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A career-spanning selection of previously uncollected writings and talks by the legendary author and activist No one did more to change how we look at cities than Jane Jacobs, the visionary urbanist and economic thinker whose 1961 book The Death and Life of Great American Cities started a global conversation that remains profoundly relevant more than half a century later. Vi A career-spanning selection of previously uncollected writings and talks by the legendary author and activist No one did more to change how we look at cities than Jane Jacobs, the visionary urbanist and economic thinker whose 1961 book The Death and Life of Great American Cities started a global conversation that remains profoundly relevant more than half a century later. Vital Little Plans is an essential companion to Death and Life and Jacobs's other books on urbanism, economics, politics, and ethics. It offers readers a unique survey of her entire career in forty short pieces that have never been collected in a single volume, from charming and incisive urban vignettes from the 1930s to the raw materials of her two unfinished books of the 2000s, together with introductions and annotations by editors Samuel Zipp and Nathan Storring. Readers will find classics here, including Jacobs's breakout article "Downtown Is for People," as well as lesser-known gems like her speech at the inaugural Earth Day and a host of other rare or previously unavailable essays, articles, speeches, interviews, and lectures. Some pieces shed light on the development of her most famous insights, while others explore topics rarely dissected in her major works, from globalization to feminism to universal health care. With this book, published in Jacobs's centenary year, contemporary readers--whether well versed in her ideas or new to her writing--are finally able to appreciate the full scope of her remarkable voice and vision. At a time when urban life is booming and people all over the world are moving to cities, the words of Jane Jacobs have never been more significant. Vital Little Plans weaves a lifetime of ideas from the most prominent urbanist of the twentieth century into a book that's indispensable to life in the twenty-first. Praise for Vital Little Plans "Jacobs's work . . . was a singularly accurate prediction of the future we live in."--The New Republic "In Vital Little Plans, a new collection of the short writings and speeches of Jane Jacobs, one of the most influential thinkers on the built environment, editors Samuel Zipp and Nathan Storring have done readers a great service."--The Huffington Post "A wonderful new anthology that captures [Jacobs's] confident prose and her empathetic, patient eye for the way humans live and work together."--The Globe and Mail "[A timely reminder] of the clarity and originality of [Jane Jacobs's] thought."--Toronto Star "[Vital Little Plans] comes to the foreground for [Jane Jacobs's] centennial, and in a time when more of Jacobs's prescient wisdom is needed."--Metropolis "[Jacobs] changed the debate on urban planning. . . . As [Vital Little Plans] shows, she never stopped refining her observations about how cities thrived."--Minneapolis Star Tribune "[Jane Jacobs] was one of three people I have met in a lifetime of meeting people who had an aura of sainthood about them. . . . The ability to radiate certainty without condescension, to be both very sure and very simple, is a potent one, and witnessing it in life explains a lot in history that might otherwise be inexplicable."--Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker "A rich, provocative, and insightful collection."--Reason


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A career-spanning selection of previously uncollected writings and talks by the legendary author and activist No one did more to change how we look at cities than Jane Jacobs, the visionary urbanist and economic thinker whose 1961 book The Death and Life of Great American Cities started a global conversation that remains profoundly relevant more than half a century later. Vi A career-spanning selection of previously uncollected writings and talks by the legendary author and activist No one did more to change how we look at cities than Jane Jacobs, the visionary urbanist and economic thinker whose 1961 book The Death and Life of Great American Cities started a global conversation that remains profoundly relevant more than half a century later. Vital Little Plans is an essential companion to Death and Life and Jacobs's other books on urbanism, economics, politics, and ethics. It offers readers a unique survey of her entire career in forty short pieces that have never been collected in a single volume, from charming and incisive urban vignettes from the 1930s to the raw materials of her two unfinished books of the 2000s, together with introductions and annotations by editors Samuel Zipp and Nathan Storring. Readers will find classics here, including Jacobs's breakout article "Downtown Is for People," as well as lesser-known gems like her speech at the inaugural Earth Day and a host of other rare or previously unavailable essays, articles, speeches, interviews, and lectures. Some pieces shed light on the development of her most famous insights, while others explore topics rarely dissected in her major works, from globalization to feminism to universal health care. With this book, published in Jacobs's centenary year, contemporary readers--whether well versed in her ideas or new to her writing--are finally able to appreciate the full scope of her remarkable voice and vision. At a time when urban life is booming and people all over the world are moving to cities, the words of Jane Jacobs have never been more significant. Vital Little Plans weaves a lifetime of ideas from the most prominent urbanist of the twentieth century into a book that's indispensable to life in the twenty-first. Praise for Vital Little Plans "Jacobs's work . . . was a singularly accurate prediction of the future we live in."--The New Republic "In Vital Little Plans, a new collection of the short writings and speeches of Jane Jacobs, one of the most influential thinkers on the built environment, editors Samuel Zipp and Nathan Storring have done readers a great service."--The Huffington Post "A wonderful new anthology that captures [Jacobs's] confident prose and her empathetic, patient eye for the way humans live and work together."--The Globe and Mail "[A timely reminder] of the clarity and originality of [Jane Jacobs's] thought."--Toronto Star "[Vital Little Plans] comes to the foreground for [Jane Jacobs's] centennial, and in a time when more of Jacobs's prescient wisdom is needed."--Metropolis "[Jacobs] changed the debate on urban planning. . . . As [Vital Little Plans] shows, she never stopped refining her observations about how cities thrived."--Minneapolis Star Tribune "[Jane Jacobs] was one of three people I have met in a lifetime of meeting people who had an aura of sainthood about them. . . . The ability to radiate certainty without condescension, to be both very sure and very simple, is a potent one, and witnessing it in life explains a lot in history that might otherwise be inexplicable."--Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker "A rich, provocative, and insightful collection."--Reason

30 review for Vital Little Plans: The Short Works of Jane Jacobs

  1. 5 out of 5

    Colin Ellard

    Absolute must-read for Jane Jacobs fans, urbanists, anyone interested in cities. Fascinating book of essays, articles, speeches, and excerpts including much that was previously unpublished anywhere.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Michael Lewyn

    This book is a collection of small essays by (and interviews of) Jane Jacobs. Mostly her observations are as insightful as always. For example: *She wrote about the negative side effects of federal grants for capital spending. These grants encouraged construction, but didn't always support maintenance. As a result, local governments are stuck with infrastructure that they can't easily afford to maintain. (If you are more interested in this topic I suggest strongtowns.org) *She was especially criti This book is a collection of small essays by (and interviews of) Jane Jacobs. Mostly her observations are as insightful as always. For example: *She wrote about the negative side effects of federal grants for capital spending. These grants encouraged construction, but didn't always support maintenance. As a result, local governments are stuck with infrastructure that they can't easily afford to maintain. (If you are more interested in this topic I suggest strongtowns.org) *She was especially critical of highway spending because of the negative side effects of urban expressways that are unrelated to maintenance. More highway spending meant more automobile use, which meant higher health care costs due to auto crashes. And more car use also means more traffic violations, imposing costs on the court system and police. Land used for expressways is land that cannot be used for housing or commerce, thus impoverishing urban property tax bases. *She wrote about the absurdity of bike-phobia based on safety concerns, by pointing out that indoor substitutes for bikes (such as stationary bicycles and similar exercise machines) led to 18,000 accidents per year requiring hospital emergency treatment. On the other hand, some of her ideas seem a bit outdated. She was writing when even dense cities like New York had plenty of underutilized land, so she was perfectly willing to support broad neighborhood powers to limit new development. We now know that this sort of neighborhood veto may preserve beautiful places, but also limits the amount of housing - something that was not a huge problem in the 1970s (when there was very little demand for city life) but is a much bigger problem today.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Aviva

    I would have given this book five stars if it weren't for the format. The "academic" approach of providing more information and context in the footnotes intrigued me prior to reading, but I found it distracting and disrupted the cadence of Jacob's writing. However, as always, Jacobs takes on urbanism, society, and the built environment were still able to shine and I would recommend reading it. I would have given this book five stars if it weren't for the format. The "academic" approach of providing more information and context in the footnotes intrigued me prior to reading, but I found it distracting and disrupted the cadence of Jacob's writing. However, as always, Jacobs takes on urbanism, society, and the built environment were still able to shine and I would recommend reading it.

  4. 5 out of 5

    André Habet

    I first heard of Jane Jacobs on an episode of the wonderful design podcast 99% invisible where her love of cities captivated me to learn more about her and her ideas. This collection of pieces written throughout her career is an amazing sampler of everything she thought cities could be, and everything she thought humans could achieve if we embraced the ways cities improvise and grow chaotically. Always clever, and with an ability to offhandedly shred misogyny in a single sentence, Jacobs was a w I first heard of Jane Jacobs on an episode of the wonderful design podcast 99% invisible where her love of cities captivated me to learn more about her and her ideas. This collection of pieces written throughout her career is an amazing sampler of everything she thought cities could be, and everything she thought humans could achieve if we embraced the ways cities improvise and grow chaotically. Always clever, and with an ability to offhandedly shred misogyny in a single sentence, Jacobs was a writer with an extraordinary mind and always a good pair of walking shoes. I know this sounds like gushing, and it is, but I really enjoyed my time with this book, and hope it's something others can benefit from as well.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Harperac

    One thing about Jacobs I like, but have a bit of trouble with, is the kind of person who emerges from her depiction of cities and economies. This person is of course much livelier and more interesting than the usual homo economicus, being full of the titular "vital little plans." But it also put me in mind of Sartre's (or some existentialist's) criticism of American pragmatism: it has no sense od tragedy. Jacobs has a great sense of human exuberance, and our desire to align our world to fit with One thing about Jacobs I like, but have a bit of trouble with, is the kind of person who emerges from her depiction of cities and economies. This person is of course much livelier and more interesting than the usual homo economicus, being full of the titular "vital little plans." But it also put me in mind of Sartre's (or some existentialist's) criticism of American pragmatism: it has no sense od tragedy. Jacobs has a great sense of human exuberance, and our desire to align our world to fit with our lives. I sometimes feel, though, that she never addresses how tough it can be. How the economic creativity she admires can be born out of desperation and end in misery. Now, that's a tall order to fill -- to create urban planning and economic theories that also speak to the tragic aspects of life. I suppose I'm only disappointed because Jacobs has already succeeded so well at things that no one expected her to. American pragmatism: it's a good lens through which to view Jacobs. She really seems of a piece with William James, John Dewey, and that set. In fact, in a lot of ways she is redolent of an early 20th century America. Thorstein Veblen, "Our Town," even Norman Rockwell come to mind. In the introduction, written by editors Zipp and Storring, they point out that Jacobs does not really fit the mould of the 60's activist, in spite of being one. But for that matter, it's bizarre to think of Jacobs as living in the New York of Hannah Arendt, Elizabeth Hardwick, and the whole Paritsan Review set. I want to contextualize her this way because she is often treated like an unpredictable, quite accidental contusion into intellectual history. She vanished into the wilds of motherhood, only to emerge mysteriously powerful and wise. She is considered a beginning, not a continuance. But really, her response to the rationalized, top-down planning of her day was Deweyan through and through (I mean harmonious with Dewey, not derivative of him). Anyway, just to say a bit about the book itself: the pieces are very readable and don't repeat themselves. For the reader of Jacobs, this book is invaluable, because it shows us her early development (and the early pieces are altogether interesting) as well as showing us what was on her mind in the years before her death. The first three sections feel more dense, while the second two feel a bit lighter. I would say it doesn't make as good an introduction to Jacobs as "The Death and Life of Great American Cities", but it would do nonetheless.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Alexander

    I've been a fan of Jane Jacobs since reading Death and Life, so I enjoyed this collection of her shorter works, interviews, and speeches. I think it appeals to people who are already Jacobs fans, and that anyone looking to dive into her thought would be better off picking up some of her actual works. To be honest, the most memorable part for me may have been the intro, which touched on her political views and worldview. I've been a fan of Jane Jacobs since reading Death and Life, so I enjoyed this collection of her shorter works, interviews, and speeches. I think it appeals to people who are already Jacobs fans, and that anyone looking to dive into her thought would be better off picking up some of her actual works. To be honest, the most memorable part for me may have been the intro, which touched on her political views and worldview.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Koby

    Jane Jacobs' theory is usually sound, and interesting even when it isn't. I really liked that this anthology followed her trajectory as an academic, and constantly drew references between her works so any student of hers could follow it. Her best pieces detailed her strategies of small-scale infill and community organizing, while her work becomes a little less concrete when diving into economics. The Queen of Urbanism still reigns tall. Jane Jacobs' theory is usually sound, and interesting even when it isn't. I really liked that this anthology followed her trajectory as an academic, and constantly drew references between her works so any student of hers could follow it. Her best pieces detailed her strategies of small-scale infill and community organizing, while her work becomes a little less concrete when diving into economics. The Queen of Urbanism still reigns tall.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Edward B.

    I love Jane Jacobs - one of the earliest and most vocal and erudite proponents of Cities For People, not just (or even primarily) for cars. Society and politics are only now slowly understanding the truth and value of what she was saying over fifty years ago and for decades. I guess the variety of short works in this collection - articles, opinions, speeches - would be a good place to start, before getting into her famous major books.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Clivemichael

    Great collection. Well written thought inspiring and provocative observations.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Stanley Lee

    Lots of reminders of the tradeoffs of city planning choices.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Maddie Pattin

    Jane Jacobs is my urban planning hero - and this compilation of her works was absolutely beautiful. I was able to pick it up and put it down over the course of a few months without getting lost.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Flint

    Six word book review: Seven decades of writing about cities.

  13. 4 out of 5

    dennis

  14. 5 out of 5

    Adam Braus

  15. 5 out of 5

    Grady

  16. 5 out of 5

    Michael

  17. 5 out of 5

    Emma Cochrane

  18. 4 out of 5

    Anni Müüripeal

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

  20. 4 out of 5

    Connor

  21. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

  22. 4 out of 5

    Matt Schmalzel

  23. 4 out of 5

    Hayley Adam

  24. 5 out of 5

    Pete

  25. 4 out of 5

    niftynei

  26. 4 out of 5

    Brendan Mccabe

  27. 4 out of 5

    martha

  28. 5 out of 5

    Tim Homey

  29. 4 out of 5

    Henry Olders

  30. 5 out of 5

    Camille Hall

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