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Asphalt Nation: How the Automobile Took Over America and How We Can Take It Back
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Asphalt Nation: How the Automobile Took Over America and How We Can Take It Back

3.62  ·  Rating details ·  215 Ratings  ·  31 Reviews
Asphalt Nation is a powerful examination of how the automobile has ravaged America's cities and landscape over the past 100 years together with a compelling strategy for reversing our automobile dependency. Jane Holtz Kay provides a history of the rapid spread of the automobile and documents the huge subsidies commanded by the highway lobby, to the detriment of once-effici ...more
Paperback, 440 pages
Published October 1st 1998 by University of California Press (first published April 1st 1997)
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Sep 07, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: city planners, bikers, walkers, urbanites
I read this book when I was a naive urban planning grad student so, of course, I LOVED IT! Now I think it's slightly propaganda-ish, but it's still a damn good book and anyone that thinks the world is way too auto-oriented will appreciate this. Lots of fun facts and a pleasure to read.
Sep 15, 2011 rated it liked it
I started this book enthusiastically but soon lost steam. It's split into three sections. The first diagnoses the problem, the second gives the history behind it, the third offers solutions. It seems like Holtz Kay gives EVERY example she possibly can. The book could have been half its size. That said, it's a huge and fascinating topic - the car-driven (pun) society in which we live and how that is killing: our economy, sense of community, environment, mass transit, beautiful architecture, and i ...more
Mar 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
Although this book is over 15 years old now, much of it is still relevant. Boston's Big Dig is over, some of the trails, train lines, bikepaths, and Interstates have been widened or lengthened. But the way that many people approach autos has shifted only slightly and only in certain parts of the country. The US is still auto-centric, hard-on-public-transportation country - still happy to call road costs worthwhile and a train subsidy wasteful spending even when the money is coming from the same ...more
Sep 05, 2007 rated it liked it
at some points incredibly insightful, at others quite annoying. still worth the read.
Margaret Anton
Oct 16, 2017 rated it did not like it
This book has an interesting premise, but not enough of one to take up a whole book. It felt like the author was beating a dead horse most of the time, and each of the chapters should have been condensed down to one page. Add to that her tendency to use $5 words when 5 cent ones would have done just as well (and possibly better), and you get a very tedious read. The return on investment (information received for time spent) was so low that I would not recommend this book.
Marilyn Geary
Feb 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Low on references, but still a good read.
he United States is in ways a nation without a history. Relatively young, it came of age in the early industrial period, where access to profoundly powerful technologies shaped its growth in a way not seen in Europe or Asia, where new influences worked against what was already there. This is most obviously seen in a comparison of dense, almost compact European cities, and their American counterparts, which sprawl out for mile after dreary mile and -- with some exceptions for cities which date to ...more
Apr 20, 2008 rated it liked it
I would actually love to give this book a 3 1/2. It was really interesting. Just reading the description makes you think twice about how much time you spend driving. Ugh. I have this issue with wasting time and so I hate to think about all the time I could be doing something more useful than adding to the environmental pollutants. Jane Holtz Kay has a great writing style so instead of just facts, and or just biased information she adds some great information mixed in with humorous stories. For a ...more
Jan 01, 2010 rated it really liked it
This book uncovers the ugly side of car culture: Harmful environmental effects, destruction of walkable and bike-friendly communities, high taxes required to maintain the enormous roadway infrastructure, fossil-fuel depletion, thwarting of viable mass-transit alternatives, urban sprawl, injuries and deaths in collisions, etc. It is well written and researched. Car culture is deeply entrenched in the U.S., but Kay offers useful suggestions for beginning the difficult task of undoing it.
Oct 26, 2010 rated it it was ok
I have not finished this yet because the writing leaves a lot to be desired. I still want to read it, though, to get to the parts about how we can take back America.

So I finished it and was not impressed. Taking back America had only a point or two of new thoughts- most of the suggestions seem like common sense. However, I think there is some good knowledge to use when composing remarks to political leaders.
Jun 21, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: the next generation
America is paying an extremely heavy price today for the all-pervasiveness of a runaway carculture that erupted just a hundred years ago.

Real change to create a better, more sustainable way of living and better quality of life HAS TO INCLUDE the TRANSFORMATION of this century aged-behemoth on wheels...
Daniel Engesetter
Sep 26, 2007 rated it liked it
If you think that a best possible world is possible, you must read this book.

I think Americans take cars for granted in much the same way that humans took, say, the horse, for granted for thousands of years. Which is scary, because humans didn't invent the horse.

If you're going to read this book, read Erewhon, by Samuel Butler, as well.

Joe Sherman
Jan 19, 2013 rated it liked it
This another call to blind americans to open their eyes. The book is a bit longer than it needs to be but the message is important. The last 100 years of American history have been one colossal mistake. Start walking and bicycling. Cars are bad. Bad for you and bad for the planet.
James B
May 12, 2009 rated it liked it
I don't agree with all of the means- but I long for the goal.

I think the book would have more of a punch if it was shortened.

Quite ironic that I read a good portion of the book while on a 7700 mile drive.
Lauren Sailor
Feb 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
cars stink!
Dawn Ellis
This is part of my research reading for my thesis.
Jul 03, 2008 rated it liked it
This book can be a bit boring at times, but the information is quite interesting. I believe it goes a long way to explaining just why Oakland is such a crap hole.
John Shtinks
Jun 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
three words: that book was AMAZING!!!
Oct 27, 2007 rated it it was ok
The writing was poor, but the content was valuable. The topic of our nation's dependency on the personal automobile is rarely touched upon.
May 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
An exhaustively thorough litany of qualms against the autonomous internal-combustion vehicle and its impact on America. Could have used some editing.
Aug 22, 2007 rated it liked it
fucking exhaustive
Sep 26, 2007 rated it really liked it
Good explination on how we have become an auto dependent society
Andrew Scholes
May 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
Interesting history of the building of the roads and transportation that we have in the country today. She decried the demise of mass transit for the use of the car.
Shaneeza aziz
Jan 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Great read.
Mar 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book is history of how the US became an automobile dependent culture but she insinuates that automobile and oil companies gave people no choice in the matter, which is up for debate.
Mar 15, 2007 rated it really liked it
Very pessimistic view of the effects of the automobile. Well written, though.
Colleen Ryan
rated it really liked it
Dec 30, 2017
rated it really liked it
Aug 11, 2008
rated it liked it
Feb 10, 2008
Conrad Willeman
rated it liked it
Aug 12, 2012
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