Summer Reading about Planning: The Basics

Ann Forsyth's picture

As the northern summer starts, one of the questions I am asked most frequently by current and prospective planning students is: what should I read? A number of resources are available to answer this question. This month I look at general planning readings for a North American audience but in coming months I'll explore readings about global planning issues, planning methods, and planning classics.

For those wanting an overview of planning issues, the following lists are good places to start:

The Planetizen top 20 planning books is a solid introductory list of interesting and accessible books identified through nominations by Planetizen readers and others:

The planners web list for citizen planners is the result of a 1999 survey by the Planning Commissioners Journal and is also focused on popular and readable books:

The Disorientation Guide is a manual published by Planners Network but written for students by students. Available as a downloadable PDF it provides a list of media resources including a large number of books, typically with a critical edge. Go to, download the guide, and go to pages 13-15.

Finally, all the lists above are focused on general issues in planning but for those interested in a specific topic there is another kind of source. Many planning faculty post syllabi on the web and each one contains readings selected for relevance. Googling "urban planning syllabus" or "planning class" plus a keyword can lead you to these very useful resources. I particularly like the urban studies and planning section of the MIT Open Courseware site at

Ann Forsyth reads several hundred articles and books in planning each year and will provide more resources for reading about planning in upcoming months.

Ann Forsyth is professor of Urban Planning at Harvard University.


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