December 14, 2008

Reading list: (Re)defining suburbia

Popular rainy day activity: watching a movie, at home or in the theatre. On my list is "Revolutionary Road" starring Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio, directed by Sam Mendes, and based on Richard Yates's 1961 book of the same name. The setting of the book and the movie is suburbia, suburban Connecticut specifically. Instead of going to theatre, I am blogging about suburban books. I live in a suburban city. Several Berkeley neighborhoods fit the definition provided by Dolores Hayden in "Building Suburbia: Green Fields and Urban Growth, 1820-2000":

For almost two hundered years, Americans of all classes have idealized life in single-family houses with generous yards... (2004, 4).

Source: Library of Congress: T. S. Eastabrook House, Illinois, 1967, Richard Nickel (photographer)

The following list is comprised of novels and academic scholarship.

  • The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit - Sloan Wilson
  • The Couples - John Updike
  • Holy Land - D. J. Waldie
  • The Organization Man - William H. Whyte
  • The Bulldozer in the Countryside: Suburban Sprawl and The Rise of American Environmentalism - Adam Ward Rome
  • Yard, Street, Park: The Design of Suburban Open Space - Cynthia L. Girling and Kenneth I. Helphand
  • Suburban Safari: A Year on the Lawn - Hannah Holmes
  • Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder - Richard Louv
  • The American Suburb - Jon C. Teaford
  • The Suburb Reader - Becky M. Nicolaides and Andrew Wiese, editors
  • Bourgeois Nightmares: Suburbia, 1870-1930 - Robert M. Fogelson
  • Chicagoland: City and Suburbs in the Railroad Age - Ann Durkin Keating
  • Places of Their Own: African American Suburbanization in the Twentieth Century - Andrew Wiese
  • Suburban Space: The Fabric of Dwelling - Renee Y. Chow
  • Pavements in the Garden: The Suburbanization of Southern New Jersey, adjacent to the City of Philadelphia, 1769 to the Present - Ann Marie T. Cammarota
  • Older Suburbs: Crabgrass Slums or New Urban Frontier - Joel Kotkin
  • Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and The Decline of the American Dream - Andres Duany
  • The New Urban Sociology - Mark Gottdiener
  • Constructing Suburbs: Competing Voices in a Debate over Urban Growth - Ann Forsyth
  • Unplanned Suburbs: Toronto's American Tragedy, 1900 to 1950 - Richard Harris
  • Borderland: Origins of the American Suburb, 1820-1939 - John R. Stilgoe
  • Bourgeois Utopias: The Rise and Fall of Suburbia - Robert Fishman
  • Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States - Kenneth T. Jackson

4 comments:

  1. Aw, I dunno, Berkeley as a suburb? It doesn't ever feel like one to me, but maybe I've never been to the spiffier parts of town. I loved "Revolutionary Road" in book form, seems like they did a good job with the movie but I haven't seen it yet. Love the list! I would also submit "Funny in Farsi," Firoozeh Dumas' memoir about growing up Iranian in Whittier, CA (does that count as a suburb, I wonder?).

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  2. I think much of Los Angeles County has been planned/ developed in one type of suburban model or another.

    "Funny in Farsi" - thanks for the suggestion. I'll add it to my library request list.

    Also, thank you for your faithful comments on the blog.

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  3. Funny, my wife Carolyn just borrowed a copy of Revolutionary Road. Slick cover makes it look like a new book.

    It's telling that I can't think of many novels about contemporary suburbia, and when I do they've been turned into movies. Take Eugenides "Virgin Suicides" or Perrotta's "Little Children." I'll have to pick up "Funny in Farsi" and think there must be many others that deal with the real cultural complexity of the suburbs.

    I'd also submit "Blue Sky Dream" also about So Cal in the 50's and 60's. And Carolyn wants to add "Lawn: A History of American Obsession" by Virginia Scott Jenkins.

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  4. I appreciate the feedback on this post; my spring reading list is growing.

    I did not read "The Virgin Suicides" but saw the Coppola film. "Middlesex," Eugenides's second book, is marvelous.

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