Agora's Fall 2014 Reading List

Now that school is back in swing, Agora is inspired to compile a Fall 2014 Reading List. Because the firm’s work touches a variety of urban issues, the list covers topics ranging from urban policy, economy, design and development. Some selections offer monolithic discussions on a specific topic, like Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century, while others, like Ed Glaeser’s Triumph of the City, touch upon a variety of urban elements. Some offer textbook practicality, like Land in Conflict, while others, like Factory Man, read like a novel.


Beyond staying current on solutions for longstanding challenges facing cities, there is also inspiration to be found – what are this year’s big ideas? What new forces are at play in city building? How far can (and should) we stray from staid urban theories and assumptions to discover new ways to address pressing problems?


Agora’s Top Ten is by no means exhaustive, but hopefully it begins a dialogue on great city reads. Please share your suggestions!



The Social Dynamics of Innovation Networks (Regions and Cities)

Edited by Roel Rutten, Paul Benneworth, Dessy Irawati, Frans Boekema

Innovation Districts have generated a variety of discussion this year, drawing praise and criticism, hope and concern. This text takes the reader through a theoretical discussion of the interrelated social and spatial dimensions of innovation.


Resource Revolution: How to Capture the Biggest Business Opportunity in a Century

Stefan Heck, Matt Rogers, Paul Carroll (Contributor)

McKinsey leadership are the authors of this text, which inverts the global consumption narrative into a motivational discussion of innovative business strategies designed to address rapid demand for essential resources.



Smart Cities: Big Data, Civic Hackers, and the Quest for a New Utopia

Anthony Townsend

Technology has been an integral part of city growth and development for centuries. At best, technology contributes to a seamless urban experience; at worst, technology has the capacity to degrade city life in powerful ways. Townsend takes the reader through the highs and lows of today’s Smart City.



The New Class Conflict

Joel Kotkin

The rise of tech, policy, media and academic elites is overrunning the middle class, with potentially profound consequences on American society, politics and economy. Kotkin covers interconnected issues that impact urban, suburban and rural environments.


Capital in the Twenty-First Century

Thomas Piketty 

An intimidating 696 pages, Piketty goes both broad and deep in a vast discussion of economic inequality and the power (and necessity of) political action.


Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier

Edward Glaeser

First published in 2011, Triumph of the City is certainly still relevant and important when contemplating urbanism. International case studies and an overwhelmingly optimistic title combine to provide the reader with a positive outlook on city challenges.


Factory Man: How One Furniture Maker Battled Offshoring, Stayed Local – and Helped Save an American Town

Beth Macy

The title says enough, especially in light of recent political dialogue regarding corporate inversion deals.


The Great Inversion and the Future of the American City

Alan Ehrenhalt

Growing attention to Baby Boomer and Millennial demographics makes this a top priority read, with evaluations of the entrenched battle between the city and the suburbs – who is living where, and why does it matter.



Deconstructing Placemaking: Needs, Opportunities, and Assets

Mahyar Arefi

Despite its watered-down buzzword status, there remain many lessons to glean from placemaking’s diverse derivations and implementation strategies.



Land in Conflict: Managing and Resolving Land Use Disputes

Sean Nolon, Mona Ferguson, Pat Field

Agora’s mutual gains approach to public-private entrepreneurialism shares a common question with Land in Conflict – how can municipalities facilitate the development process with constructive stakeholder participation?



Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time

Jeff Speck

 “The space between” increasingly gains attention in development circles as a fundamental element of value creation, drawing from the details of great urban environments.