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June 26 , 2019

School’s Out, Books Open: Students Give Summer Reading Recommendations

Urban Matters asked students we know and work with about the books that broadened their horizons and that the rest of us might enjoy, too. Here are their picks.


A Short History of Reconstruction by Eric Foner, required reading for Professor Mindy Fullilove's "Political Economy of the City" course, really reorganized how I think about American history and my understanding of history's reverberations in the present. Foner describes Reconstruction as a moment when our country could have followed a number of different paths, and illustrates how the choices made then continue to affect our politics and economy today.


Angela Butel, research assistant at the Center for New York City Affairs, was awarded a Master’s Degree in Public and Urban Policy at the Milano School of Policy, Management, and Environment at The New School in June 2019.


I highly recommend Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment by Dr. Patricia Hill Collins. This classic work expanded my understanding of who can engage in scholarship and who can develop theory. Dr. Collins showed me that there is epistemological prowess in the minds of laborers, domestic workers, and others who don't necessarily have formal academic training. As I pursue my doctoral studies I recognize that there are valuable perspectives all around me in my own community.

Talib Hudson is a PhD candidate at the Milano School.


This past year I read John Sharp and Colleen Macklin’s Game Design and Play: A Detailed Approach to Iterative Game Design. It highlights the process that all designers should adopt, and also describes the positive outcomes of failure. Whether it’s designing video games, interactive museum experiences, or a product, there is an important emphasis on designing with the user. This inclusivity, in addition to sticking with one’s design values, results in a comprehensive, educational, fun experience.

Milan Gary is the graphic designer at the Center for New York City Affairs and was awarded an MFA in Design and Technology at Parsons, The New School for Design in June 2019.


Up in the Old Hotel is a collection of masterfully written essays by one of my all-time favorite journalists, Joseph Mitchell, who takes you on a vacation to old New York City through the voices of the overlooked and offbeat. This book is the perfect companion for those long subway delays and any summer day properly spent at the park or beach. 

Jason Rochford is working toward a PhD in Public and Urban Policy at the Milano School.


I recommend these two books.

Thinking in Systems by Donella H. Meadows: It’s a great primer for making sense of our interconnected world through systems thinking. It helps to tackle and understand complexity, one of the first steps towards proactively finding points of intervention.

The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben: Scientists are currently wrapping their minds around plant cognition and the secret life of plants. Wohlleben looks at trees and their previously unknown communication abilities. He provokes readers to see that we manage forests the wrong way, and explains how new discoveries have informed his own practices in the forest around him. I wish I could help separately planted trees in urban landscapes!

Jonas Voigt is a student in the MFA - Transdisciplinary Design program at Parsons.


One of the most eye-opening reads I had this year was Bad Boys by Ann Arnett Ferguson. In an ethnographic study of the dynamics of discipline in one particular school, Ferguson elucidates the disproportionate, persistent punishment black male students face. The book is a great introduction to educational inequality, providing examples that highlight how systemic racism exists in public schools and can follow students after they graduate.

Carmen Cheung is an intern with the InsideSchools project at the Center for New York City Affairs and student at Columbia University.


Photo by: LWYang