College Town


Blake Gumprecht


University of Massachusetts Press

448 pages, 82 photos, 12 maps

Available in cloth, paper,

and as an e-book


Buy it from the publisher


Buy it from Amazon





J. B. Jackson Prize, Association of American Geographers, 2008.


Choice magazine Outstanding Academic Title, 2009.


Critical Acclaim


"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. He takes a landscape familiar . . . and makes us see it afresh. He dissects its complexity with astonishing thoroughness, using a rich mix of archival material, personal observation, and field interviews. He offers deep case studies, but remembers the need for broader context. Finally, he assembles the total package with spirited, clean prose, some of the best academic writing I have ever seen."


James R. Shortridge

Journal of Cultural Geography


"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 journalists' eye for detail, this will be a classic. Essential."


Douglas Steeples, Choice


"At last! With this literally unprecedented volume, Blake Gumprecht has filled what may have been the most grievous of gaps in the literature of our American settlement landscape. Moreover, he has done so in magisterial fashion by telling us in wonderfully readable prose virtually everything one might wish to know about those many scores of special places. I have read it with unalloyed pleasure and hope that a vast number of readers will share my joy."


Wilbur Zelinsky

Annals of the Association of American Geographers


"Quirky and magisterial. . .captures the ethos of a college town."


Carla Yanni

Journal of Planning History


"There are red states and blue states, and then there are college towns -- a universe of their own, anomalous political cultures. This brilliantly worked-out idea by a University of New Hampshire geographer is the rarest of things -- the first full-length study of its subject -- and sure to please any academic on your list."


Carlin Romano

The Philadelphia Inquirer


"A field guide to the leafy, left-of-center places so many academics call home. Insightful and candid."


John Hilton

Ann Arbor Observer


"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. Karen is getting tired of hearing me cite the many fascinations of the book."


M. Wray Witten

Flagpole, Athens, Georgia


"The book is an illuminating read for anyone drawn to a good yarn about what makes college towns the idiosyncratic places that they invariably turn out to be. Gumprecht's reportorial instincts bring to life the history, social patterns, personalities, and politics that define the localities he has chosen to discuss. His role as a geography scholar gives dimension to what college towns mean in the larger fabric of American places."


M. Perry Chapman

Planning in Higher Education


"The American College Town demonstrates Gumprecht's knack for recognizing a great untold story. It also proves that it is actually possible to articulate that most elusive of geographical concepts, the sense of place, when the writer is a master of landscape observation, as Gumprecht unquestionably is. This book teaches readers how to see the meaning embedded in places we take for granted. Gumprecht's exhaustive, multi-dimensional research enables him to read landscapes better than any historical geographer writing today."


Anne Kelly Knowles, author of Calvinists Incorporated:

Welsh Immigrants on Ohio's Industrial Frontier


"With a keen eye for telling details and examples and an easy writing style, both products of an earlier career as a journalist, Blake Gumprecht identifies, explains, and vividly conveys the characteristics that make American college towns distinctive places."


David Wishart, author of An Unspeakable Sadness:

The Dispossession of the Nebraska Indians


Media coverage


Tim Lacy. "The Best of Its Kind: Gumprecht's Study of College Towns in the American Context. " Review of The American College Town. H-Net Reviews in the Humanities and Social Sciences, September 2011.


Wilbur Zelinsky. Review of The American College Town. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 100 (2010), pp. 488-490.


John Hilton. "Island Hopping: A New Book Maps the Culture of College Towns." Ann Arbor [Michigan] Observer, March 2010, p. 26.


Celeste Quinn. Interview with Blake Gumprecht. "Afternoon Magazine." WILL-AM, Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, March 11, 2009.


Paul Bylaska. "The Places We Work and Live." Greentree Gazette, March 3, 2009.


Rachel Kipp. "As a College Town, Newark Enjoys an Economic Cushion." Wilmington [Delaware] News-Journal, March 9, 2009.


Pamela Goddard. "Collegiate Character." Ithaca [New York] Times, February 4, 2009.


James R. Shortridge. Review of The American College Town. Journal of Cultural Geography 26:1 (February 2009), pp. 101-103.


Sarah Henning. "College Character: Author's Experiences in Lawrence Influence Writings on University Towns." Lawrence [Kansas] Journal-World, February 1, 2009.


M. Wray Witten. "Examining Paradise and Other Towns." Flagpole [Athens, Georgia], January 14, 2009.


Laura Knoy. Interview with Blake Gumprecht. "The Exchange," New Hampshire Public Radio, January 14, 2009.


Wallace McElvey. "Uneasy Coexistence." Wilmington [Delaware] News-Journal, December 30, 2008.


Rebecca Rule. "Finding Americana in the College Town." Concord [New Hampshire] Monitor, December 28, 2008. Also published in Nashua Telegraph and Portsmouth Herald.


Jeanne McCartin. "Biography of a College Town." Portsmouth [New Hampshire] Herald, December 27, 2008, p. B5.


Carlin Romano. "No Downsizing in This Literary Field." The Philadelphia Inquirer, December 14, 2008. Book included in a list of recommended holiday gift books.


Lori Wright. "The American College Town." The College Letter [University of New Hampshire], Fall 2008.


Mark Hertz, Interview with Blake Gumprecht. "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered," KNAU-FM, Arizona Public Radio, Flagstaff, Arizona, December 4, 2008.


Julianna Parker. "New Book Describes College Town Difference." The Norman [Oklahoma] Transcript, November 27, 2008.


Megan Moser. "Symbiotic Relationship." The Manhattan [Kansas] Mercury, November 23, 2008.


Claire St. John. "Traits to Treasure: Fiery Politics Makes Davis Quintessential College Town." Davis [California] Enterprise, November 16, 2008, p. 1.


Ben Hardcastle. Interview with Blake Gumprecht. "College Connection," radio show aired on 11 radio stations in Oklahoma and Texas, November 15, 2008 (interview begins 13:55 into program).


Scott Jaschik. "The American College Town." Inside Higher Ed, October 20, 2008.


Peter Monaghan. "College Towns: Paradises for Misfits." The Chronicle of Higher Education, September 12, 2008, p. B18.




Is your favorite college town mentioned? Here's a list of towns mentioned in the book and the pages on which they are mentioned.


Map of the 60 study towns that were the focus of research. The eight towns that are the focus of chapters in the book are in red.


List of the 60 study towns and summary data about each.


Map of 305 cities in the United States that met criteria for identifying college towns explained in the book.


List of 305 cities that met college town criteria explained in the book and summary data about each.


A collection of my college town photographs, including many not featured in the book, is available on Flickr.