An entertaining, enlightening, and utterly original investigation into one of the most quietly influential forces in modern American life—the humble parking spot
Parking, quite literally, has a death grip on America: each year a handful of Americans are tragically killed by their fellow citizens over parking spots. But even when we don’t resort to violence, we routinely do ridiculous things for parking, contorting our professional, social, and financial lives to get a spot. Indeed, in the century since the advent of the car, we have deformed—and in some cases demolished—our homes and our cities in a Sisyphean quest for cheap and convenient car storage. As a result, much of the nation’s most valuable real estate is now devoted exclusively to empty and idle vehicles, even as so many Americans struggle to find affordable housing. Parking determines the design of new buildings and the fate of old ones, patterns of traffic and the viability of transit, neighborhood politics and municipal finance, the quality of public space, and even the course of floodwaters. Can this really be the best use of our finite resources and space? Why have we done this to the places we love? Is parking really more important than anything else?
These are the questions Slate staff writer Henry Grabar sets out to answer, telling a mesmerizing story about the strange and wonderful superorganism that is the modern American city. In a beguiling and often absurdly hilarious mix of history, politics, and reportage, Grabar brilliantly surveys the pain points of the nation’s parking crisis, from Los Angeles to Disney World to New York, stopping at every major American city in between. He reveals how the pathological compulsion for car storage has exacerbated some of our most acute problems—from housing affordability to the accelerating global climate disaster—ultimately, lighting the way for us to free our cities from parking’s cruel yoke.
About the Author
Henry Grabar is a staff writer at Slate who writes about housing, transportation, and urban policy. He has contributed to The Atlantic, The Guardian, and The Wall Street Journal, and was the editor of the book The Future of Transportation. He received the Richard Rogers Fellowship from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design and was a finalist for the Livingston Award for excellence in national reporting by journalists under thirty-five.
“Paved Paradise, by Slate columnist Henry Grabar, investigates a topic that’s somehow simultaneously mundane and radicalizing: our extremely American, almost existential search for a parking spot . . . seeing the country through a ‘parking rules everything around me’ lens is an eye-opening education.” —Curbed
“Grabar presents the overarching story of how the unquenchable infrastructure required by parking has determined nearly every aspect of urban planning . . . All library shelves will benefit from having this definitive account of an everyday drudgery that deeply affects drivers and nondrivers alike.” —Booklist (starred review)
“A deep dive into how the complex rules of parking are affecting us all and what we can do about it . . . [Grabar] proves to be an adept guide to this knotty topic . . . An engrossing examination of parking and the many other issues that intersect with it.” —Kirkus (starred review)
"Using vivid examples and illustrations . . . Grabar builds a powerful case that making parking a little more scarce will make Americans’ lives a lot better. This deep dive into an overlooked aspect of the modern world delivers.” —Publisher's Weekly
"Grabar offers an intriguing, wide-ranging, readable perspective of the urban American parking scene, its issues, and possible future.” —Library Journal
“No one thinks about parking until they can’t find a spot. But the implications of finding room for cars at rest is massive, and Henry Grabar has gifted us with a stunningly eye-opening, wildly engaging survey of a chronically—and wrongly—overlooked phenomenon.” —Tom Vanderbilt, author of Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do
“Parking—the key to the American landscape, hiding in plain sight. But do you want to read a book about it? Yes, if it's Henry Grabar's lively, entertaining tour of how parking contorts our cities and suburbs into unlivable (or at least unhappy) spaces, and how we can remake them.” —Emily Bazelon, author of Charged: The New Movement to Transform American Prosecution and End Mass Incarceration
“From curbside battles to sprawling mall lots, penny-pinching mayors to NIMBY homeowners, Henry Grabar’s Paved Paradise demonstrates, in rich and at times downright absurdist detail, how parking has come to dominate and frustrate our lives—and how we might save our cities.” —Alexandra Lange, author of Meet Me by the Fountain: An Inside History of the Mall
“Paved Paradise is a total delight, a tour de force of fantastic reporting. You will never look at parked cars the same way again.” —Clive Thompson, author of Coders: The Making of a New Tribe and the Remaking of the World
“When people think of cities and suburbs, they think of housing, office buildings, retail shops, and malls. But few of us ever consider parking. Yet as Henry Grabar tells it, parking actually consumes more space in America than housing. Paved Paradise is must reading for mayors, urbanists, and everyone who wants to understand America’s parking obsession and what it costs our cities, economies, and society. It is a spectacular achievement.” —Richard Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class
“Like no one else before, Henry Grabar explains why mismanaged parking is the greatest single cause of many urban ills. Everyone who wants to reduce traffic congestion, clean the air, support public transportation, encourage biking and walking, promote business, increase employment, improve public services, and slow global warming should read Paved Paradise and heed Grabar’s advice for solving the parking problem.” —Donald Shoup, author of The High Cost of Free Parking
“Every American with a driver’s license needs to read Henry Grabar’s brilliant book on parking. He’s interviewed a wonderful cast of characters. His analysis of asphalt disaster is laced with humor to help us process bad news: although parking requirements keep housing costs high and limit new businesses, drivers still can’t find a space. Grabar demonstrates why the lively, mixed-use, pedestrian neighborhoods we would all like to live in, or at least drive to, are in very limited supply.” —Dolores Hayden, author of Building Suburbia: Green Fields and Urban Growth