The first is a truly fantastic book for theory junkies, especially for people like me who are interested in agonism: Planning and Conflict: Critical Perspectives on Contentious Urban Development. It was edited by
Enrico Gualini, the writing and narrative consistency are terrific. Professor Gualini’s organization, commentary, and introduction in this volume represent fantastic scholarly editing.
We normally have pretty uneven edited volumes, but this one isn’t. Every single chapter in this book is good. There are a lot of really first-rate planning and urban theory thinkers in European universities right now, lots of them are not well-known in the US, and that’s a pity because the thinking and writing about planning qua politics going on with these thinkers is very, very useful to thinking about how the profession fits into development politics.
This one is not really for beginners, but for those of us who have research interest in agonism, it’s a vital new research contribution.
My review for Planning Theory is here (behind a paywall, unfortunately).
The other book I reviewed recently is targeted to another audience: new planning professionals entering the field. There aren’t many books out there that address the difficulties of moving from the relative safety (for students) of university programs to the political cyclone of planning practice.
It’s title is a little misleading: the book is more about how planning really didn’t get as far as everybody hoped in rebuilding community. But that’s ok. I was conflicted a lot reading this book: I’m just not sure it’s a great idea for outsiders to write about something so devastating to real people as grist for reflecting on their own professional development. I just don’t know. That said, John Forester and Andrew Rumbach, the leaders here, are both very fine scholars, and it’s always good to hear from them.
And there just aren’t very many books targeted to helping students understanding the movement from planning as a student to planning as a professional. While the politics the students describe here feel pretty standard to old warhorses in the field, I could see this being a nice book to give to a planner starting out to help them understand that they aren’t alone, that planning as a professional is emotionally demanding and conflictual, and that they can accomplish some good even if the project itself doesn’t pan out. The paperback is priced nicely for that market as well.