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The American College Town Hardcover – November 30, 2008

ISBN-13: 978-1558496712 ISBN-10: 1558496718 Edition: First Edition

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Univ. of Massachusetts Press; First Edition edition (November 30, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1558496718
  • ISBN-13: 978-1558496712
  • Product Dimensions: 10 x 7.1 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,589,330 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


'The American College Town' is a welcome addition to the literature on the history and experience of colleges, universities, and their urban settings. --Traditional Dwellings and Settlements

Surpassing his earlier The Los Angeles River, Gumprecht's new book places him among the leading cultural/historical geographers. . . . Lavishly illustrated, meticulously researched, and enlivened by a former journalist's eye for detail, this will be a classic. . . . Essential. --Choice

If a friend should ever ask for a book that epitomizes the best that geography can offer, I recommend Blake Gumprecht's new volume as a near-perfect candidate. --Journal of Cultural Geography

About the Author

A former reporter for the Los Angeles Times and other newspapers, Blake Gumprecht is an associate professor and chair of geography and associate professor of American studies at the University of New Hampshire. His previous book, 'The Los Angeles River: Its Life, Death, and Possible Rebirth,' won the J. B. Jackson Prize from the Association of American Geographers.

Customer Reviews

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By S. Moeller on January 11, 2009
Format: Hardcover
We live in a university town that is detailed in this excellent book so I must confess that I first read all the parts that applied to us. But then I settled in to read it from cover to cover, and it was ALL compelling! I found the format extremely logical: after a general overview, the various types of college / university towns are described using specific towns as concrete examples. The blend of historical detail and current conditions is interesting, and the differences between each case study are great enough that one feels compelled to keep reading to learn more about the next one.

Gumprecht's writing style is just as I personally enjoy it: straight-forward with little jargon and with a touch of humor now and then. I found this book well worth the money, and I would have enjoyed it even if my community were not profiled!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By M. Wray Witten on April 13, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I reviewed this outstanding book for The Flagpole, which is exactly the kind of alternative newspaper that one of this book's eight featured College Towns (Athens, GA) must have. Read the whole review here: <[...]>. The following are a few bits:

No one should mistake this book for a guidebook. Though well disguised, it is foremost a scholarly work by the chair of the department of geography at the University of New Hampshire, replete with 60 pages of endnotes documenting wonderfully diverse sources and a 20-page index.

Even so, the book's serious nature is well camouflaged: the sparse statistics are hidden in thickets of narrative, and photos dominate a quarter of the pages. The hallmarks of geography are almost invisible - no tables of demographic data or layered GIS maps or multivariate analyses leveraging grand conclusions out of the murky richness of life.

Instead, the pattern Gumprecht has chosen to report his years of research - case studies of eight "college towns," including Athens - is more like a collection of intersecting short stories: warm narratives full of colorful anecdotes and supporting actors, out of which the character of the American college town emerges. And when the stories reach the '60s they begin to sing.

It is true that the towns Gumprecht celebrates have multiple personalities; that's actually part of his definition of a college town. He reports in detail, often with high emotion and amusing drama, the conflicts between the starkly divergent visions (and behavior) of the citizens of one college town after another. After all, there is probably nothing more distinctive of college-town life than articulate disagreement.
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2 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Tony Arnold on March 23, 2009
Format: Hardcover
While Gumprecht makes some valid observations, particularly concerning the established residents of college towns who threaten to quash all future growth in favor of preservation, I have to say I didn't recognize our town (Athens, GA) by the representatives he chose to profile. While quoting others' words to emphasize the quirkier side of Athens ("freaks," "fruits, nuts & flakes"), as well as trotting out a handful of "creative" types, Gumprecht totally mischaracterizes it with sensationalist caricatures & a backdrop of mental illness. Alternative political religions, rock band dropouts & Elvis warts: come see the sideshow, folks!
The reality is that most of our bands & artists are just as nondescript as the corporate entities they love to demonize: their musics desperately trying to out-distort, out-hip, or out-folk the last bunch. The disaffected artists employ the same dollheads and mirror shards that their parents' generation were using in the seventies. And the more tattoos they get, the more they blend in to one another. Most of the radicals rail against "corporate food," and Wal-Mart while simultaneously keeping their outlets in business. You know, same as any other town.
It's a pity the author didn't take the time to research this particular town more thoroughly. If he had, he might've stumbled upon a few folks who don't mind working a full-time job in order to sustain something beyond a bare-subsistence lifestyle, and who manage to be quietly original and creative in truly unique ways, instead of attempting to portray their own idea of a colorful character.
Those folks don't draw attention to themselves, which is why Gumprecht probably missed them: they're the ones busily making our town run.
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More About the Author

Blake Gumprecht is an associate professor and chair of the Department of Geography at the University of New Hampshire.

He is the author of two books, "The American College Town" (University of Massachusetts Press, 2008) and "The Los Angeles River: Its Life, Death, and Possible Rebirth" (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999). Both books were awarded the J.B. Jackson Prize by the Association of American Geographers. He is the first two-time winner of the award. The American College Town was also chosen as a Choice magazine "Outstanding Academic Title" for 2009.

Gumprecht is currently working on a book tentatively entitled "The Peopling of New England," which will examine the history and geography of migration to the region by different groups over the last 10,000 years. He has also produced studies about tree planting on the Great Plains, the making of an Oklahoma city as an international grain center, whiskey towns of Oklahoma Territory, and the role of place in the music of West Texas.

Born and raised in Wilmington, Delaware, he was educated at the University of Kansas; Louisiana State University; California State University, Los Angeles; and the University of Oklahoma. Before pursuing a career as a geographer, he was a newspaper reporter, worked in the music business, and was a librarian. He lives in Portsmouth, New Hampshire with his son, Zeke.

For more information, see