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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 members say

Average Customer Ratings

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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.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • deborah
  • Palm Coast, FL, United States
  • 11-17-11

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.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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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

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Marie
  • WASHINGTON, DC, United States
  • 11-13-14

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.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Bjarte
  • Bergen, Norway
  • 12-07-12

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"

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Jane Jacobs could write.

she was extremely articulate, better than even design professipnals. thus why her opinions on city planning so impactful. She does her research and through her observations make good points. calling out everyone, does not include racism in her story. sometimes her writting is a little bit on the rambling road.

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Great book about basics of city planning

I enjoyed learning about the basics with a lot of detail my concern is if all recommendations are applicable in this day and age. As an investor who buys existing real estate with improvements in place I may not be able to appreciate all of the information. It may be very helpful for developers especially master developers.

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great book read by siri

excellent analysis of city planning or lack of planning in a pre-internet world. 15 words.

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great book! AUDIBLE 20 REVIEW SWEEPSTAKES ENTRY

great book! learned a lot about urban planning. a classic and well read. AUDIBLE 20 REVIEW SWEEPSTAKES ENTRY

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A Study in Sociology at its Finest!!

Fantastic review of modern Mankind and how we live, and the mistakes we make, in shaping & destroying our modern cities. It's interesting to note that city issues of 1961 still exist and are perpetuated in 2017. This book is a CLASSIC in its area of expertise.