Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Early Review of Cul-de-Sac Syndrome

This is from

Subtitled “Turning Around the Unsustainable American Dream,” this book analyzes the housing crisis and reflects upon ways that America can move forward with affordable, environmentally sustainable architecture.

The Cul-de-Sac Syndrome is a good companion piece to James Howard Kunstler’s A Geography of Nowhere. Author John F. Wasik offers a cogent overview of the current housing crisis along with an analysis of the unsustainability of the current fads in American housing. He explains trends in environmentally conscious architecture and building, and offers his ideas about what it will take to put the American dream back to rights.

I was most interested by his discussion of “spurbs,” housing clusters that are not connected to a metropolitan area, offer no public transportation, are not walkable, and are interspersed with strip malls and shopping centers. I grew up in a suburb of Baltimore and now I live in Queens, NY, so I’m not intimately familiar with these areas. They sound like nowhere I’d want to live. I love what I read about the New Urbanism, one of whose central tenets is “get people outside.” I love that I can walk everywhere–sure, it’s a 30 minute walk to the park but that’s great exercise, and it’s so fun to bump into people I know along the way.

Here's my take on the book:

The book examines the housing crisis through an ecological lens. Why were homes built in the middle of deserts? What kind of damage did the creation of "spurbs" do to our environment, health, well being and economy? All these questions and more are answered as I explore how the American dream went awry.

I'd be happy to speak before your group.

Why should you care about this book? It’s about our homes and communities and how we need to re-invent, re-envision and re-build the American Dream if we want to survive in this contentious century. Economics meets ecology in this radical new look at what we’ve taken for granted as a birthright.

I urge you to review it, blog about it and start discussions within your network about the implications of my recommendations: Affordable, sustainable, environmnentally sound housing and communities for all Americans.

Here’s What Initial Reviewers Had to Say:

"John Wasik's The Cul-de-Sac Syndrome offers enough to chew on for three sets of teeth, enough to digest for three stomachs, and the alerts the mind faster than an approaching siren."

--Ralph Nader, Consumer advocate

"Get ready for a totally original look at the American dream. Wasik delivers the first truly multidisciplinary examination—using planning, law, architecture, and history to focus on working solutions that can keep the dream alive. This is a winner!"

— Paul B. Farrell, JD, PhD. Columnist, and author of The Millionaire Code

"This excellent book takes a ground-level look at the causes of our housing crisis and offers a myriad of ideas on reinventing the concepts of home and community.”

—Ilyce R. Glink, syndicated real estate columnist, author of 100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask

"A genuine kick to the head, showing how our individual quests for the biggest house on the hill is destroying our environment, the economy, and our health. But The Cul-de-Sac Syndrome is no dead end. It offers a new, green, urbanized promised land with real community, more free time, and a higher living standard. It's a masterful blueprint to unpave paradise and restore the world we cherish."

— Laurence Kotlikoff, Co-author of Spend 'Til the End: The Revolutionary Guide to Raising Your Living Standard—Today and When You Retire, and Professor of Economics at Boston University

Here’s the background on the book:

In The Cul-de-Sac Syndrome (Bloomberg Press, June 2009) John Wasik examines the American dream and questions whether the typical suburban home is the right dream for now. This is an incisive look at the consequences of today’s costly and damaging suburban lifestyle and the specific areas at risk.

Here are some uncomfortable questions the book asks:

  • Why “green” homes and communities make sense for every area and how they will make housing affordable again.
  • Why will getting rid of the car and making communities walkable again help address the housing crisis.
  • How the old way of building homes and subdivisions was unsustainable and created “spurbs.”

Read about solutions to the “sustainable dream”:

  • Revitalize inner cities and suburbs instead of building in the middle of nowhere
  • Re-invent the American home and community to make it affordable and green.
  • Throw out the car and rewrite building and zoning codes


John Wasik has won 18 journalism awards, including several from the National Press Club, for consumer and business journalism. His Merchant of Power was praised by Studs Terkel and well reviewed by the New York Times. Wasik is a financial columnist for Bloomberg News and the author of 11 other books. He has appeared on such national media as NBC, NPR, and PBS.

To contact the author, or 312-246-1121.

Published by Bloomberg Press June 2009

978-1-57660-320-8 • 224 pages • 6" x 9" • hardcover

$24.95 US • $27.95 CAN

Available now on or

Follow news of this book on my blog and my website New blogs and sites coming soon! I’m also available to speak on this subject.

Your Humble Author,JW

John F. Wasik

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