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The Death and Life of Great American Cities

Written by: Jane Jacobs,Jason Epstein - introduction
Narrated by: Donna Rawlins
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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

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)

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

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A must-read for any avid Reader.

Timeless in that the systems she describes are still here, public vs corporate development, people vs concrete. it doesn't matter what your ideology, reading this book will enrich your understanding of the complexities easily judged as chaos of cities.

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Wonderful reading of a classic on city design

This is a classic book on urban planning. Not being trained in urban planning I can’t give any sort of appreciation of its influence on its field. I’ll only say that as a complete amateur interested in cities, I can totally understand why this book is considered a classic. It is full of pithy and telling observations framed by a most humane conception of the purposes cities are meant to serve. As she indicates at the end, her approach is inductive; she formulates broader principles on the basis of detailed observations. And, as a college professor who spends a lot of time writing and editing peoples’ writing, I found Jane Jacobs’ writing marvellous: full of apt phrases, making accurate use of a rich vocabulary, exceedingly lively. If I were teaching a course on writing I would draw many examples from this book for students to emulate. Finally the reader is excellent - her tone and liveliness fit the writing extremely well. In conclusion I would say this book is well worth listening to for anyone seeking to understand better what makes cities work.

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Refaire une place à la vie de quartier

Déjà, il y a près de 50 ans, Jane Jacobs avait saisi la grande valeur de la vie de proximité.

Aujourd’hui, en partie à cause de notre inertie collective à nous engager dans la transition socio-écologique, ce livre est encore une lecture, ou une écoute, essentielle pour comprendre et agir, comme citoyen, designer ou élu, ce qui fait fait la qualité, ou ce qui est le potentiel, de nos quartiers.

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  • Meghan
  • 2015-02-13

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.

11 people found this helpful

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  • deborah
  • 2011-11-17

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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  • Marie
  • 2014-11-13

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.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Kristina O’Donnell
  • 2016-02-03

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

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  • Bjarte
  • 2012-12-07

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"

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  • Michael Maloy
  • 2019-03-22

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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  • abdelrahmanazmi
  • 2018-08-27

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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  • Michael
  • 2018-07-03

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.

3 people found this helpful

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  • bennehoff
  • 2019-05-17

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.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Mark Mckittrick
  • 2019-02-12

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