicity, and nature. She explores sisu, the stoic determination and tenacity that describes the Finns national character, and how to apply it in different aspects of living and thinking. For those of us who can’t drop everything and move to a Scandinavian paradise, this book provides insight on how making small lifestyle changes can significantly improve your overall wellbeing. It features a lot of green, healthy, sustainable habits like cycling, hiking, and spending time in nature and how to incorporate them in regular life. 

Street Fight by Jeanette Sadik-Khan  

Recommended by:  Julia  

Why I love it: The author can get you very excited about safe pedestrian zones  

A Quick Review: 

The woman behind the New York’s Street transformations, Sadik-Khan talks about what it takes to transform streets into safe spaces for bicyclists and pedestrians, into open streets where people want to spend time outside, reading a book, sipping on a coffee, or taking a break from shopping. It turns out the transformations she introduced were not only great for people using these spaces, but also for the businesses in the area, who saw an increase in sales and profits.  So, next time you are in Times Square, check out the pedestrian zones. Learn more here  

Tactical Urbanism, Short-term Action for Long-term Change by Mike Lydon, Anthony Garcia 

Recommended by: Julia  

Why I love it: Love the ideas behind the movement and the accessible spaces, whether enjoying a cup of coffee in a parklet, open streets for families, or streatearies.    

A Quick Review: 

It started among other things, with Lydon’s bicycle commute and how to make it better. Lydon went on to start the Tactical Urbanism movement with Garcia and they say their goal is to “combine planning and design consulting with (…) research-advocacy projects.” The book goes through the history of the movement, case studies, a Toolkit for those who are inspired to get into action and transform communities, and more. An additional resource to go with this book, is the Tactical Urbanist’s Guide to getting it done  

Mismatch by Kat Holmes 

Recommended by: Cheryl 

Why I love it: It’s a thoughtful discussion showing how inclusive design can remedy design mismatches that lead to exclusion. 

A Quick Review: A gaming system controller that takes two hands to operate, a transit system that doesn’t service a neighborhood, a touch screen that only works if you have 20/20 vision can all exclude people. Kat Holmes shows how inclusion can be a source of innovation, a catalyst for creativity and a boost for business by expanding the customer base.  But that most importantly it allows more people to not be excluded from participating in all aspects of society.  As Holmes points out in her book, “Exclusion, and the social rejection that often accompanies it, are universal human experiences. We all know how it feels when we don’t fit in.”  The book includes many interesting examples and includes Exclusion Habits and How to Shift Towards Inclusion in each section.  

Walkable City by Jeff Speck 

Recommended by: Lisa  

Why I love it: The Ten Steps to Walkability: Put cars in their place, Mix the uses, Get the parking right, Let transit work, Protect the pedestrian, Welcome bikes, Shape the spaces, Plant trees,   Make friendly and unique faces, and Pick your winners!   

A Quick Review:   

Speck devotes a chapter to each of the Ten Steps above, with an anecdotal style, combined with snippets of history, to describe the factors that brought our society to the car-culture we have today. Speck uses a common-sense approach to planning, transportation and suburban development, and his recommendations are realistic. And if you want to read further, Speck lists the works he cited, and provides not only a general index, but a geographical index too!  

p.s. Jeff Speck is scheduled to speak in Princeton on September 28th 


Let us know what you think and whether you have any recommendations to add to the list. Comment on our Facebook page or on Twitter 

Happy National Read a Book Day!  

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