The Bronx is Burning: 1977, Baseball, Politics, and the Battle for the Soul of a City
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The Bronx is Burning: 1977, Baseball, Politics, and the Battle for the Soul of a City

3.99 of 5 stars 3.99  ·  rating details  ·  1,598 ratings  ·  232 reviews
A New York Times Notable Book of the Year

Scheduled for release in July 2007 as an ESPN original miniseries, starring John Turturro as Billy Martin, Oliver Platt as George Steinbrenner, and Daniel Sunjata as Reggie Jackson.

A kaleidoscopic portrait of New York City in 1977, The Bronx Is Burning is the story of two epic battles: the fight between Yankee Reggie Jackson and tea...more
Paperback, 376 pages
Published June 26th 2007 by Picador (first published 2005)
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The promised "kaleidoscopic" view of New York City that Mahler attempts, is both a virtue and a fault. His two main threads are the 1977 Yankees baseball season, and the 1977 Democratic mayoral primary. The latter is much, much stronger than the former, in my opinion. This might not be true in the adapted miniseries, where the Yankees get to take center stage. However, on paper, the battles between Koch, Cuomo, Abzug, and Beame are much more involving. Part 2, Mahler's blow-by-blow account of th...more
I know that some of my friends must be doing a double-take to see me give five stars to a book that's non-fiction and largely about baseball -- two things that I generally don't care for.

Sure, it helped that the book -- while set within the framework of the 1977 baseball season and the clash of egos between Reggie Jackson and Billy Martin -- was also about New York City politics and social history. But Mahler still managed to write a page-turner that made me look forward to what happened next i...more
This is a fascinating method of recording history: in this case, through the time lens of 1977 via baseball, politics, crime, and social history.

New York City has gone through a lot of changes since 1977. I grew up in North Jersey, only experiencing the City through day trips to see movies, the ballet, and occasionally to make a major shopping purchase at Bonwit Teller or Macy's. Everything I remember from 1977 was an outsider's knowledge, gained from radio, tv, or the newspapers, IF, as a 20-so...more
Aug 02, 2008 Roy rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who wants to understand The City.
In 1979, two-years after the action of this book, I was born, and my parents moved the family from a 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom apartment on Central Park West to a house in Westchester. Now I know why. This is the story of the City in the bad old days, possibly at its bottoming out.

This is a great time to look back on the City and where it has come over the last 30-years. Currently, the stories in the papers are about gentrification and the return of the white, middle- and upper- class, not its fligh...more
Patrick McCoy
There’s been a lot of talk about the nostalgia of the gritty New York of the 70s when it seemed the city was about to implode. If there was one point in which that was a distinct possibility it must have been the summer of 1977-when the serial killer Son of Sam haunted the city, a black out resulted in wide spread looting and debilitating arson fires. But it was also the search for leadership of the city as four mayoral candidates clashed for the liberal nomination for what was a bastion of libe...more
I will be visiting NYC later this year and this was an excellent book to review and put into perspective some of the city's recent history. Mahler's descriptions of the 1977 black out and riots and the mayoral race were wonderful. He gave me an understanding of the personalities and the shifting political scene in New York as the city faced bankruptcy and the old patronage systems began to fade. He brings the blackout story to the personal level with the story of what happened in Con Edison's Co...more
Jill Hutchinson
I loved this book!!! It describes the year of 1977 when New York City was gripped in near hysteria caused by the prowling murderer, the "Son of Sam", and the famous blackout which unleashed looting and burning on an unprecedented scale. Add to the mix the political campaign for mayor involving Ed Koch, Mario Cuomo, and Bella Abzug and the bankruptcy faced by NYC . Then top it off with the Yankees run for the pennant and the all too public fights between the Yankee's manager Billy Martin and his...more
All the negative reviews seem to want this book to be something other than it is: if you know a lot about baseball or New York politics, this isn't for you, as it is aimed at a casual interest reader who isn't an expert in either; if you want one, cohesive narrative, this isn't for you, as it jumps between mayoral elections, baseball, an Rupert Murdoch. I'm loving it because a)I don't know much about any of those three things, but I'm interested in all of them and b)I'm not interested in any one...more
Sep 30, 2007 Woody rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: white folks, gangstas an da thugs
Shelves: 11thgrade
So this book is basically about where we all live, New York, except New York in the seventies, so if you like either of those you might find this kinda interesting, I know I did being a fan of both the seventies and new york. Despite the fact that its a historical book, it kind of reads like a story. 1970's new york defininalty makes a good story, is hard to beleive that new york could have been that crappy. It talks a lot about the yankees and reggie jackson, and sometimes the club scenes in ne...more
Jan Dawson
Very interesting review of what happened to the Yankees, but more broadly the city of New York during the late 70s. Good for baseball fans in particular but also worth reading for anyone who loves learning about New York and its past. As a non-native New Yorker I found the history of the city and its troubles particularly illuminating. Well written, with lots of stories - the Yankees themselves, the mayoral race, the riots in the Bronx and Brookyln, the Son of Sam murders - all interwoven in a w...more
Mark Edward
I grew up in the shadow of NYC. I watched the City burn on TV from the safety of my suburban home. I bought into the Ed Koch hype (at 14 years old, that didn't mean much). But mostly I tracked the Yankees that summer, pitch by pitch, headline by headline, outrage by outrage, convinced that I would be donning the pinstripes one day soon. This was the year I began to be allowed to commute into the city on my own to visit my dad, walking through the porn and filth infested Times Square to meet him...more
Eddy Allen

A kaleidoscopic portrait of New York City in 1977, 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--was the subtext of race.

Deftly intertwined by journalist Jonathan Mahler, these braided Big Apple narratives reverberate to reveal a year th...more
It's okay if a little pale. But as the author says he is not a native New Yorker and the sources are mostly secondary accounts. Thus the facts seem to be right but the smell of it is wrong. And I mean the smell. New York in the 70s was a unique place and you just had to be there.
Mike McPadden
A near-masterpiece, marred only by the absence of a "Where Are They Now?" concluding chapter. Feverish, immersive, wry, thoroughly informative. I was there (at age nine) and this book brought me back (forever).
An eminently readable book about the tumultuous world of New York City in 1977. While primarily focusing on the Yankees' championship run and the hard-fought mayoral election, the book touches on a wide ranging number of cultural moments that took place in 1977 New York, from Rupert Murdoch's acquisition of the New York Post to the creation of Studio 54.

My only two complaints: first, in this post-Moneyball era, the book's baseball analysis is decidedly simplistic; second, the book could easily h...more
Darin Campbell
Really enjoyed this. I am just old enough to remember the events covered in this book, and the author really brings the period to life. Certainly not scholarly, but concise, analytical and intelligently written. I'm not from New York but I find the city endlessly fascinating, it being a paragon of both the best and worst of the American experience. 1977 was an eventful year in New York, and this book does a great job of conveying the temper of the times, from the lows of the blackout and Son of...more
M. Milner
Back in 1977, New York was a joke. A cruel one maybe, but to most of America it was a joke: the biggest city in America was on the verge of bankruptcy and crime was going out of control. It’s a gritty, tense world Jonathan Mahler evokes in The Bronx is Burning, his look at that memorable New York summer, both in the street and on the field at Yankee Stadium.

In many ways, the Yankees and the city reflected each other. Both had long legacies of greatness but had largely fallen apart in recent year...more
As that encompassing but rather unwieldy title might lead you to expect, this is a violent book. At times, almost overwhelmingly so. The incidents recounted range from amusing—then-Oakland A's manager Billy Martin beating the shit out of a pitcher who outsized him by three inches and thirty pounds, in response to the pitcher himself threatening to beat the shit out of an assistant coach for "ratting" on him after skipping laps—to horrifying—families in Bushwick deliberately setting fire to their...more
It turns out there were reasons for New York being so affordable in the 1970s. I wonder how there could have been enclaves of Manhattan where diners lit outdoor tables with headlights during the blackout while Harlem, Bronx, and most of Brooklyn were being looted.

There's a very slim section of this book devoted to the Son of Sam terror, which is by far the shortest of the three parts. Obviously not everyone drawn to a book with Yankee Stadium wants all the details of this killing spree and there...more
This is great page turner about New York in 1977 a year that seemed to be a perfect storm of everything going wrong to a once great city. Mahler tells the tale of a city literally bankrupt and riven with racial,economic and social divdes, using the intertwining stories of the mayoral race, Rupert Murdoch's entry into New York publishing and the Yankees world series run.

The mayoral race and Murdoch are the least interesting parts of this and will mainly appeal to New Yorkers. The real great parts...more
This book is a page turner about baseball, politics, newspapers (mostly Rupert Murdoch's takeover of New York City tabloids), Son of Sam, and 70's culture and society. It's a great sweep of 1970's New York City, structured to move engagingly back and forth among the topics like a novel with three main characters. Mahler manages to somehow write it in a way that makes all of the subjects reachable even if one is less than familiar with one of them.

My only (small) complaint (and it's a small comp...more
During the 1977 World Series, Howard Cosell really did say "Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx is burning" as flames licked up in the distance from Yankee Stadium.
1977 was the crux of the "bad ol' days" of New York City - white flight had taken its toll; unemployment was outrageous for everyone, but close to 80% for young blacks and hispanics; infrastructure was in disrepair; crime was outrageous. This was the New York that inspired movies like "Death Wish" and "The Warriors." 1977, in particular,...more
Tom Gase
A well-researched book by Jonathan Mahler on New York in the summer of 1977. The city and its baseball team, the Yankees, were in great turmoil that summer. The baseball team had numerous fights in print between its new free agent star, Reggie Jackson, and the manager, Billy Martin. Jackson also did not get along with the rest of the team including 1976 MVP Thurman Munson. THe book chronicles the 1977 pennant race with the Yankees with the backdrop of the fights between Mario Cuomo and Ed Koch,...more
Apr 09, 2008 James rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Political or baseball junkies
Recommended to James by: My son that lives in NYC
Jonathan Mahler has written an exceptionally well-crafted book about a single year (1977) in the history of New York City. The fascinating story alternates between the Yankees and mayoral politics. As the ball drops in Time Square to usher in the New Year, New York and the Yankees are far down in the standings, but the situation is about to get much worse.

In 1977, New York City goes bankrupt and nobody in the nation gives a hoot, the Yankees haven't won the World Series in years and everybody o...more
I was in my late pre-teens and early adolescence in the period described in this book. But I do remember hearing, as a 10-year old, about New York being on the verge of bankruptcy and asking Uncle Sam for a bailout. I remember, too, the 1976 World Series in which the Reds swept the Yankees. The Yankees had virtually no offensive power, to speak of. It seemed to me that only Thurman Munson (the catcher) was providing the bulk of Yankee offensive power. Alas! it was not enough and conseguently, I...more
Felt like this should be read during the summer, and I've got one month left. Interest was piqued after watching a few hours of the ESPN adaptation, which was awesome. And, yeah, I miss New York.

Finished: Goodness - I loved this book. It took a while because I had a lot of stuff going on, but if left alone, I really could have zipped through it. It was just fantastic. I think what I loved most was - it's about the summer of 77, but to put you properly into that time, Mahler takes you back and gi...more
i think this is possibly the best book i read on my own in all of 2006. it's fucking genius. he starts out wanting to tell a story about baseball, but then it turns into a story of the city, with what's happening in the bronx almost magically mirroring what's happening outside the ball park.

for those who need a little prodding: 1977 was the year that billy martin officially came to the yankees, that reggie jackson turned into mr. october, that the city mayoral race featured ed koch, mario cuomo...more
I graduated from high school in 1977 about 45 minutes from downtown Manhattan. Reading this book was like an eye opening walk down memory lane. I knew every character and every story, but until this book, hadn't put it all together. Of course, I was busy being an 18 year old graduating senior and heading off to college so I wasn't totally paying attention either. Jonathan Mahler is a tremendous writer. I like how he moved me through different snapshots of New York City via politics, baseball, fi...more
Corbett Stovall
Very much enjoyed this one. I saw a previous reviewer bring up Erik Larrson, which is actually pretty accurate. The book focuses on a two over-riding narratives through 1977 NYC: the Democratic mayoral primary and the Yankees season. I enjoyed both of these stories, though I felt the book was most successful when it diverted attention to the two other big stories from that year. Section two, which focuses first on the blackout of '77 and the subsequent looting, then David Berkowitz, worked for m...more
This book in very interesting, informative and a page-turner. Although at times the "battle for the soul" of New York City seems a little dramatic, Mahler makes good on this riveting premise with a detailed and well-edited history of 1977 (or primarily its hot summer) in New York City. Many concurrent tensions, both highly symbolic and of great actual consequence, pulled the city in different directions. The most symbolic is Mahler's framing device, the boiling conflict between Billy Martin, the...more
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