Michael Sorkin

Architect / United States / Michael Sorkin Studio

Michael Sorkin’s Book List

This is not a list of the 25 “best” books I can think of—but rather a list of 25 books that opened doors for me. Most were first read a long time ago. The list will be different tomorrow. 

25 books
Lewis Mumford

Given to me by my mother when it was first published, this is the book that gave me my first real clues about urban history and the relationship of form and social life. It also made me a modernist.

Immanuel Kant

A first serious critical armature for sorting out the meaning of taste.

Jane Jacobs

As succinct and singular an explanation of urban causality as there is.

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

Has the dilemma of modernity been better expressed?

J. G. Ballard

I do have a tooth for dystopia and this is a coolly familiar one.

Friedrich Engels

The man was a remarkable straight talker. No better summary of the commodification of space.

Allen Ginsberg

I am a sixties guy and this was a key anthem.

Sigmund Freud

The first of Freud’s books I read and therefore the portal to vast worlds.

Paul A. Jackson

The young boy’s handbook of functionalist aesthetics and representation.

Henri Lefebvre

In which it is made clear that our relationship to cities is not just functional but imaginative.

Vladimir Nabokov

America unpacked with hilarious, amazingly fluid style.

Robert Musil

Never has a cultural condition been caught so deadpan dead to rights.

William Shakespeare

Well, Shakespeare was the greatest writer ever. In a saturnine mood today, so I pick my favorite comedy.


A book that took away much adolescent fuzziness in thinking about the idea of the good.

Fred Gipson

The first book to make me cry.

Jack Kerouac

Another anthem. Captures the double dream of imaginative and spatial freedom.

Jane Austen

Tender, precise, and perfect.


The book through which I learned how to read closely and had my utopian streak nicely jazzed.

William L. Shirer

The book that brought the swastika to the living room of every Jewish family in America also launched my fascination with the ur-porno of those incomprehensible events.

Rachel Carson

The origin point of systematic and political green thinking.

Shikibu Murasaki

From which I learned much about both the universality and particularity of literature. (Includes one of the greatest weepy scenes in literature.)

Reyner Banham

Confirmed my modernist bent, offered the first picture seen of Michel de Klerk’s post office, and—via its shimmery prose—made the idea of writing about architecture plausible.

Laurence Sterne

The funniest book ever written.

James Joyce

The most sustained act of literary invention of all time, one of those works after which things are simply not the same.

Don DeLillo

A really funny, brilliant book that makes fiction continuingly relevant and possible.

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