"American Urbanist" shares the life and wisdom of William "Holly" Whyte, a man whose advocacy reshaped many of the places we know and love today — from New York’s bustling Bryant Park to preserved forests and farmlands around the country. Whyte's experiences as a WWII intelligence officer and leader of the genre-defining reporters at Fortune Magazine in the 1950s shaped his razor-sharp assessments of how the world actually worked — not how it was assumed to work. His 1956 bestseller, "The Organization Man," catapulted the dangers of “groupthink” and conformity into the national consciousness.
Over his five decades of research and writing, Whyte’s wide-ranging work changed how people thought about careers and companies, cities and suburbs, urban planning, open space preservation and more. He was part of the rising environmental movement, helped spur change at the planning office of New York City, and narrated two films about urban life, in addition to writing six books. No matter the topic, Whyte advocated for the decision makers to be people, not just experts.
“We need the kind of curiosity that blows the lid off everything,” he once said. His life offers encouragement to be thoughtful and bold in asking questions and in making space for differing viewpoints. This revealing biography offers a rare glimpse into the mind of an iconoclast whose healthy skepticism of the status quo can help guide our efforts to create the kinds of places we want to live in today.
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