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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.

©2011 Jane Jacobs (P)2011 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"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)

What listeners say about The Death and Life of Great American Cities

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Fantastic text, dull on audio

This text is foundational on the subject and I can't speak negatively about it, but it is difficult to listen to for the duration simply because it's so academic.

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Robotic voice narration

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

A different narrator

What did you like best about this story?

The actual story

Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Donna Rawlins?

Someone less robotic (I think this narrator must be the person they hire for voice programming making her voice associated with Siri-esque narration)

What character would you cut from The Death and Life of Great American Cities?

N/A

5 people found this helpful

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An important book for architects!

Would you consider the audio edition of The Death and Life of Great American Cities to be better than the print version?

A thoroughly written book with deep insight into city planning, development, mixed use, the importance of diversity and urbanism in general. Jane Jacobs will stand out as a pillar and a strong reminder of what's still going on today, only that the scale of things have now, gone totally out of whack. The dynamics of people and economical forces (high or low) will be the same as long as the industrial world operate with the same systems as today. The reader for this audiobook could have been a little more vivid in expression and melody, but the diction is flawless.

"a must hear"

5 people found this helpful

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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.

8 people found this helpful

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Jane Jacobs Never Disappoints

This was my fifth reading of "Death and Life," and I continue to be amazed by the quality of Jane Jacobs's writing, research, and relevancy. Jane is simply brilliant! Donna Rawlins's narration is admirable and enjoyable to listen to. However, there are several mispronounced words that are quite surprising and rather disappointing, especially for a work of such importance. For example, the correct reading is "land uses"—comprised of two words—not "landuses" with an emphasis on the "d." There are no “deuces” in this book. Also, why does Ms. Rawlins pronounce the word “renaissance” with an emphasis on a long vowel "a"? As far as I know, no English speaking nation or region pronounces the word in this manner. These simple errors are beneath the author, the narrator, and the producer, and I highly encourage the publisher to correct these errors in a future edition (and soon).

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Vital Book

A must-to-read book for any architect or urban planner. Theory is deep and language's a bit hard. Need to read it many time. It worths it.

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New light for understanding cities!

I learned about this book in "Scale" by Geoffrey West. Jane Jacob's classic lived up to West's high regard for her systems thinking about cities. Her book changed the way I look at a city.. Although it discusses situations from 70 years ago, the perspectives seem fresh and relevant now. If you're on a path to learn how cities function, this book adds fresh rays of light for understanding what is actually going on.

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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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A Great Classic on Cities and Planning

Everyone with even a passing interests in cities and how they function should check out this classic text by Jane Jacobs.

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Amazing! Insightful and interesting.

The first few chapters on the phenomenon of cities and the final chapter are brilliant. Her policy prescriptions in the second half of the book are slightly dated given this book was written more than half a century ago. Jane's detailed description of this organized, complex adaptive system are beautiful.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Jodie
  • 05-23-22

Conflicted

I respect this text for the fresh perspective that it was at the time. The excellent points this book makes about people being the special ingredient to baking good communities is so simple but is still even today so often missed by policy makers. Building communities around its people is critical to connecting people but…. I do have a few criticisms.

Jane was clearly very angry at the local leadership and the capitalists who were looking to pull down her community. I love that she came out fighting, inspirational! However, in doing so her argument dismisses good arguments made by the disciples of garden cities and fails to address housing shortage as an issue. The cities building plans are driven by need, need for new roads, homes etc and Jane offers no solution. Protect the existing communities by all means, build strong communities-yes but it’s not enough to say I have my little piece of geography and tough for everyone else. Local government has the challenging role of providing for all and sadly that sometimes comes at a cost. As a consultant, policy maker who often works for local government I have taken a housing application from the back Of someone’s car where they live with their children, Ive dealt with community safety and I’ve led large scale regeneration programmes when there are always those who will be against it no matter what. I suppose I’m seeing problems first hand in a growing population and this book offered few answers. Thankfully Jane won this one but the community she fought so hard to protect gentrified anyway and is ironically one of the most affluent areas which is unattainable for low to middle income earners. No doubt it’s a place people want to be which has driven property prices up -successful by someone’s measure. The success of communities is so subjective and it makes me wonder how successful Jane would think her community is now.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 11-07-19

The experience should be revised same as the text

The narration is too boring. Too much text, could be told everything in fewer words. The concept is great in some points. Shouldn't the examples from 60s to be revised?