Preparing for NYU CUSP: movies, books, podcasts

This is a list of books, documentaries, podcasts, and blogs that I either liked or am hoping to read, watch, listen to in the near future. Some are directly related to the science and history of cities, others may not be so connected, but they informed my thinking about society, economics, and design, so I included them here.

If you have your own recommendations, please add them to the comments. I'm always looking for new sources.


Urbanized (

Available on Netflix. One of the three design documentaries by Gary Hustwit. The others are Helvetica about typography and Objectified about object and product design. I largely owe my interest in design to these three movies.

New York: A Documentary 

Seven part, fourteen hour PBS series spanning 400 years of New York history.
Here's the first part of the first episode.
Other parts are also on YouTube, the official page is here.


This American Life, Episode 512: House Rules

A one-hour history of housing segregation in the US. Roosevelt's selective subsidizing of home owning middle class through redlining, the Civil Rights Fair Housing Act of 1968 and the story of its enforcement.


This podcast is much drier than This American Life or Planet Money. It usually features a 1-hour conversation between Russ Roberts (economist at George Mason U and Stanford Hoover Institution) and his guests. Roberts is a Hayekian, so this is a good source of balance if, like mine, most of your sources have a strong liberal tilt.


Model Thinking (Coursera)

A fascinating course about models. It's very general and covers a lot of ground. One of the best introductory classes I've ever taken.

Game Theory II (Coursera)

A short and slightly technical course about the theory of social choice mechanisms (elections, auctions). Really enjoyed it.

Introduction to Data Science (Coursera)

A bit of Python, R, MapReduce, SQL with some hands on projects.

The Data Scientist's Toolbox (Coursera)

Version control, markdown, git, R.

Data Analysis (Coursera)

Regression, classification, this class has now been split up into shorter classes that are offered every month.

Computing for Data Analysis (Coursera)

A very good introduction to R.


The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs (reading now)
A classic. Enjoying it very much.

The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York by Robert A. Caro (to read)
A formidable 1100 pages in small type. Will try to read, but with all the other things, I'm not very optimistic.

How to Lie With Maps by Mark Monmonier (to read)
Recommended by a friend.

Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier (Edward Glaeser) (to read)
Assigned as summer reading by CUSP.

The New Science of Cities by Michael Batty (to read)
Nothing to say yet, but the title seems like it could be useful.

Urban Ecology: Science of Cities by Richard T. T. Forman (to read)
Nothing to say yet, but the title seems like it could be useful.

The Signal and the Noise: Why Many Predictions Fail, But Some Don't by Nate Silver (read)
A lively and easy analysis of what types of processes can be predicted or forecast and what types evade modeling efforts with examples in politics, climate, economics, sports, and gambling.

Thinking in Systems: A Primer by Donella Meadows (read)
Read a couple of years ago. An easy and intuitive introduction.

Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson (read)
Acemoglu and Robinson make a case that inclusive political institutions lead to good socioeconomic outcomes and describe the processes that form these institutions: institutional drift and critical junctures. A fascinating and lively read.

Land of Promise: An Economic History of the United States by Michael Lind (read)
My first real introduction to American history. Lind tells the story through the lens of the fractious and ever relevant debate of the role of government in the economy.

Complex Adaptive Systems by Scott E. Page and John H. Miller (partially read)
Interesting, but I haven't read enough to tell more.

The World That Made New Orleans by Ned Sublette
A wonderful cultural history passionately written by a musician and musicologist.