The Death and Life of Great American Cities

  • by Jane Jacobs, Jason Epstein (introduction)
  • Narrated by Donna Rawlins
  • 18 hrs and 5 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Thirty years after its publication, The Death and Life of Great American Cities was described by The New York Times as "perhaps the most influential single work in the history of town planning....[It] can also be seen in a much larger context. It is first of all a work of literature; the descriptions of street life as a kind of ballet and the bitingly satiric account of traditional planning theory can still be read for pleasure even by those who long ago absorbed and appropriated the book's arguments."
Jane Jacobs, an editor and writer on architecture in New York City in the early 60s, argued that urban diversity and vitality were being destroyed by powerful architects and city planners. Rigorous, sane, and delightfully epigrammatic, Jacobs's small masterpiece is a blueprint for the humanistic management of cities. It is sensible, knowledgeable, readable, indispensable.
The author has written a new foreword for this Modern Library edition.


What the Critics Say

"The most refreshing, provacative, stimulating and exciting study of this [great problem] which I have seen. It fairly crackles with bright honesty and common sense." (Harrison Salisbury, The New York Times)
"One of the most remarkable books ever written about the city... a primary work. The research apparatus is not pretentious - it is the eye and the heart - but it has given us a magnificent study of what gives life and spirit to the city." (William H. Whyte, author of The Organization Man)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Dated But Relevant

A must read for the history of urban life and how important it is to think of cities like a living organism, in need of understanding on a deeper level, and in need of sustenance from within and above. Also provides a road map of local political action in confronting governmental mistakes and powerful people. Gives great power to the working poor. Written in the early 1960s about a New York City urban life that no longer exists, it still rings true for older listeners who remember such a time.
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- deborah

Still good for thought

I attempted to read the dead tree version of this book and did not get far. I appreciate the narrator because it seemed a bit more accessible in an audible format. I will listen to it again but with a dead tree version close at hand because there are ideas that Jacobs mentions that I'd like to spend a bit more time thinking about before rolling on to the next thought.
I've read urban planning commentary that quotes or refers to this Jacobs book as if it were the Bible. Listening to it for myself, I wonder if this is the same author people bring up when they talk about historic preservation, because I got a completely different sense of what she was saying, which is why I need a paper version as well.
Another commenter mentioned the book is dated. Yes, it is, but is informative regarding big cities and the motivations of city administrators and politicians in regards to federal funds and the motivation to big build stupid projects that do nothing for the citizen on the ground. That is still going on, even though those same city administrators may claim a love for Jacob's ideas.
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- Marie "Professional librarian type, amateur historian."

Book Details

  • Release Date: 09-13-2011
  • Publisher: Random House Audio