“I like really long books as well as very short ones,” says the architect who runs her eponymous architecture firm, Deborah Berke Partners, in New York City. A little more than three years ago, Berke also became dean of the Yale School of Architecture, making her the first female dean in the institution’s 100-year history. Here, she shares the titles that possess both literary flair and design underpinnings, in varying degrees—recommended for book lovers and architects alike.
Sing to It: New Stories, by Amy Hempel
I’ve loved Amy Hempel’s work for decades, so much so that I once asked her to advise on a short-story reading list for an architecture-design studio I taught at Yale. We looked at the underbelly of the American suburb, which is a theme that runs through many of her stories, including several in her marvelous new collection, Sing to It. Taut and telling, they reveal uncomfortable truths about ourselves and the lives we build and sometimes destroy.
The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York, by Robert Caro
Anyone who loves New York should read The Power Broker. The book weighs in at more than 1,300 pages, so be prepared to spend a lot of time inside the mind of Robert Moses, the brilliant and maddening master builder. Caro is one of the world’s great biographers, and he deftly teases out how Moses consolidated control of city and state bureaucracies to shape New York with greater force than any single mayor or governor. Moses’s legacy is mixed, but his impact is undeniable.
Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies, by Reyner Banham
I fell in love with Los Angeles through the wonder and enthusiasm of Reyner Banham’s eyes. His four ecologies—the expansive beaches, flatlands, foothills, and freeways—provide a way to read the city, even today. As a New York native, Banham taught me that Los Angeles is an altogether different kind of urban marvel, and one equally worth embracing.