Check out our list of 10 quintessential books about New York City.
Norman Moonbloom is a loser, a dropout without even the determination of a genuine deadbeat. His brother, a slum landlord, hires him to collect rent from his tenants in apartment buildings all over Manhattan. But as Moonbloom makes the rounds among them, as he hears the complaints and then the stories of a wildly varied and brilliantly described assortment of urban characters, he finds himself drawn back into the circus of life, with all its unforeseen responsibilities, in spite of his better judgement.
Ten years ago landscape ecologist Eric Sanderson came across a British Headquarters map from 1782. By geographically matching, or geo-referencing, this historical map with a map of modern Manhattan and examining volumes of historical documents and journals, he has been able to visually reconstruct, down to the city block, what Manhattan looked like four hundred years ago.
Conquering Gotham re-creates the riveting struggle waged by the great Pennsylvania Railroad to build Penn Station and the monumental system of tunnels that would connect water-bound Manhattan to the rest of the continent by rail.
In swift, witty chapters that flawlessly capture the pace and character of New York City, acclaimed diarist Edward Robb Ellis presents his masterpiece: a thorough, and thoroughly readable, history of America’s largest metropolis.
A kaleidoscopic portrait of New York City in 1977, Ladies and Gentlemen the Bronx is Burning is the story of two epic battles: the fight between Yankee Reggie Jackson and team manager Billy Martin, and the battle between Mario Cuomo and Ed Koch for the city’s mayorship. Buried beneath these parallel conflicts — one for the soul of baseball, the other for the soul of the city — is the subtext of race.
In this hugely appealing book, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, acclaimed author and journalist Daniel Okrent weaves together themes of money, politics, art, architecture, business, and society to tell the story of the majestic suite of buildings that came to dominate the heart of midtown Manhattan and with it, for a time, the heart of the world.
In the years around 1870, when the project was first undertaken, the concept of building an unprecedented bridge to span the East River between the great cities of Manhattan and Brooklyn required a vision and determination comparable to that which went into the building of the great cathedrals. Throughout the 14 years of its construction, the odds against the successful completion of the bridge seemed staggering. Bodies were crushed and broken, lives lost, political empires fell, and surges of public emotion constantly threatened the project. But this is not merely the saga of an engineering miracle; it is also a sweeping narrative of the social climate of the time and of the heroes and rascals who had a hand in either constructing or exploiting the surpassing enterprise.
Toward the end of 1964, the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, linking the New York City boroughs of Brooklyn and Staten Island with New Jersey, was completed. It remains an engineering marvel almost forty years later. At 13,700 feet (more than two and a half miles), it is still the longest suspension bridge in the United States and the sixth longest in the world.
On March 25, 1911, as workers were getting ready to leave for the day, a fire broke out in the Triangle Shirtwaist factory in New York’s Greenwich Village. Within minutes it spread to consume the building’s upper three stories. Firemen who arrived at the scene were unable to rescue those trapped inside: their ladders simply weren’t tall enough. People on the street watched in horror as desperate workers jumped to their deaths. The final toll was 146 people,123 of them women. It was the worst disaster in New York City history.