Reviews

Media Reviews

Financial Times

Essential reading for serious scholars of Jacobs. Read the full review.

—Tim Harford, FT.com/The Undercover Economist

Publisher's Weekly

Jacobs was a fierce champion of urban livability, and her ideas—the importance of community involvement, the critical role of public transportation, the value of “eyes”on the street—have found ardent defenders around the world. Read the full review.

—Suzanne Mantell, Publisher's Weekly

New Urban News

When Planetizen conducted a survey last year to identify the top urban thinkers of all time, the Number 1 spot on the list was captured by Jane Jacobs. Whether the choice was correct or not — the poll’s participants were disproportionately Americans — Jacobs certainly remains an inspiration, four years after her death at age 89. Read the full review.

—Philip Langdon, New Urban News

The Midwest Book Review

...a key acquisition for any college-level urban planning or social issues collection. 
Read the full review.

—James A. Cox, The Midwest Book Review

Village Connections

...A major feature is the inclusive conversational style...I often felt as though I was with really interesting people with insights and ideas...there is something in each essay that makes the book worth reading from beginning to end...

Readers will observe many instances of the new in the old and old in the new. We observe what works. We learn from nature, how “succulents teach us how to make the most of a scant rainfall,” and “oaks teach us how to handle a hurricane with grace”. We visit a “tool-house” in India, places where people live and work, places which are used in multiple ways. We learn from the past, recalling how some of us have lived in places where work and living was more integrated, where children could visit their parents at work. We observe the city economy, and what is needed to invigorate it, collaboration with other cities, urban manufacturing, and local currencies. We observe children’s needs, by first thinking about our favorite places when we were children, noting these are generally not the controlled places designed just for children. We observe many successful projects, such as cycling in New York, where cycle lanes are on the inside, not outside, of parked cars. We observe slums and see creative human-scale functioning neighborhoods…and much more.

...I found myself wanting longer conversations with authors, looking up websites, following leads, then sharing anecdotes, quotes and insights with others...I encourage anyone who is interested in our cities and economies, how they work and how they can be vibrant and flourishing to read this book. I regret that I couldn’t choose from the essays which illustrations or quotes or insights to highlight in a single review, there is just too much quality. Read the full review.

—Hazel Ashton, Village Connections

Cite Magazine

The selections here range from quieter reminiscences about the [Jacobs'] influence, meditations on urban spaces to nuts-and-bolts discussions of environmental initiatives, portraits of cities to stories about revitalized neighborhoods…The best selections inspire a kind of covetousness, as they present projects or politics you might want for your own city, for your own family to use and enjoy...

The ideals and plans featured in What We See — sustainable building initiatives, bicycle greenway networks, neighborhood revitalizations, recycling programs, residential planning that considers the needs of the family — are all gaining momentum in the collective imagination, and all are plans to make our cities better. To change them, as Jacobs urged almost 50 years ago, we must learn to see them again. Read the full review.

—Allyn West, OffCite.org

Urban Directions

Over 30 authors reflect – in short and readable chapters – on the modern relevance of Jacobs’ ideas, explaining how Jacobs’ work influenced their own. These are not all academics, architects or urban designers; far from it. These voices refreshingly reflect Jacobs’ own disdain for compartmentalization of disciplines, with chapters by a theater company founder, bloggers and journalists, community activists, and elected officials, as well as the expected thought leaders, professors, and practitioners.

What We See provides a clear picture of the broad range of Jacobs’ influence...Much of What We See connects Jacobs’ work with contemporary urban ideas, such as environmental sustainability and buying local. The authors trace Jacobs’ impact to places as diverse as Missoula, Toronto, Germany, and Mumbai, capturing the breadth of her ideas...The book tries to do many things, and amazingly generally succeeds.
Read the full review.

—Greg Heller, Urban Direction

New Colonist

As a nation, we are rediscovering cities. And so we must continue to rediscover and advance the observations of Jane Jacobs...The best cities and the best neighborhoods are the ones with the widest variety of interests and the most diverse stakeholders. Anytime we use top-down planning to remake a place, the diversity of interests decreases. The ideas of Jane Jacobs will have won out only when this is understood.  What We See can help us learn to look, and understand. Read the full review.

—Eric Miller, New Colonist

enVision Green

What We See is a collection of essays which succeeds in capturing the true spirit of Jane’s life and work. The authors do not simply espouse all of the ideas, notions and views which Jane pioneered simply to hear themselves speak; quite the contrary, these essays provide a firsthand demonstration which allows us to see how people from a myriad of professions and backgrounds are taking action to make our cities better places.

The essays, consisting of works ranging from Jacobsian-inspired speeches to stories of self-realization and actualization to imagined conversations with Jane, are masterfully grouped into six distinct, yet connected sections.

From the first moment when the authors begin to discuss "The Vitality of the Neighborhood" (Section One) to the final thoughts on "Economic Instincts" see the urban organism through not only new lenses, but to return to the lenses which allow us to see what we take for granted through “fresh eyes”...it is clear that [What We See] will quickly become a required addition to the library of any designer, planner, artist, activist, community organizer, urbanist or city dweller. Read the full review.

— Michael Ouchakof, enVision Green

Green Living

What We See is a valuable addition to the growing body of work which attempts to continue her work. Read the full review.

—Mary Soderstrom, author of The Green City and The Walkable City

re:place Magazine

...everyone is bound to find a number of [What We See's] essays that resonate with them, and at least one that inspires them. Read the full review.

—Lisa Brideau, re:place Magazine

The Transit Pass

What We See: Advancing the Observations of Jane Jacobs illustrates the breadth of her influence and the genius of her observation…With 30 authors contributing essays, the reader is guaranteed to be exposed to scholars and activists and thinkers that she was not previously aware of.  Many of the essays sparkle… Read the full review.

—Matt Meltzer, The Transit Pass

TreeHugger

To be reminded of what really makes cities thrive and be alive, pick up What We See... The 30 essays in What We See show the expanding extent of Jacobs' legacy and also offer hope that while there will always be more to do, the dance of competing cultures and ideas in cities that Jacobs called "ballet of the streets" is alive and well, and possibly poised to be greener than ever. Read the full review.

—April Streeter, TreeHugger.com

SafeGrowth

I'm not usually a fan of non-fiction anthologies...Regardless, What We See is an exception to my rule. It is a fabulous read!...Over 30 writers in this engaging book tell real-life stories about that most crucial skill at the root of Jacobs' insights — how to look carefully and see clearly the ingredients that make great neighborhoods. Read the full review.

—Gregory Saville, SafeGrowth

A Hand in the Act of Writing

The book is an acknowledgment of [Jacobs'] influence, a tribute to her vision and offers a glimpse into what the future could be for cities if these writers have their way. It was good to see that the book is, to an extent, global. The essays touch on conditions in Canada – specifically Toronto, Jacobs adopted city – and on the designs and aspirations of cities in Germany, Japan and India. Read the full review

—Gray Hunter

Museum of the City.org

What We See is notable for the breadth of its contributors. Besides the predictable collection of architects, planners and politicians (not that there's anything wrong with them), perhaps the most interesting contributions are from people supposedly "outside her field" - the biologist, the youth minister, the playwright. Of course, the point is not much was outside Jacob's field, her lesson is not to search for the predictable but to see what is. Read the full review.

—Dr. Orloff

By the Book

Jacobs was a wise and inspiring canary in the coalmine to the arrogance and abuse of the Redevelopment Agencies. Is she relevant today? In What We See, twenty-five writers say yes, then advance her observations in the realms of the environment, sustainability and the just metropolis. Read the full review.

—James Tracy

 

Advance Praise for What We See

"It's as if Jane Jacobs' bright eye hadn't dimmed, that she's still startling us with her predictably unpredictable insights into what needs to be done to protect and cultivate wondrous, live cities. In the hands of this book's essay writers, new thoughts sprout, all as true to Jane's spirit and inventive urbanity as the gardens (intellectual and physical) she cultivated in her lifetime."
—Neal Peirce, Chairman, The Citistates Group, journalist, and author of Boundary Crossers: Community Leadership for a Global Age

"In this new book are the testimonials of Jane's children. These folks, in their writing and work, are building on what she began back in the '60s. It's taken a long time, but it's happening."
—David Byrne, musician, artist and author of Bicycle Diaries

"This book is a passionate celebration: a delicious international and interdisciplinary banquet of offerings to honor the passionate and multifaceted work of our beloved urbanist, Jane Jacobs."
—Wendy Sarkissian, PhD, author of Kitchen Table Sustainability and Creative Community Planning

"How can one resist cheering on this urban original? As one reads these essays by the thoughtful and dedicated people Jane Jacobs inspired through her writing, her organizing, her telephone calling, her patternspotting, her sidewalk ballets, we see how she and our neighborhoods live on through her ideas."
—Victor S. Navasky, Publisher Emeritus, The Nation, and author, A Matter of Opinion

"Jane Jacobs' work wouldn't have been complete if it hadn’t inspired others to carry it on, and evolve Jane’s groundbreaking accomplishments so that the essential kernel of thought remains relevant for future generations. The essayists in What We See have built on those essential footholds that people who have never heard of Jane Jacobs will benefit from for decades."
—Majora Carter, founder, Sustainable South Bronx; winner, Rachel Carson Award and Paul Wellstone Award

"Exuberant, stimulating collection of essays on a person who would be a saint or even an angel sent to us to uncover what really helps us to be alive in our communities. There is no better place to start than this book to see the wisdom Jane Jacobs so astutely covered almost 50 years ago. We are at the precipice of a new era and Jane Jacobs and her aficionados can show us what it could look like. Hallelujah! Hallelujah!"
—Fred Kent, President, Project for Public Spaces

"What We See is a moving and enlightening tribute to the ideas and methods of Jane Jacobs from a diverse set of authors, many of whom knew and revered Jane. Together the essays offer a portrait of this revolutionary thinker that will inspire others to observe closely, contemplate broadly, and engage civically."
—Glenna Lang, co-author of Genius of Common Sense

"The Jane Jacobs legacy lives on, in this extraordinary collection of essays. The reflections on this remarkable woman, and the still-unfolding project of city-building today, are a joy to read."
—Anthony Flint, author of Wrestling with Moses: How Jane Jacobs Took On New York's Master Builder and Transformed the American City

"Just in its title, 'What We See' telegraphs the most important point Jane Jacobs ever made—don't go into a city environment with preset notions of how things are supposed to work; instead, enter the space with as open a mind as you can muster and seek to observe how things actually work. . . What We See is a report back to Jane to tell her what we learned and how it has changed our cities and our lives."
—Keith Bartholomew, Assistant Professor, College of Architecture + Planning, University of Utah, co-author, Growing Cooler: The Evidence on Urban Development and Climate Change

"I had never understood quite so clearly the effective power of Jane Jacob's writing—no, her clear-headed observation—as I did reading What We See. Maybe that's really the point of writing. That if you take the time to look, to really observe, then you see what is happening, and, with the clarity of that vision, you can act to save neighborhoods." —Nancy Milford, scholar, lecturer and author of Zelda and Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay.

 

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