At intervals of a decade or so I reread what I consider to be the great books of architecture. The real standbys have been Venturi's Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture, Le Corbusier’s Towards a New Architecture, Rem Koolhaas’s Delirious New York and Jane Jacobs’s Death and Life of Great American Cities. Depending on my stage in life—and on ambient circumstance—they become different books. Death and Life is now ascendant in my estimation, while the others are sounding a bit foolish for the first time. The books haven’t changed of course, but I have, and so has the general prospect. I am now a 37-year veteran of practice; and the 21st century is rather up to its neck in environmental, economic, and social crises. The conceptual and the aesthetic now seem to matter much less; and what does is good, practical know-how about normal humans and the places that serve them well—particularly the modest ones. What is so compelling about Jacobs is that real people with all their foibles come first; and architects, when appearing at all, are dangerous fools. This coincides with my personal experience. I must emphasize that the modest pragmatism that I now value is not a surrender of ideals, but the result of mature consideration. To read Jacobs is to be in the presence of an adult. This time around the others read variously like the works of a charming scoundrel, a wild-eyed teenager, and a self-indulgent child. I leave it up to you to guess which is which.