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Summer Reading 2023 - Part 1: Paved Paradise by Henry Grabar

Updated: Aug 31, 2023

Susan Gaeddert is Community Programs Director at 1000 Friends of Wisconsin, where she runs Active Wisconsin, facilitates the Community Transportation Academy, and coordinates the Wisconsin Climate Table.

This is Part 1 in the Summer Reading 2023 series.

Do you have a summer reading list? Summer is supposed to be a time to relax, slow down a little, spend more time outdoors, maybe take a vacation, and indulge in a good book or three. The last few months I’ve been fortunate to have the time to read a few new books that have informed or deepened my understanding of land use and transportation planning. These aren’t your typical “beach read,” but I found them to be engaging, entertaining, and informative.

Henry Grabar is a journalist who has been writing about urban planning and land use for years. In Paved Paradise, Grabar takes on one of the most pedantic topics imaginable - parking - and somehow makes it riveting. The book opens with a murder (a fight over a parking space that escalated badly) and from there takes the reader on a fascinating journey through the history of urban renewal, shopping malls, zoning, organized crime, NIMBYism, and even a modern cult.

It’s a good read with great storytelling, and contrary to what you might think, Grabar is not anti-car. He does, however, make a strong case for re-examining the American approach to land use and parking requirements. My only critique is that he focuses exclusively on large cities, mostly coastal, to the exclusion of small and mid-size rural and suburban communities who are just as “over-parked,” if not more so, as large urban centers. One thing is for sure, though - once you read this book, you’ll never look at a parking lot the same way again.

Have you read any good books lately? Drop me a note and let me know by emailing

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