Perfect timing! Soon, new Truckee Town Council members will be taking their seats, a citizen-powered General Plan Update process is just beginning, and cozy evenings for reading are upon us. This is a great time for Truckee folks to get involved and informed on best practices for planning and preserving our exceptional community, and here are some books to inspire you.

WALKABLE CITY: How Downtown Can Save America One Step at a Time

Jeff Speck, North Point Press 2012


This must-read draws parallels in the mind to our current downtown development and will be a valuable reference for the General Plan Update. Speck, a city planner and national authority on smart growth and sustainable design, engages the reader with his passion, research, and wide-ranging experience. His mantra, “get walkability right and so much of the rest will follow,” ties in to much of what Truckee is grappling with today: traffic, downtown parking, in lieu fees, public transit, bike-ability, town character, and the preservation of neighborhoods, historic buildings, and landscapes.

Solutions are often counter-intuitive, such as: raise parking meter rates to the max and this will boost downtown business, improve parking, and reduce traffic. He also provides info on demographics of people who want to live downtown and conditions necessary to make public transit work. This book is packed with useful, thought-provoking information and is a fantastic read!

PALACES FOR THE PEOPLE: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization and the Decline of Civic Life

Eric Klinenberg, Crown Pub. 2018

One of the five objectives of the Truckee General Plan includes: “Identify the community’s … social goals and policies as they relate to land use and development.” Eric Klinenberg’s book provides research and examples of how this can be achieved through properly developed centers for social infrastructure which allow diverse populations to have face to face interactions, build relationships, and grow a sense of belonging and community. These places include libraries, parks, museums, community gardens, and in Truckee, even the downtown post office! To achieve results, both the spaces and the programming need to be intentionally planned.

An example given is a library where a divided group of older adults who did not speak the same language congregated. The library staff collaborated with surrounding branches to develop a “virtual bowling” league where teams competed on the internet. Teams designed their bowling shirts and, as bowling is a universal language, they rooted for each other and bonded as they competed for team trophies.


Susan Orlean, Simon and Schuster, 2018

With a focus on the value of libraries to social and cultural infrastructure, journalist and author Susan Orlean (The Orchid Thief) has written a tour de force. The tale is a mystery of who/what caused a 1986 Los Angeles Central Library fire that destroyed and damaged over a million books. Central Library, originally built in 1873 has evolved and grown with the community’s needs and diverse populations, from social elites to the homeless.

After the fire, myriad supporters stepped up, including intrepid volunteers who salvaged and cleaned burnt and waterlogged books, corporations who championed the rebuilding, dedicated library staff who worked in impossible conditions, and the idiosyncratic library directors, each one a fascinating study.

BUILDING A VIBRANT COMMUNITY: How Citizen-Powered Change is Reshaping America

Quint Studer, Be the Bulb Publishing 2018

The author’s pivotal role in the revitalization of Pensacola, Florida, provides the blueprint for this step-by-step guide toward the creation of a vibrant community. In this context, that’s “a place where young people can stay home after college and still fulfill their potential, a place that attracts talent and private investments, a place with a strong tax base that leads to financial health. A place that’s safe and clean with a great education system.”

In achieving this goal, Studer sees small business owners as catalysts and successful downtowns as crucial. He also believes in the creation of quality of life indicators to measure where a community is and where it wants to be. Pensacola successfully transformed its downtown Palafox Street (think Downtown’s Historic Commercial Row) that was named in 2013 one of the 10 Great Streets in America. A community maritime park (think Truckee River corridor redevelopment) was also a focus for the downtown revitalization in Pensacola.

Do note that this book is available on the “Friends’ Shelf.” Friends Of The Library created the special section to give Truckee patrons better access to best sellers and other books particularly relevant to Truckee.

~ Ruth is a board member of Friends of the Truckee Library, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting and supporting the Truckee Library as an essential civic institution. The group is advocating for the Truckee Library to be operated by the Town of Truckee and is planning for a new 21st Century library. For information on how to get involved, email


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