Summer Reading for Graduate Students: 2013 Edition

What should graduate students read the summer before entering planning school? For those with some time on their hands the following suggestions can help provide direction.

2 minute read

June 20, 2013, 12:25 AM PDT

By Ann Forsyth

What should graduate students read the summer before entering planning school? Perhaps because I’m now the director of a graduate planning program I get asked this quite a bit. This is a hard question to answer. If admitted students are busy working in planning, being planning activists, or making money to support their graduate studies there may not be much time for reading. This is fine as graduate courses will lead students through a set of readings in a structured manner. However, for those with some time on their hands the following suggestions can help provide direction.

Read a set of classic articles in planning theory. This is a subfield within planning dealing with the justification of planning, planning ethics, planning and politics, and the role of planning in society. A book like Readings in Planning Theory, edited by Susan Fainstein and Scott Campbell, provides a very good overview of such articles. Such books can be picked up used for around $25 and are a good investment.

Read some classic books in the area of planning. Planteizen’s Top 20 All-Time Urban Planning Titles is a reasonable place to start. I might quibble with some entries but these are all useful books.

For a list of readings compiled by students, try the Planners Network Disorientation Guide. They have a media and book list on pages 13-16.

In the past in response to this kind of request I also compiled lists of city and metropolitan plans and famous places.

Finally I might put in a plug for my previous advice columns, indexed at

Ann Forsyth

Trained in planning and architecture, Ann Forsyth is a professor of urban planning at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. From 2007-2012 she was a professor of city and regional planning at Cornell. She taught previously at at the University of Minnesota, directing the Metropolitan Design Center (2002-2007), Harvard (1999-2002), and the University of Massachusetts (1993-1999) where she was co-director of a small community design center, the Urban Places Project. She has held short-term positions at Columbia, Macquarie, and Sydney Universities.

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