Greg Enas reviews...

The second in a series of book reviews by HCA board member and voracious reader, Greg Enas. Enjoy!


The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs

This 50th anniversary edition of the classic, originally published in 1961, is almost 600 pages long with something for everyone interested in how and why cities live and die. I was amazed at the depth of inquiry the author possessed as she illuminated city life in bright new ways for me, a resolute city dweller my entire life. I got to imagining the hustle and bustle of a thriving city, with it's wide sidewalks, short blocks, mixed use, the informal communication channels that nourished civic life while keeping family privacy at a premium. A good city helps society navigate successfully between public life and private, between inertia and rest, and honors each family first and foremost by providing civil public interaction and governmental support for the common good. Big green parks in the middle of housing projects are no good! Space that is used for the common discourse of life, where business and enterprise join with home and hearth. This is a short review because the main messages were so clear and compelling that I did not read much of the last half of the book. It's worthy of a deeper read but for me, the appetizer and small plate was enough!


Small-Town Dreams: Stories of Midwestern Boys Who Shaped America by John Miller
Outstanding biographical vignettes of seventeen men who grew up in America's Midwest before establishing their huge footprint in all aspects of culture and society. The author does not make sweeping generalizations about the uniqueness of this groups accomplishments, other than to note that the place of one's childhood is indelibly marked on the content and extent of one's future life. The Midwest is a place where dreams are forged, often to leave the small town of childhood and venture beyond, while always admiring and honoring the sense of community and togetherness. Dreams often encouraged by mother while father encouraged more practical pursuits.  Three Hoosiers are included (Ernie Pyle from Dana, John Wooden from Hall, Centerton, and Martinsville, and James Dean from Fairmount). Some stay in the small town, many leave, but all remain true to their roots, nurtured and tended to in the hard-scrabble soil.