10 Great Books for Skyscraper Enthusiasts

Favorite Books for Anyone Who Loves Tall Buildings

Ever since the late 1800s when the first skyscrapers appeared, tall buildings have inspired awe and fascination. The beautiful books listed here pay tribute to every variety of skyscraper, including Classical, Art Deco, Expressionist, Modernist, and Postmodernist, and to the architects who conceived them.

01
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Rise of the New York Skyscraper, 1865-1913

Rise of the New York Skyscraper 1865-1913 by Sarah Bradford Landau and Carl. W. Condit
Rise of the New York Skyscraper 1865-1913 by Sarah Bradford Landau and Carl. W. Condit. Image crop courtesy Yale University Press

A fascinating look at the history of New York's tall buildings and the building boom in Manhattan in the late 1800s and early 1900s. 206 photographs. By Carl W. Condit and Sarah Bradford Landau, Yale University Press, 1996. Also see:

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02
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Chicago Skyscrapers: Postcard History Series

Chicago Skyscrapers in Vintage Postcards
Chicago Skyscrapers in Vintage Postcards. Image crop courtesy Amazon.com

The Home Insurance Building in Chicago is often considered to be the first skyscraper built (1885). In this little book, preservationist Leslie Hudson has gathered together vintage postcards to help us explore Chicago's skyscraper era. Buy from Amazon »

03
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Skyscrapers: The New Millennium

Skyscrapers, The New Millennium
Skyscrapers, The New Millennium. Image crop courtesy Amazon.com

A good roundup of skyscrapers at the time (2000), with information about developments in form, character, and technology. By John Zukowsky and Martha Thorne. Also see:

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04
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Skyscrapers: A History of the World's Most Extraordinary Buildings

First third of the cover of Skyscrapers: A History of the World's Most Extraordinary Buildings
First third of the cover of Skyscrapers: A History of the World's Most Extraordinary Buildings. Image crop courtesy Amazon.com

In 2013, Judith Dupre revised and updated her popular book. Why so popular? Not only is it thoroughly researched, well-written, and beautifully presented, it also is a huge book, measuring  18.2 inches long. That's from your waist to your chin, folks!  It's a tall book for a towering subject. Also see:

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05
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Manhattan Skyscrapers

Manhattan Skyscrapers Third Edition
Manhattan Skyscrapers Third Edition. Image crop courtesy Amazon.com

Eric Peter Nash and photographer Norman McGrath present a hundred years of New York's most interesting and important tall buildings. Seventy-five skyscrapers are photographed and presented with a history of each building and quotes from the architects. Princeton Architectural Press, 2010. Also see:

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06
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Skyscrapers: A Social History of the Very Tall Building in America

Skyscrapers, A Social History in America by George H. Douglas
Skyscrapers, A Social History in America by George H. Douglas. Image crop courtesy Amazon.com

This book reminds us that architecture does not stand apart from society. The skyscraper, in particular, is the type of building that not only inspires architects, but also the people who build them, live and work in them, film them, and the daredevils who climb them. By George H. Douglas, 2004. Buy from Amazon »

07
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Skyscraper Rivals

Subtitled, "The AIG Building & the Architecture of Wall Street," this hardcover looks at the four major towers in New York City's financial district and examines the financial, geographical, and historical forces that brought these buildings into being. By Daniel Abramson and Carol Willis, Princeton Architectural Press, 2000. Also see:

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08
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Skyscrapers and the Men Who Build Them

Skyscrapers and the Men Who Build Them by William Aiken Starrett
Skyscrapers and the Men Who Build Them by William Aiken Starrett. Image crop courtesy Amazon.com

William Aiken Starrett's 1928 publication is available to read for free online, but Nabu Press has reproduced the work as a testament to its historic timelessness. Buy from Amazon »

09
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1,001 Skyscrapers

This spiral-bound oversized book by Eric Howeler and Jeannie Meejin Yoon takes 27 of the world's most famous skyscrapers, scales them equally, and cuts them into three pieces that can be recombined to make 15,625 new buildings of your own design. "1,001 Skyscrapers" is not a children's book; builders of all ages will be entertained and enlightened. Princeton Architectural Press, 2000. Also see:

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10
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The Skyscraper

The Skyscraper by Paul Goldberger
The Skyscraper by Paul Goldberger. Image crop courtesy Amazon.com

As architecture critic of The New York Times in 1981, Paul Goldberger took on thoroughly understanding the American skyscraper. As a history and commentary of this peculiar form of architecture, The Skyscraper was Goldberger's second book in a long career of observing, thinking, and writing. Twenty years later, when we looked at skyscrapers differently, this fine author wrote the text for The World Trade Center Remembered.

More from Paul Goldberger:

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Not Just for Kids

Who Built That? Skyscrapers: An Introduction to Skyscrapers and Their Architects by Didier Cornille is supposed to be for 7 to 12 year-olds, but it just might be my favorite book of all. Princeton Architectural Press, 2014.