2015 in Books, April

The sun is out, my kid isn’t teething, and there is gardening to do, which is my way of saying that I didn’t read as much this past month. I’ve always approached spring as a time of doing. Soon enough it will be too hot to think about moving. Until then, I play in the dirt.

  • Dog Stars by Peter Heller
    • I have a soft spot for post-apocalyptic books. Weird? Yes. Satisfying? Also yes. One of the challenges inherent in this genre is how to get readers to care when there is obviously no overarching happy outcome. The satisfaction has to come from small payoffs like putting in a garden or meeting a new person. Heller does these incremental changes well, which makes the book work on a deeper level than I was anticipating.
  • Tactical Urbanism: Short-term Action for Long-term Change by Mike Lydon and Anthony Garcia
    • My first city planning book, sort of. Lydon and Garcia run a firm call Street Plans Collaborative, and this book is a manifesto of their professional ideas. They advocate doing small things within and outside of the law to make neighborhoods better places. The key is to have a plan with definable long term outcomes. Temporary changes in streetscapes, parking lots, and sidewalks can be used to mobilize community members, municipal workers and elected officials to generate the conversations and money to fund more permanent improvements. One of their examples was the New Face for an Old Broad event in Memphis. Several years after the pop-up event reimagined the street as an arts district with a music venue, public art, full storefronts and bike lanes, the area boosts a higher occupancy rate and permanent protected bike lanes through the partially crowdfunded Hampline project. This book got me thinking, and frankly made me really proud to live in a city that has seen tactical urbanism work.
  • Magical Thinking: True Storties by Augusten Burroughs
    • This one is a collection of Burroughs’ essays. Like a lot of biographical essay collections, the selections were hit or miss for me.
  • Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
    • My neighborhood Little Free Library lent me Beautiful Ruins. I have been wanted to read it since it came out, but I never quite got around to it. After the other books on my docket, it was nice to read one that was a well-rounded work of fiction with a happy ending. Sometimes that’s exactly what I need to read.
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