Books That Inspire 2003

Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West, 1991
William Cronon

Warning: this fat book spends hundreds of pages on such seemingly dry subjects as grain, lumber and meat. It took me at least a year to read it … the first time. Then, I was a young urban planner, just starting out with a state Department of Transportation. Transportation planning can be very political. Cronon’s analysis of how the railroads reshaped both urban development and the rural landscape deepened my understanding of the competing forces – economic, environmental, urban and rural – vying to influence transportation’s future. Moreover, Cronon’s work inspired me to believe that perhaps I, also, could write history that would speak to planners and to others who care about making better communities.
Sarah Jo Peterson
Assistant Professor
Division of Regional and City Planning, Architecture