January 14, 2014

14 Essential Preservation Books

Elliott Bay Book Company is a legendary independent bookstore in Seattle.

photo by: N i c o l a/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Elliott Bay Book Company is a legendary independent bookstore in Seattle.

There are tons of informative, fascinating, and practical books out there on historic preservation and its connection to our cities, neighborhoods, and lives. We have a handful of suggestions below to get you started or add to your list.

Head to your favorite local or online bookstore to check out these titles:

The Past and Future City, by Stephanie Meeks, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. A detailed description, supported by unique empirical research, of the many ways that saving and restoring historic fabric can help a city create thriving neighborhoods, good jobs, and a vibrant economy.

Build On: Converted Architecture and Transformed Buildings, by L. Feireiss (editor) and R. Klanten (editor). A collection of extraordinary examples of transformed spaces, such abandoned churches and forsaken rural centers that are reborn as residences, hotels, and more.

Giving Preservation a History: Histories of Historic Preservation in the United States, by Randall Mason (editor) and Max Page (editor). A compilation of essays from noted figures in the preservation field—including several National Trust staffers—that explore topics ranging from the European roots of the historic preservation movement to what the changing nature of the movement means for preserving our past.

Keeping Time: The History and Theory of Preservation in America, by William J. Murtagh. A basic primer on the American historic preservation movement, useful for both students of preservation as well as anyone interested in historic buildings and their relevance today.

A Field Guide to American Houses: The Definitive Guide to Identifying and Understanding America's Domestic Architecture, by Virginia Savage McAlester. A newly designed and expanded second edition of the most comprehensive and widely acclaimed guide to American domestic architecture. (Bonus: Check out this New York Times article about McAlester's road to her latest edition.)

Nearby History: Exploring the Past Around You, by David E. Kyvig and Myron A. Marty. The third edition of a comprehensive handbook written to help you better explore the history in your midst, from a variety of research methods to new technology for documenting your surroundings.

Old Buildings, New Forms, by Francoise Bollack. A survey of examples from across the country and worldwide demonstrating unique solutions to adapting historic buildings for contemporary uses.

The Past is a Foreign Country, by David Lowenthal. A wide-ranging analysis of how the past is continually shaping our lives, referencing sources as diverse as science fiction and psychoanalysis.

Place, Race, and Story: Essays on the Past and Future of Historic Preservation, by Ned Kaufman. A collection of the author’s own essays on how to give the next generation of preservationists the knowledge and ideas they need to take preservation to the next level.

The Politics of Historic Districts: A Primer for Grassroots Preservation and “part two”: Preservation Politics: Keeping Historic Districts Vital, by Bill Schmickle. The first is everything you need to know about the politics of organizing a campaign for designating a local historic district; the second offers sound advice on maintaining the newly created historic district.

Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time, by Jeff Speck. An inspiring vision for America’s cities based on the idea that walkability is key to a thriving, viable community.

On the lighter side:

Loving Frank, by Nancy Horan. Written from the point of view of one of the women Frank Lloyd Wright was involved with, blending fact and fiction seamlessly.

The Island Walkers, by John Bemrose. A story of a family of mill workers fighting to protect their way of life on the Island.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, by John Berendt. A mystical exploration of the society and culture of old Savannah surrounding a landmark murder case.

By purchasing any of these products using the links on this page, you'll be supporting the National Trust. Check out other ways you can support preservation as you shop, travel, and play.

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