In this issue, DW Gibson writes about Brooklyn’s corrupt building boom. Here, he recommends five books about how gentrification works. “When I moved to NYC in 1995, Times Square was under scaffolding and the city was undergoing major changes,” he says. “I’ve always felt like I arrived at a crucial moment, by chance.” His recommendations break down the forces behind our cities’ relentless churn.
by Neil Smith
Smith is a revered guru when it comes to understanding the dynamics of gentrification. He breaks the phenomenon into stages, explaining it as a logical process rather than a mystical transformation. The book features well-selected case studies, and while his tales are steeped in data, Smith manages to keep Urban Frontier readable. His work provides insight into how gentrification has changed over the decades since Ruth Glass brought the phrase into use in 1964.
by Jane Jacobs
An obvious author when it comes to gentrification—but this is not the obvious book. While her more famous, and still essential, The Death and Life of Great American Cities is more inspiring than Economy, the latter may be more illuminating. Jacobs tracks the history of cities—all the way back to the Middle Ages—as centers for economy and work. The structure of her thinking about the health of a city—its economic, cultural, environmental, and social health—is instructive. If we could frame more of our conversations about gentrification along these lines, they would be more productive.