Boston Mayor Wants to Inspire Citizen Planners With New Book List – Next City

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Boston Mayor Wants to Inspire Citizen Planners With New Book List

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Boston already got help from “time-traveling art curators” in developing the city’s first-ever cultural blueprint. Now Mayor Marty Walsh has released a suggested reading list to help residents engage in the rest of citywide planning process Imagine Boston 2030. In addition to the arts, the plan — the city’s first in 50 years — will consider the future of housing, climate action, transportation, open space, schools and seniors in Boston.

Walsh’s reading list, announced Wednesday, is equally comprehensive, including titles for both adults and children, titles that will be familiar to urbanists as well as Boston-specific histories and memoirs. Evicted by Matthew Desmond is on the list for adults, as is The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs and The Power Broker, Robert Caro’s biography of Robert Moses. There’s a book on walkability, one on resilience, and another on the dangers of an unequal society. When it comes to looking ahead to the impacts of climate change — Boston is threatened by rising sea levels — a Judith Rodin work is in the mix. Rodin is the president of the Rockefeller Foundation, whose 100 Resilient Cities initiative focuses on preparing communities for the aftermath of flooding, soaring temperatures and more.

For kids, Walsh recommends a coloring book of fantastic cities, an illustrated history of Boston’s first subway construction, and the ever-classic Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey. (See Next City’s own list of great books for the young urbanist set here.)

The full list of mayoral recs is below.

According to, the books were chosen for their relationship to different aspects of the planning process. All are available at the Boston Public Library, and Walsh has asked Bostonians to vote for three other titles to add to the suggested list.

“Through Imagine Boston 2030, we are engaging residents on the future of our city in ways that have never been done before,” Walsh said in a statement. “This reading list is another tool we’re using to drive engagement and ask people to think about to Boston’s first citywide planning undertaking in 50 years.”

Adult reading list
Evicted by Matthew Desmond
The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs
Chain of Change: Struggles for Black Community Development by Mel King
The Given Day by Dennis Lehane
Common Ground by J. Anthony Lukas
All Souls by Michael Patrick MacDonald
The Power Broker by Robert Caro
Karma and Other Stories by Rishi Reddi
The Resilience Dividend: Being Strong in a World Where Things Go Wrong by Judith Rodin
Villa Victoria: The Transformation of Social Capital in a Boston Barrio by Mario Luis Small
Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time by Jeff Speck
The Price of Inequality: How Today’s Divided Society Endangers Our Future by Joseph E. Stiglitz

Youth reading list
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing by M. T. Anderson
The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau
Pennies for Elephants by Lita Judge
What’s the Big Idea? Four Centuries of Innovation in Boston by Stephen Krensky
Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey
Fantastic Cities: A Coloring Book of Amazing Places Real and Imagine by Steve McDonald
Beneath the Streets of Boston by Joe McKendry
On the Loose in Boston (Find the Animals) by Sage Stossel

Jen Kinney is a freelance writer and documentary photographer. Her work has also appeared in Philadelphia Magazine, High Country News online, and the Anchorage Press. She is currently a student of radio production at the Salt Institute of Documentary Studies. See her work at

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Tags: urban planningbostonmayorscommunity-engaged design

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