Book briefing -- recent nonfiction; A Better Place to Live, by Michael N. Corbett. Emmaus, Pa.: Rodale Press. $14. 95.

As they say in West Virginia, "America ain't perfect, but we ain't done yet." Although Michael Corbett is not a West Virginia -- he's a Californian and a community planner -- he is one who believes there is plenty of room for improvement in America's cities and towns. So he has written an easy-to-read 164-page handbook that tells how.

Like many of us, he thinks city life is very far from perfect. In fact, he asserts that a range of human problems, both physical and emotional, have something to do with harsh concrete cities that deny people the opportunity to live in harmony with nature.

So he proposes an almost Eden-like community as a solution. It's called a garden city. There would be no automobiles, only bike and pedestrian paths that would lead from home to village common to vegetable patch and so on. Cars would be left at the edge of the community.

Small business would be encouraged, every energy-saving strategy known would be used, and community design would be left in the hands of local residents. Concrete would be used for house foundations, not storm drains freeways, and fake waterfalls.

Chapters in "A Better Place to Live" include: "Piecemeal vs. Wholistic Planning," "Design with Nature of People," and "Grass-Roots Action."

Corbett's ideas are practical. Many have been put into practice at the Village Homes development he planned and executed for Davis, Calif. His ideas are also at work in other communities across the United States.

His well-illustrated book not only discusses future community development, it also suggests ways existing cities can be made more livable.

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