AS Martin O'Malley takes office as mayor of Baltimore tomorrow, he faces the prospect of leading a city with seemingly intractable problems -- crime, the declining quality of education, drug abuse, suburban flight -- whose solutions eluded his predecessor.
He'll need good advice and innovative ideas, not just from local advisers, but from top-notch social visionaries. He may also need some words of wisdom, inspiration and solace as he tackles what will no doubt be a daunting task. To assist him, we have compiled a reading list for Mr. O'Malley drawn from the recommendations of civic leaders and others known for their attention to urban issues.
Gary Wills, historian and author of the recently published "A Necessary Evil: A History of American Distrust of Government," chose the first two volumes in Taylor Branch's biography of Martin Luther King Jr., "Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954-63," and "Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years, 1963-65."
Mr. Wills recommends Mr. Branch's King biographies "first because they are the tale of efforts to civilize our cities, and second because Branch is a glory of contemporary Baltimore."
Alex Kotlowitz, author of "There Are No Children Here: The story of two boys growing up in the other America," an award-winning book about two brothers from a Chicago high-rise housing project, chose "Common Ground: A turbulent decade in the lives of three American families," by J. Anthony Lukas.
"It's about desegregation in Boston," he said. "The reason I would choose it is it deals with our cities' two fundamental challenges, which are race and education. The book is really about the controversy around busing in Boston.
The reason why that book still resonates is those issues are so very much alive: the quality of our schools and race. Here was a city that wrestled with it back then that ended up being terribly fractious. I think there are lessons to be learned from looking back at what happened in places like Boston and elsewhere."
Kurt L. Schmoke, outgoing mayor of Baltimore, sent along two titles: "Baltimore 2000: A choice of futures," by Peter L. Szanton, and "A Prayer for the City," by Buzz Bissinger, a study of the first term of Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell.
"The mayor actually has given a list to Mayor-elect O'Malley already," said Schmoke spokesman Clinton Coleman. "What he said was that `I recognized that he was busy and overwhelmed with data, so I suggested only two to read if he had the time.'"
Carla Hayden, director, the Enoch Pratt Free Library, echoed Schmoke's recommendation of "A Prayer for the City"
"It gives you the sense of urgency and the challenges facing urban areas," she said. "But what I think is even more important is it gives you a sense that something can be done and a sense of hope. It's hard work and you have to make some hard decisions and choices -- it's a balancing act. But I think what you end up with is a sense that there is hope. And it's just compelling reading."
Jacqueline Thomas, Sun editorial page editor, recommended "The Death and Life of Great American cities," by Jane Jacobs.
"I think it's a classic that everyone who cares about cities should read."
Cardinal William H. Keeler, archbishop of Baltimore, recommended that Mr. O'Malley read the Bible.
"The Bible is a resource for prayer, and a source of inspiration and solid wisdom."
Rabbi Herman N. Neuberger, president of Ner Israel Rabbinical College in Pikesville, also had a biblical suggestion:
The Book of Proverbs, which "has a tremendous amount of wisdom from which we can learn and from which we can face many situations;" and "Night," by Jewish ethical philosopher Elie Wiesel, "which is a book he wrote about the potential of the state, which can be both beneficial or negative to a population."
William Donald Schaefer, state comptroller and a former mayor and governor, recommended "Boss: Richard J. Daley of Chicago," by Mike Royko.
"They don't have many books on how to be mayor. [Mayor Daley] appealed to me. He played it hard and fast, but I found him to be a charming and interesting man. . . . I just found it amusing for a mayor to read. There are so many things in there. They charged him with corruption. But he knew how to run a city. He was good."
Clarence H. "Du" Burns, former Baltimore mayor and City Council president, said he did not have a particular title in mind, but recommend that Mr. O'Malley read something on reducing teen pregnancy.
"There's one thing I had in mind when I was there that didn't happen and hasn't happened since I left there and hasn't happened since anybody else was there. Somewhere down the line somebody has to come up with something they can work with to see if they can save these women from having these babies without these guys taking up their part of the business."
Barry Rascovar, a deputy Sun editorial page editor, recommended "Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York," by Robert A. Caro, "If he has time to read all 1,000 pages."