100 Essential Books of Planning

In Celebration of the U.S. Planning Movement Centennial in 2009

High Cost of Free ParkingTo celebrate the 100th anniversary of the American planning movement, the American Planning Association has created a list of the books essential to planning.

These essential books come from every decade starting in 1909, the date of the first national planning conference.

Thanks to all the APA members and staff who contributed their ideas and suggestions. The list is co-sponsored by the Association of College & Research Libraries. 

Published books provide one lens through which to view the history of American planning. Consider what surprises and what insights this list provides to that history.

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APA has created a printable color version of the list in PDF format.

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Essential Planning Books through the Decades

Decade One: 1909-1919

The first decade of planning literature set the foundation for how the field of planning would define itself and how the emerging professional planners would stake their claim.

Decade Two: 1920-1929

Planning's complexity began to reveal itself as architects, landscape architects, economists, and sociologists contributed to the practice and definition of the profession.

Decade Three: 1930-1939

The Depression shifted the focus of planning. Some planners took up the cause of adequate housing, and the federal government emerged as a driving force in new towns and national infrastructure.

Decade Four: 1940-1949

World War II consumed Americans throughout the 1940s. The federal government's role in planning began to weaken and new attitudes began to emerge.

Decade Five: 1950-1959

A golden age for planning, the 1950s also left a legacy that planning has been reacting to ever since. Building, boom times, and the codification of education for planners were hallmarks of the era.

Decade Six: 1960-1969

Planning had become so well established that first critiques emerged in the 1960s. Planning's history captured the interest of both professionals and the general public.

Decade Seven: 1970-1979

Planners discovered the value of the unplanned. Authors presented more nuanced assessments of planning while others offered increasingly sophisticated techniques and tools.

Decade Eight: 1980-1989

Authors demonstrate the comprehensiveness of planning. Urban design takes hold again as prolific authors and practitioners demonstrate the importance of public space, streets, and physical forms.

Decade Nine: 1990-1999

A new golden age emerges — at least for the publication of planning books. Several new concepts catch hold with the public and the profession such as sustainability and livability.

Decade Ten: 2000-2009

Planners take a new look at transportation and the form of communities inspired by creative and critical thinking.