I continue with my extremely slow moving, eventually ten part series on important books in my life. For now, I’m sticking this one in at number 6.
The greatest thing that James Howard Kunstler gave me when I read The Geography of Nowhere (and his follow up, Home from Nowhere) was a vocabulary for making sense of my built environment.
Plainfield, Indiana has some beautiful old buildings. It also has a some hideous new structures. When I was younger, I sensed that there was something superior about the old Christ Corner bookstore building compared to say, the Walmart a mile and a half away, but I couldn’t put my finger on it beyond simply observing that one building was really old and the other really new.
But Kunster’s work on the importance of human scale, the dominance of the automobile in American life, and the emergence of zoning codes in the mid-twentieth century gave me a new way of understanding the forces at work in Plainfield and other communities.