Julie Iovine

Critic; Writer; Editor / Architecture / United States / The Wall Street Journal

An Architecture Critic Commits

I look to books for everything imaginable, and unimaginable. They shape my outlook, but also throw open spaces I could never have found on my own. The chance to consider an essential list is wonderfully engrossing, but also a bit of a nasty parlor trick. Must I commit? . . . View the complete text
9 books
Robert Alter

I think of this book together with Charles Dickens’s Dombey and Son as it was through Imagined Cities that I came to consider Dickens anew. For once, in describing the wrenching toll of industrialization—specifically constructing the new railroad slashing through neighborhoods—Dickens’s melodramatic writing seems just the thing. Alter goes on to brilliantly explicate carriage traffic in Flaubert as well.

Thomas J. Campanella

The landscape in China is changing so fast that this 2008 report from the front lines is already past tense. But as a record of attitudes held by a just-exploding economy, it couldn’t be more riveting.

Paul Fussell

I’m fairly obsessed with tracking the modern mindset to its earliest sources and most warping traumas. World War I was the ultimate defining wrench in our mental works. Fussell considers not the battles fought but the culture that resonated around battle and transformed subsequent thinking about the modern experience.

Philippe Ariès Editor
Georges Duby Editor

This five-volume set out of Harvard traces the cultural threads spun in pagan and ancient times leading to our contemporary obsession with private space. Plus, it’s a great resource for illustrations.

Charles Dickens

I came back to this book as a result of reading Robert Alter's Imagined Cities (see my comments).

Deyan Sudjic

About dictator moths drawn to lightbulb architects. The chapter on American presidential libraries is scathing and hilariously depressing. It does not say whether or not architects have a moral responsibility when working for power mongers, but it eloquently poses all the right probing questions.

Justin Pollard
Howard Reid

There was a moment in history when any thinking person in the known world headed for Alexandria and there invented geography, mathematics, astronomy, religious tolerance and, convincingly, the modern mind. The book is especially fascinating on detailing revelations achieved simply through time and observation.

Edward R. Tufte

Tufte has written a handful of eye-popping books with ahead-of-the-curve titles (The Visual Display of Quantitative Information had to be self-published in 1986). Beautiful Evidence, published in 2006, is his most accessible, with tipped-in sheets for the famous graphic on Napoleon’s March on Moscow, how-to-dance-the-gavotte charts, and an 1823 map showing how many slaves fit into a ship named Vigilante. Data visualizers may prefer the earlier, wonkier tomes, but this one provides the pure pleasure of browse and learn.

Neal Stephenson

One of Stephenson’s first books, published in 1995, it anticipates iPads, 3-D printing, the dangers of mass customization, and enslavement through craft.

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