Tag Archives: New York City

NEW YORK CITY–THE BOOK LIST

DESTINATON: New York City — NYC — New York, New York –Manhattan — Brooklyn – Central Park

New York Skyline from Liberty Island on a rainy day
New York Skyline from Liberty Island on a rainy day

THE LIST

After recently reviewing a mystery novel about a Hasidic Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn and another about the area around Grand Central Terminal, I got curious about how many books about New York City I (or guests) have reviewed in the past five and half year. Answer: A Lot. Here are links to the reviews, and a tiny bit of what we had to say about each.

A Journey into Dorothy Parker’s New York by Keven C. Kirkpatrick.  “Skeptical, witty, cynical, smart, fashion conscious and status obssessed–it is hard to know whether Dorothy Parker accurately reflected New York City, or created our image of New York City.”

Night view from Warwick Hotel, NYC
Night view from Warwick Hotel, NYC

The Warwick Hotel.  This is not a book review, but a travel experience about a hotel I loved in Manhattan. One of my all time favorite articles. “Over 78 years the Warwick Hotel has seen plenty of brash newcomers come along, blocking its views and dwarfing its 36 stories. But the location still can’t be beat.”

Charming Billy by Alice McDermott.  An Irish-American family in NYC. “McDermott has written a small miracle of a book.”

Blood Bones and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton. In this guest review by food writer Casey Barber, we are introduced to a memoir of the creator of the NYC restaurant PRUNE. Casey says, “With each successive trip to visit her Italian in-laws, Hamilton’s desire to become familial and to please the clan with perfect dinner party, recapturing the expansive, welcoming lamb feasts of her youth and the ‘salty, sweet, starchy, brothy, crispy’ simplicity of meals at Prune, becomes all-encompassing.”

Statue of Liberty
Statue of Liberty

Not for Parents: New York City, A Lonely Planet series.  This guest review by Jennifer Close shows how the guidebook for kids appeals to the younger set. “This isn’t your typical guidebook. It doesn’t list locations, cost or hours of operation but that is okay because it is meant for children and your children will be with you on the trip, right?”

Buddhaland Brooklyn by Richard C. Morais. “This new novel, like meditation, encourages calm thoughts and some new insights into oneself and one’s culture. But it brings  some laughs, too.”

All Those Things We Never Said by Marc Levy. Maybe you’ll like this father-daughter, semi-fantasy more than I did. Or just see the movie Just LIke Heaven with Reece Witherspoon. About the book, I said, “Instead of thought-provoking moments, we get a collection of fortune cookies from her father.”

Mumbai New York Scranton by Tamara Shopsin.  The author, a graphic artist, is part of the family that has a venerable restaurant in NYC, Shopsin’s , on the lower East side. “Mumbai New York Scranton is like a painting by  Juan Gris–the artist combines simple objects and each viewer recreates meaning as they view it. So this memoir of a year in the life of a native New York artist  leaves plenty of room for the reader’s own thoughts.”

42, movie about the life of Jackie Robinson, guest review by Jane Boursaw, gives a historic view of Brooklyn. Although Ebbetts field no longer exists, you can still visit Brooklyn. Jane says, “Even if you’re not a sports-movie nut, “42″ is an amazing, inspiring film and also a great history lesson.”

Central Park

Another section of The Mall at Central Park.

Central Park, edited by Andrew Blauner, is a collection of literary works set in Central Park. This photo post features my own images of Central Park approached as a literary journey.

I Never Knew That About New York by Christopher Winn.  A guidebook with a difference. “Now the British know-it-all has invaded New York City.  Does he know things about New York that even dedicated New Yawkers haven’t discovered? We’ll wager he does.”

Terminal City by Linda Fairstein. A crime novel set in Manhattan. “Fairstein has done enough research to fill a separate book about the history, the dimensions of the building , the tunnels, the hidden spaces, the art work, the homeless who live underground, the pattern of transportation in and out–moving people on foot and by rail.”

Invisible City by Julia Dahl.  A crime novel with a murder in a Hasidic community in Brooklyn and the inner workings of a New York City tabloid. “Rebekah picks her way through a minefield of people (newspaper editors, cops, Hasidic Jews) who never seem to be telling the whole truth.”

What Changes Everything by Masha Hamilton.  Although her 31 Hours, which I have not reviewed here, is set entirely and chillingly in New York City, What Changes Everything is mostly about Afghanistan with key portions in Brooklyn. I recommend both. Here’s what I said about What Changes Everything,  “The culture of Afghanistan and the culture of a tagger in Brooklyn are portrayed with loads of detail because Masha Hamilton knows them both.”

Grand Central Murder

A Month of Mystery Goes to Manhattan

Book Cover: Terminal City
Destination: Grand Central Terminal, New York City

Book: Terminal City by Linda Fairstein (NEW THIS WEEK: June 2014)

 

Linda Fairstein does for New York City what  Cara Black does for Paris.  She sets her mysteries in every corner of the city–giving us an exciting mystery and a bonus for travelers. Each of these author’s books provides a guide to places you may not have explored in NYC or in Paris.

In Terminal City, you’re going to learn about the vast interconnected area surrounding Grand Central… I keep want to say Grand Central Station, even though the expert’s in the novel explain that it is not officially a Station, it is a Terminal. That’s because lines terminate there rather than passing through. After all I grew up listening to the dramas on the radio show, “Grand Central Station” every Saturday morning.

Grand Central clock
This Grand Central clock plays a role in the climax of “Terminal City.”

Excuse the aside, but I can’t help thinking of comedian Bob Newhart’s routine about airports and how depressing it was to go to a place called a “terminal.” As in “the end.”  And indeed, in Terminal City, the murderer is making Grand Central the true terminal for his victims.

Fairstein’s novels feature  Alex andra Cooper, the assistant DA of New York assigned to work with the cops on solving  some gruesome murders. Her specialty is sex crimes.  Fairstein brings real life experience to her stories since she was chief of the Sex Crimes Unit of the District Attorney’s office in Manhattan for two decades. The two other repeating characters in her series of 16 novels are non-conformist Detective Mike Chapman, with whom Alex has a will-she-won’t-she possible romance, and by-the-book Detective Mercer Wallace.

The story starts with the discovery of a body in the The Towers at Waldorf Astoria, which gives us an opportunity for a behind-the-scenes tour of the grand dame of Manhattan hotels.  Along the way, we’ll learn the history of the hotel and how it morphed from the Astoria and the Waldorf to the Waldorf Astoria and how it connects to Grand Central.

Waldorf Astoria Hotel
Waldorf Astoria Hotel

Even if you have wandered through the vast waiting room of Grand Central and perhaps crisscrossed its passageways catching a train, don’t assume that you KNOW Grand Central.  Oh my, no.  Fairstein has done enough research to fill a separate book about the history, the dimensions of the building , the tunnels, the hidden spaces, the art work, the homeless who live underground, the pattern of transportation in and out–moving people on foot and by rail.

Grand Central Main Concourse
Grand Central Main Concourse

In fact, if I have the slightest, tiny criticism of the book it is that Fairstein just couldn’t resist throwing in so much information that it sometimes bogs down the story. But only momentarily.  Many of the obscure facts become relevant to solving the murders and much of the information imparted by old timers at the terminal to the cops and the Assistant District Attorney are carefully planted false clues. So listen up class!

I am itching to get back to New York City to take a closer look at this amazing work of engineering and art, now that I know some of the secrets. And by the way, Fairstein claims not to make up the background stuff she imparts.  Below, you can see a video where she talks about an earlier book, Hell’s Gate, set at 18th century Gracie Mansion–unoccupied official residence meant for the Mayor–along the East River. In the video she talks about the way that she combines information about the legal system with information about her favorite city.

Of course our team solves the mystery.  But we are left with the mystery of where the relationship between Alex and Mike is going.  Just have to read book 17, I guess.

Linda Fairstein talks about her writing and an earlier book, Hell’s Gate.

Clickable Resources

Tour Information for Gracie Mansion

Linda Fairstein on Facebook

Book a room at the Waldorf Astoria Towers

Tour Grand Central with audio guide on your smart phone.

Notes and Disclaimers

Photos here are used with Creative Commons license. You can click on the photo to learn more about the photographer.

The book, Terminal City, was provided by the publisher for review. They know, as I hope you do,  that I write what I think.

Links to book titles may lead to Amazon because that helps you shop and it also helps support A Traveler’s Library when you shop through my links. Thanks.

 

 

New York Know It All

Destination: New York City

Book: I Never Knew That About New York (NEW March 2014) by Christopher Winn

New York
St. Patrick’s Cathedral, NYC

Christopher Winn is a know-it-all. But I mean that in a good way.  He has written a series of “I Never Knew That” books about famous places, mostly in the British Isles. A year ago we talked about his collection of facts about London, here.

Now the British know-it-all has invaded New York City, with I Never Knew That About New York.  Does he know things about New York that even dedicated New Yawkers haven’t discovered? We’ll wager he does.

Except that the book should probably have been entitled I Never Knew That About Manhattan rather than New York, but I suppose for most people, Manhattan IS New York.  We’ll just have to hope he comes back and gives those other boroughs like Brooklyn, The Bronx, Staten Island and Queens some respect another day.

There’s a quiz on his website that asks some fairly easy questions compared to some of the more obscure facts in his book.  But if you’d like to challenge him, see how many you can answer without looking down at the answers at the bottom. For example, what is the oldest street in New York?  Even I knew that one.

Central Park

But…Did you know that we have Shakespeare to blame for starlings?  Not exactly the writer himself, but a Shakespeare afficiando–Eugene Schieffelin, who wanted to populate America with all of the birds mentioned in Shakespeare’s work isi the culprit.  he released 60 starlings in Central Park in 1890, and they quickly spread across the country, now numbering 200 million pests.

Colonial New York

New York City
Fraunces Travern, New York City. Photo By Augie Ray, Flickr. Creative Commons License

My favorite part of Manhattan is found at the far south end of Broadway around Pearl Street where there is a tiny portion remaining of colonial New York.  In a city where things come and go with startling speed, it is somehow comforting to visit the Fraunces Travern Although it is rebuilt rather than original, you could swear you’re standing in the very rooms where owner Samuel Fraunces connived to spy for the Revolutionaries and where Washington gave his farewell address to the troops in 1783.

So naturally, I liked the informative walk through Colonial New York, but never fear,  whatever your interest, it’s covered in one of the eighteen chapters, organized from south to north.

Greenwhich Village–

home of the Salamugundi Club, and 20,000 bodies lying under Washington Square in a former potter’s field.

Tribeca–

means Triangle Below Canal, if you were wondering.

Chinatown–

New York Chinatown
Chinatown, New York City. Photo by Guney Cuceloglu. Fickr, Creative Commons

where Five Points was once a dispicable slum, publicized by Charles Dickens on a visit to America and subsequently cleaned up.

And in Chinatown stroll down Doyers Street through the “Bloody Angle” where, Winn says, more murders were committed in the early 20th century than anywhere else in America, because of Tong wars.

And so the information flows, as WInn leads you on walking tours of all the neighborhoods of Manhattan with a sprinkling of architectural detail, sociology and history thrown in for good measure.

His writing is witty. Frequent illustrations, pencil drawings done by his wife, Mai Osawa, will help you spot the landmarks. And you’ll have “I’ll bet you didn’t know…” stories to last a long time. You may think you have quite enough guidebooks to New York, but there is enough new and fun reading in this one to make it a good addition to the traveler’s library.

Note:  The book was provided by the publisher for review, but the opinions are my own.

Links to Amazon allow you to conveniently purchase the book in hard back, paper back or Kindle editions and although it costs you no more, when you shop through our links, you’re supporting A Traveler’s Library. Thanks.

The first photo is mine and the rest are from Flickr, used  with Creative Commons License. You can click on the Flickr photos to learn more.