A very interesting read I recently picked up is "Man Made the Town" by Michael Middleton, written in 1987. I think many people on this forum would appreciate its perspective, which views cities as human kind's greatest collective work of art and cultural artifact. Although international in scope, the book has some local references as well. Boston has been mentioned several times in the first 30 pages.
One ironic thing about this book is that, in the intro, it mentions how Shell UK financed most of it. An oil company, which is perhaps one of the biggest benefactors of the decline of compact cities, financed a work meant to tout its many splendors.
And, while I am on the subject of irony, how odd is it that the automobile industry built one of the biggest "cities" in the country (detroit, obviously). And how odd is it that the fastest growing "city" in the world up to the financial meltdown, with the tallest and therefore in some ways most densely situated footprint building, was financed by petroleum profits (Dubai)? These little things fascinate me. The car has led to the decline of some cities, but the rise of others.
And, while I am on detroit, I have to mention that this weekend I was having a nostalgic moment for 1980s action flicks and had a robocop marathon of sorts. The interesting thing is that, even in 1987, there was talk, even if fictitious, about scraping all of detroit (as there is today regarding greenbelts being interspersed into a smaller urban footprint).
And finally, one last point, and I'm sure some of you already do this, is that, if you don't already, you need to enter and browse through a good used or rare bookstore. Go to the architectural section, which usually includes urban planning and interior design too, and see what they have. Often times there will be a book that will be tremendous reading or reference, and it costs a fraction of what a new book at a major retailer would cost.