A Good Place to Live: America's Last Migration

Terry Prindell, Author, Terry Pindell, Author
Terry Prindell, Author, Terry Pindell, Author Henry Holt & Company $27.5 (413p) ISBN 978-0-8050-2352-7
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For three years, Pindell (Making Tracks: An American Rail Odyssey) traversed North America, visiting several mostly small cities he views as good places to live. His report, he says, is ``surprisingly good news,'' and it also makes good reading for both questers and those merely wondering about what makes for ``place'' in the '90s. In Santa Fe, his first stop, he fine-tuned his criteria, which are different from the standard tables of schools, taxes and crime: they include walkability, the presence of ``third places'' like coffee houses, a mix of cultural and natural amenities and a sense of local identity. Pindell's curiosity and engaging style, combined with reflections on his native New Hampshire, overcome the occasional superficiality of his reports. In San Luis Obispo, midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, he finds a unique chamber of commerce devoted to preservation ``not only of lands but of buildings,'' while in Bellingham, Wash., he sees the only Seattle suburb surviving the Long Islandization of the region. He discovers pockets of cosmopolitanism in writerly Missoula, Mont., and Wilmington, N.C., a filmmaking center. While Ithaca, N.Y., seems a fractured town, Burlington, Vt., is the most civil place he's visited. He concludes by assessing the preconditions for livable cities and reflecting that the voices of urban critics like Jane Jacobs and Howard Mumford, who stressed that cityscapes should provide mixed-use zoning and downtown living, still echo. (July)
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