- Earlier this year, we asked a range of real estate insiders, including agents, executives, VCs, and analysts, to give us recommendations for books to understand the industry.
- They came back with a list of 27 selections.
- The titles ranged from “Power Broker,” a classic biography of New York City planner Robert Moses, to Bill Bryson’s history of the home, and even included one novel about a 19th century real estate developer.
- Read more BI Prime stories here.
Earlier this year, we asked a range of real estate insiders, including agents, executives, VCs, and analysts, to give us recommendations for books to understand the industry.
They came back with a range of titles, from sweeping histories of cities and biographies and autobiographies of powerful people to “how to” guides for investors and real estate agents.
We compiled the list into 27 selections, presented below with summaries of their content and, with some selections, commentary about them from their nominators.
“Am I Being Too Subtle” by Sam Zell
Sam Zell, the controversial and bombastic billionaire real estate investor, published his autobiography in 2017. Zell explains his investment philosophy, using triumphs and failures from his own life as examples.
“From Main Street to Mall: The Rise and Fall of the American Department Store” by Vicki Howard
Vicki Howard’s 2016 history of American shopping in the 20th century follows the rise and fall of the US department store, explaining how the mall eventually took its place.
“Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States” by Kenneth T. Jackson
Jackson’s 1985 history of the American suburb is a landmark work that examines the causes of suburbanization, from the creation of planned communities like Levittown to “white flight” from the cities.
The book predicted both the reurbanization of America and the ways that suburbs have lost some of their appeal.
Nate Loewentheil, senior associate at Camber Creek, told Business Insider that it is a “great read for anyone who wants to understand how the American metropolis took shape.”
“How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They’re Built” by Stewart Brand
Brand’s 1994 illustrated book explains how buildings are able to adapt to different uses over their lifespan. It posits that the best buildings are easily adaptable, and explains how renovations change the character of a building.
The book was made into a six-episode miniseries by the BBC in 1997.
“Proptech 101: Turning Chaos Into Cash Through Real Estate Innovation” by Aaron Block and Zach Aarons
This 2019 book by two of VC MetaProp’s cofounders was our most-nominated book, including a nomination by Building Engines’ CEO Tim Curran. The book attempts to catalogue and understand the sprawling world of proptech, touching on everything from construction tech to real-estate focused fintech.
“Rethinking Real Estate: A Roadmap to Technology’s Impact on the World’s Largest Asset Class” by Dror Poleg
This 2019 book is the other proptech-focused book nominated by our panel of insiders. Poleg examines how technology will impact all real estate asset classes, and the book explains how a wide range of technological changes, some not easily connected to real estate, are deeply changing the ways that real estate operates.
The book was nominated by both Building Engines’ CEO Tim Curran and flex-office adviser Antony Slumbers.
“The Devil in the White City” by Erik Larson
This 2003 National Book Award finalist tells two stories: one of Daniel H. Burnham, the architect who designed Chicago’s 1893 World Fair, and of pharmacist and serial killer Dr. H.H. Holmes. It is being developed into a TV series by Hulu and will executive produced by Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese.
Bain Capital Venture’s Merritt Hummer said that the “holds a special place in any native Chicagoan’s heart” for its combination of historical accuracy and “narrative flair.”
“Real estate aficionados will learn about Chicago’s architectural history as an added bonus,” Hummer said.
“At Home: A Short History of Private Life” by Bill Bryson
Bill Bryson’s 2011 book examines the history behind the home, examining its history room by room. Bain Capital Venture’s Hummer called it “a playful reflection on the everyday items that fill our homes and private lives.”
The book matches its playful tone with a historical touch.
“The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York” by Robert Caro
This 1974 1336-page Pulitzer Prize winning biography tells the story of influential New York City planner Robert Moses, and through that story, tells the story of the creation of the modern city.
The book shows how Moses was able to become one of the most powerful people in the country by building a network of bridges, parks, roads and public housing across the New York metro region.
It is widely-considered one of the best biographies of all time.
“The Death and Life of Great American Cities” by Jane Jacobs
This 1961 classic of urban planning continues to be widely read in the real estate field. The book looks at cities, and their neighborhoods, as organisms and examines how buildings and roads can change people’s behavior.
Jacobs’s book was, in some ways, a reaction to planners like Robert Moses, and is a good companion to “The Power Broker.”
“City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles” by Mike Davis
This 1990 history of Los Angeles examines the ways that different forces in the city have impacted its growth over time. A 2006 edition brought the book into the 21st century.
The book has a reputation for its left-wing point of view, but is invaluable for real estate thinkers looking to understand how a metropolis can be created out of a desert.
“Miami” by Joan Didion
Didion’s 1987 book examines the ways that Cuban exiles have impacted and changed Miami, and how Miami has changed them. The book isn’t strictly about real estate, but it does examine how a city can be impacted by its occupants. With a global refugee crisis marring the 2010s and the threat of exponentially more climate refugees, this book is an essential read.
“Order Without Design: How Markets Shape Cities” by Alain Bertaud
This 2018 book attempts to synthesize urban economics with urban planning, bringing a numbers-heavy lens to the city. The book highlights affordability and mobility as some of the main factors of a city’s success, and argues against certain land use regulations. It also suggests that teams of urban planners should work directly with economists.
“Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American” by Matthew Desmond
This 2016 Pulitzer Prize winner examines evictions in Milwaukee, focusing on a cast of landlords and renters, with an eye on how evictions impact American society as a whole. The book mixes policy recommendation and a wide-scale view with the actual stories of real people getting evicted.
“The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America” by Richard Rothstein
This 2017 history makes a case that the failures of integration wasn’t just a case of de facto segregation and personal prejudice, but actual government policies that existed before and long after housing segregation was, supposedly, outlawed.
The book, bolstered by newly uncovered research, shows how public housing and government subsidies only increased segregation.
“The Island at the Center of the World” by Russell Shorto
This 2004 history of Manhattan uses a trove of documents from the original Dutch occupants of the island to tell the story of its early days as a colony. The book makes the case that New York, previously New Amsterdam, owes a lot of its current form to the Dutch and to the city of Amsterdam itself.
The book was recommended by Anthony A. Tortora, Senior Vice President at LCOR.
“Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898” by Edwin Burrows and Mike Wallace
This massive 1988 book is another deep dive into New York City, which Nate Loewentheil from Camber Creek said “you can argue is the most important real estate market in the world.” Loewentheil said that this is one of the best histories of the city.
The book isn’t solely focused on real estate, but gives an accounting of how the real estate market formed over time.
“What it Takes: Lessons in the Pursuit of Excellence” by Stephen Schwarzman
Avid Reader Press / Simon & Schuster
This 2019 autobiography was one of the biggest business books of the last year, and just like Schwarzman’s company, touches on many aspects of the financial world, including real estate.
Blake Liggio, a partner in Goodwin’s Real Estate Industry Group and PropTech initiative, said that the book “provides a playbook of how Schwarzman built Blackstone into the leading global financial institution that it is today, including its success in real estate investment.”
“Is Commercial Real Estate for You?” by Greg Biggs
This 2017 book, recommended by David Houck, the Executive Managing Director of JLL Industries was written by Greg Biggs, a Managing Director of JLL’s Tenant Representation Group.
The book outlines the different parts of the commercial real estate industry, and was written to introduce commercial real estate to those who may be interested in it as a career.
“Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping” by Paco Underhill and “What Women Want: The Science of Female Shopping” by Paco Underhill
Nikki Greenberg, Founder of Real Estate of the Future and Founder of Women in PropTech, recommended both of these books because they were her “go-to guide when I designed shopping centers.”
Underhill examine retail in a way that makes the books both invaluable to actual practitioners and made “Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping” a best-seller.
“The Book on Rental Property Investing” by Brandon Turner
This 2015 book is a no-nonsense guide to real estate investment to people who are new to owning and renting space. The book is written by Brandon Turner, the host of The BiggerPockets podcast, and is the most direct guide to real estate investment for smaller investors on the list.
“Skyscraper Dreams: The Great Real Estate Dynasties of New York” by Tom Shachtman
This 1991 book details the history of New York’s real estate dynasties and the skyscrapers they’ve built.
“This book gives an honest and detailed description as to how New York City’s skyscrapers were formed and molded by the biggest real estate families in the industry,” Robert Rahmanian, principal and cofounder of REAL New York, told Business Insider.
Will Silverman, managing director at Eastdil Secured, echoed Rahmanian’s praise.
“The Millionaire Real Estate Agent: It’s Not About the Money…It’s About Being the Best You Can Be!” by Gary Keller
This 2004 book by Keller Williams founder Gary Keller is a step-by-step guide for real estate professionals looking to build long-term, sustainable businesses. It combines elements of Keller’s personal story with practical information for agents.
“I read this book every spring to get back into the right mindset to crush it in the busy summer rental season,” Michael Bello, a broker at REAL New York, said.
“Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer” by Steven Millhauser
This 1996 novel is the lone piece of fiction on the list. Nominated by Zach Aarons, whose own book is on this list, the book was a finalist for the National Book Award and won the Pulitzer Prize.
The book tells the story of Martin Dressler, a son of an immigrant who becomes a hotel developer in the late 19th century.
“House of Outrageous Fortune: Fifteen Central Park West, the World’s Most Powerful Address” by Michael Gross
This 2014 examination of one prestigious New York address uses the building as a canvas to explore themes of inequality, power, and fame.
The building has housed many famous and powerful people such as hedge-fund manager Daniel Loeb, Goldman Sachs ex-CEO Lloyd Blankfein, hedge-fund founder Daniel Och, Sting, Denzel Washington, and Jeff Gordon
“The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine” by Michael Lewis
This 2011 book has been adapted into a hit 2015 movie. The book, by “Moneyball” and “Liar’s Poker” author Michael Lewis, examines the cause of the 2008 financial crash. While scores of books have explained the rise and fall of subprime mortgages, this book is the most successful and most widely read of them all.
“Use What You’ve Got, and Other Business Lessons I Learned from My Mom” by Barbara Corcoran and Bruce Littlefield
This 2003 book by Corcoran Group founder and Shark Tank star Barbara Corcoran tells her personal story and gives some business tips along the way.
“Real estate isn’t just about real estate, it’s about connections and real life and this book hones in on just that,” Kathryn Landow, broker at Warburg Realty, said.
Original article contributed by: Business Insider