Suggested Reading List
Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898
Author: Edwin G. Burrows & Mike Wallace
Description: To European explorers, it was Eden, a paradise of waist-high grasses, towering stands of walnut, maple, chestnut, and oak, and forests that teemed with bears, wolves, raccoons, beavers, otters, and foxes. Today, it is the site of Broadway and Wall Street, the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty, and the home of millions of people, who have come from every corner of the nation and the globe.
In Gotham, Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace have produced a monumental work of history, one that ranges from the Indian tribes that settled in and around the island of Manna-hata, to the consolidation of the five boroughs into Greater New York in 1898. It is an epic narrative, a story as vast and as varied as the city it chronicles, and it underscores that the history of New York is the story of our nation.
The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge
Author: David McCullough
Description: This monumental book tells the enthralling story of one of the greatest accomplishments in our nations history, the building of what was then the longest suspension bridge in the world. The Brooklyn Bridge rose out of the expansive era following the Civil War, when Americans believed all things were possible.
So daring a concept as spanning the East River to join two great cities required vision and dedication of the kind that went into building Europes great cathedrals. During fourteen years of construction, the odds against success seemed overwhelming. Thousands of people were put to work. Bodies were crushed and broken, lives lost, notorious political empires fell, and surges of public doubt constantly threatened the project. But the story of the building of the Brooklyn Bridge is not just the saga of an engineering miracle; it is a sweeping narrative of the social climate of the time, replete with heroes and rascals who helped either to construct or to exploit the great enterprise.
The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York
Author: Robert Caro
Description: One of the most acclaimed books of our time, winner of both the Pulitzer and the Francis Parkman prizes, The Power Broker tells the hidden story behind the shaping (and mis-shaping) of twentieth-century New York (city and state) and makes public what few have known: that Robert Moses was, for almost half a century, the single most powerful man of our time in New York, the shaper not only of the city's politics but of its physical structure and the problems of urban decline that plague us today.
In revealing how Moses did it--how he developed his public authorities into a political machine that was virtually a fourth branch of government, one that could bring to their knees Governors and Mayors (from La Guardia to Lindsay) by mobilizing banks, contractors, labor unions, insurance firms, even the press and the Church, into an irresistible economic force--Robert Caro reveals how power works in all the cities of the United States. Moses built an empire and lived like an emperor. He personally conceived and completed public works costing 27 billion dollars--the greatest builder America (and probably the world) has ever known. Without ever having been elected to office, he dominated the men who were--even his most bitter enemy, Franklin D. Roosevelt, could not control him--until he finally encountered, in Nelson Rockefeller, the only man whose power (and ruthlessness in wielding it) equalled his own.
Mannahatta: A Natural History of New York City
Author: Eric W. Sanderson
Description: On September 12, 1609, Henry Hudson first set eyes on the land that would become Manhattan. It's difficult for us to imagine what he saw, but for more than a decade, landscape ecologist Eric Sanderson has been working to do just that. Mannahatta: A Natural History of New York City is the astounding result of those efforts, reconstructing, in words and images, the wild island that millions of New Yorkers now call home.
By geographically matching an 18th-century map of Manhattan's landscape to the modern cityscape, combing through historical and archaeological records, and applying modern principles of ecology and computer modeling, Sanderson is able to re-create the forests of Times Square, the meadows of Harlem, and the wetlands of downtown. Filled with breathtaking illustrations that show what Manhattan looked like 400 years ago, Mannahatta is a groundbreaking work that gives readers not only a window into the past, but inspiration for green cities and wild places of the future.
Here is New York
Author: E.B. White
Description: Perceptive, funny, and nostalgic, E.B. White's stroll around Manhattan remains the quintessential love letter to the city, written by one of America's foremost literary figures. The New York Times has named Here is New York one of the ten best books ever written about the metropolis, and The New Yorker calls it "the wittiest essay, and one of the most perceptive, ever done on the city.
Up in the Old Hotel
Author: Joseph Mitchell
Description: Saloon-keepers and street preachers, gypsies and steel-walking Mohawks, a bearded lady and a 93-year-old seafoodetarian who believes his specialized diet will keep him alive for another two decades. These are among the people that Joseph Mitchell immortalized in his reportage for The New Yorker and in four books McSorley's Wonderful Saloon, Old Mr. Flood, The Bottom of the Harbor, and Joe Gould's Secretthat are still renowned for their precise, respectful observation, their graveyard humor, and their offhand perfection of style. These masterpieces (along with several previously uncollected stories) are available in one volume, which presents an indelible collective portrait of an unsuspected New York and its odder citizensas depicted by one of the great writers of this or any other time.
Author: Patti Smith
Description: In Just Kids, Patti Smiths first book of prose, the legendary American artist offers a never-before-seen glimpse of her remarkable relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe in the epochal days of New York City and the Chelsea Hotel in the late sixties and seventies. An honest and moving story of youth and friendship, Smith brings the same unique, lyrical quality to Just Kids as she has to the rest of her formidable body of workfrom her influential 1975 album Horses to her visual art and poetry.