A couple weeks ago I got a chance to do a TreeHugger Live Chat with Mary Rowe, one of the people who compiled and edited the new volume of unpublished letters, essays and speeches by renowned urban planner and activist Jane Jacobs: Ideas That Matter - The Worlds of Jane Jacobs (Island Press).
The one main through line that stands out for me, both in my conversation with Mary Rowe and reading through the 200 page collection of Jacobs' writings is how vital and current the writing is, even though much of the work is actually half a century old or more.
Jacobs is obviously most well known for her work in urban planning, and opposing the the deconstruction of pedestrian, neighborhood New York and replacing it with highways. If you don't know, if you live in lower Manhattan you can thank Jacobs for not having a highway running right through it all, as Robert Moses envisioned.
But what I like most about Jacobs' work -- if only because it seems to be less well known, or at least not as well acknowledged -- is her work in economics. Jacobs had some really interesting insights into how economies actually function in practice with people involved, and not just the abstract world of formulae that modern economics has become (in its futile pretensions of becoming a hard science).
Both of these subjects, and more (including writings and photographs from as recently as the late 90s), are included. So if you're already familiar with Jacobs' work there's lots to thumb through -- which you can easily, it's worth noting; you don't have to read cover to cover, the sections being thematic as much as chronological.