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The New York Nobody Knows: Walking 6,000 Miles in the City

3.24  ·  Rating Details  ·  209 Ratings  ·  37 Reviews
As a child growing up in Manhattan, William Helmreich played a game with his father called "Last Stop." They would pick a subway line, ride it to its final destination, and explore the neighborhood. Decades later, his love for exploring the city is as strong as ever.

Putting his feet to the test, he decided that the only way to truly understand New York was to walk virtuall
Hardcover, 449 pages
Published October 20th 2013 by Princeton University Press (first published January 1st 2013)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,449)
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Paul Bryant
Jun 01, 2014 Paul Bryant rated it it was ok
Shelves: modern-life
I like ambitious blog projects and the way they always seem to nosedive. This is the pattern :


21st June 2011. Well here is the first entry of my Balzac blog in which I record my crazed attempt to read ALL of Balzac’s Comedie Humaine in one year! Yes, all 91 novels. It can be done! I Hope! Wish me luck and may my coffee never run out.
Started La Maison du chat-qui-pelote – only 150 pages! Easy peasy.

24th June. Finished La Maison and now on to The Ball at Sceaux whch is a mere 60 p
Feb 05, 2015 Kuva rated it did not like it
Fairly engaging in some ways, but pretty disappointing and even a little disturbing overall. It seems like a good idea, to take an in-depth, long-term, and personal journey through every neighborhood in New York. But the resulting observations and conclusions Helmreich offers are very superficial, usually unsurprising, and often condescending. He says some shockingly racist things and in a very offhand way. He repeatedly expresses surprise that he isn't robbed by black people, when in fact he as ...more
Mar 16, 2014 Lis rated it liked it
This had the potential to be a great book on urban studies and parts of it certainly were interesting. There were paragraphs that really caught the essence of NY for me, and the concept of only being able to know New York by pounding the pavements ring true, however I have some problems.

The main problem is that a lot of Helmrich's observations seem entirely anecdotal, without any frameworks from history or anything else for that matter. He'll take an anecdote from say a Hispanic guy on a street
Mark McGranaghan
Jan 02, 2015 Mark McGranaghan rated it really liked it
A man walks every street in NYC - more than 6,000 miles - and writes about his experience.

The book's focus is ethnographic interviews of residents that the author encounters on his walks. The author also draws on data from previous studies and his own observations to discuss issues like community, immigration, and gentrification in NYC.

At times the book loses its grounding and drifts into pure speculation about what the author's seeing. Overall the book is a bit rambling. The last chapter just r
Jan 02, 2016 Bugzmanov rated it it was ok
The book is mostly about views of the author about everything(immigrants, street gangs, businesses, minorities) than about the city. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, but really not what you would expect from a title "The New York Nobody Knows". I would probably gave it 3 stars if the title wasn't THAT misleading.
Aug 01, 2014 Viridian5 rated it it was ok
This idea, of walking all five boroughs of New York City to get a better view of its people, is excellent. Too bad I ended up wishing so hard that someone else did it and wrote it.

In books like this, people generally take one of two paths: separating themselves out of the narrative to present facts and interviewees' stories or becoming a part of the narrative. William B. Helmreich takes the second option, but he's not an engaging narrator. He states many of his opinions as facts. His views on p
Jonathan Horowitz
May 07, 2014 Jonathan Horowitz rated it it was ok
It didn't quite seem to know what it should be. The guy walked 6,000 miles in NYC over the course of five years, but then uses that information to write broadly about ethnicity, gentrification, politics, foods, businesses, and plenty more. The book works when it's about the amazing and interesting things he discovered, witnessed, and engaged with on his walks, but seems to overreach when it deals with the more sociological aspects (many of which seem fairly obvious, but maybe that's just from ha ...more
Aug 17, 2015 Clarke rated it really liked it
Shelves: travel
A fantastic sociology study/report on New York City. Not only did I learn a lot more about NYC, but it adjusted my perceptions on parts of the city where news reports had long since tarnished them.
Jan 31, 2016 Irwin rated it really liked it
This book is less about the walking experience, more a sociological overview of NYC. Not surprising, since the author is a sociology professor. That said, I liked it! The author delves deep into some of the outer borough areas that rarely get play in the news media. He touches on race relations, immigration and gentrification among other things. While it was redundant at times, the insights were quite good, and while the subject matter was a bit dry, it didn't feel like reading a textbook. If yo ...more
Michael Lewyn
Oct 13, 2014 Michael Lewyn rated it really liked it
The deep themes of this book struck me as fairly obvious: the city is safer and better off than it was 20 years ago, and most neighborhoods have improved due to some mix of immigration and gentrification. (I note, however, that if I hadn't lived in New York yet, I would probably find the book more interesting). What was really helpful about this book was its description of individual places and neighborhoods; Helmreich mentions numerous places that I was unaware of, and that I would like to visi ...more
Jan 18, 2014 Allan rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook
This book was always going to appeal to me, given my interest in all things NYC. It is basically a sociological study that Helmreich has researched by spending 6 years walking 6000 miles through the city, travelling along every block within the 5 boroughs.

What the reader gets is a feel for the different areas of the city tied together with studies of bigger themes, like crime, religion, ethnicity, gentrification etc. Helmreich mixes accounts of interactions with New Yorkers he encountered on hi
Jun 08, 2016 Essam rated it really liked it
I bought the book after visiting New York as I was interested to know more about the city and its many ethnic groups and how they're living alongside each other.

I found the writer's approach very intriguing and inspiring to walk all the streets in NY city. The book talks about NYC history and the events that affected its culture, additionally it covers the different groups and the diversity that you will only see NYC.

The writer talks freely about the different groups so some people might find i
May 04, 2016 Trenchologist rated it it was ok
"This isn't the book I was expecting" is both fair and unfair. It's a fair assessment of how I came, then reacted to, the book. But it's unfair to hold that entirely against the author. However, were this titled something like, "A Sociologist's View of Hidden New York: Walking 6000 Miles in the City Then Writing A Dissertation About It," I would have a much better idea of the thesis and content going in.

As a long time NYCer I admit I did know quite a lot of what Helmreich discussed. I also admit
Oct 14, 2013 Matt rated it really liked it
William B. Helmreich has accomplished a rather remarkable feat. Over the course of four years, the graduate professor of sociology at City University of New York has covered all 6,000 miles of New York City's streets by foot. While his book includes the subtitle, "Walking 6,000 Miles in the City," his pedestrian (here I am obviously referring to the noun rather than the adjective) accomplishment is not the focal point of The New York Nobody Knows. Instead, he presents a detailed and insightful e ...more
Heather Reyes
Dec 02, 2013 Heather Reyes rated it it was amazing
'This is New York. Get over it.' The New York Nobody Knows: Walking 6000 Miles in the City.

What is the real New York? The iconic sights and shopping? The brownstones of a Woody Allen film? The projects and gangs? Or was Walt Whitman closer to it over a century ago when the real city forced him to contain 'multitudes'?

Native New Yorker and City College sociology professor William B. Helmeich took on a Sisyphean task: to walk nearly every block of all five boroughs as the only way to contain toda
Jan 02, 2015 Bruce rated it it was amazing
Exceptional profile of New York City--all of it, not just Manhattan--by a sociologist and lifelong resident who set out to walk every block of it. The walks and the conversations he starts serve as the basis for discussion of a variety of topics related to urban life. There are chapters on gentrification, ethnicity, safety, and social life, for example. To be at once thorough, engaging, personal and scientific is really a remarkable achievement.
Feb 09, 2014 Aharon rated it it was ok
My favorite sections include:

-That Time I Describe Myself as Almost Getting Mugged, But Based On The Telling It Seems Like I Was Just On The Same Sidewalk As Some Black Dudes

-Using Special Sociology Powers To Explain How It Might Be Rude To Laugh At Someone's Dead Father, Which Is a Valuable And Rare Insight

-Those 90 Pages Where I Paraphrase Census Materials

In the right hands a super-interesting idea can turn meh.
Jun 13, 2015 Terri rated it liked it
Weeell, it was between 2 and 3 stars because it was not terribly well written, a bit too random in its examples, and the pix should have been better quality and in color. Nonetheless, as a temporary Manhattanite I found some of the information fascinating. New York is a unique city and its people deserve to have their stories told. If you are tempted by this book, I would go for Humans of New York, The Golem and the Jinni, or Someone Knows My Name for interesting stories with a Big Apple setting ...more
Apr 27, 2014 Elizabeth rated it did not like it
William Helmreich walked every street in New York City--all five boroughs--at least once. He's written a description of those walks and I thought I would be riveted, but he is a sociologist and writes in that vein. Although some of the descriptions are interesting, he spends too much time on demographics for it to appeal to me. However, if you are interested in that aspect of the city, you might like it.
Jun 11, 2016 Rebecca rated it it was ok
I was disappointed in this book. I had hoped for more flavor of the neighborhood, sights and sounds and stories. And while there were some, there were just too many facts so it ended up feeling like a report on the status of the various neighborhoods and less about the fabric that makes the city. I stopped about 1/3 of the way through, so maybe it changed course. It was a great idea that just fell short on the storytelling side.
Aug 12, 2014 Carl rated it really liked it
A great sociological overview of NYC and the changes that have already occured and those still occuring with its denizens and its locales.

Works best in a surprisingly even handed chapter on the multifaceted issue that is Gentrification.

works less well when Mr. Helmreich reaches snap conclusions about his subjects based on somehwat limited interractions. Luckily these "gaffs" are few and far between.

An excellent sociological overview of New York City with generous dashes of New York Character mix
Judith Johnson
Jan 17, 2016 Judith Johnson rated it it was ok
I read about this book as it was published, and when my old and cherished New Yorker friend (a Dr of Sociology herself) sent me this book I rejoiced, but broadly speaking I have to agree with other Goodreads reviewers. I applaud Mr Helmreich for his massive effort and hard work to produce this book, and I'm sure he has many ex-students who loved his teaching, but I found the writing patchy, stodgy and full of personal opinions given almost as truth. I adored New York, through reading much litera ...more
Mar 08, 2014 Emily rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
This was a good read, big and complex and stuffed with information and anecdotes. I appreciate the way he addresses controversial topics like gentrification and segregation, reporting on a multitude of viewpoints and not looking for simple answers. I would have liked more stories and photos from the walks (not that there weren't a lot of stories from the walks, but I got impatient when it veered away from that and into sociology-textbook territory). And as a non-NYer I would have loved some more ...more
May 22, 2016 Jose added it
This was an excellent read. Great research and great social analysis of the NYC I grew up in. Of course, there was stuff in the book I knew about, but didn't quite know the implication of when I lived in NYC. As a Brooklyn boy the recounting of all things Brooklyn held my fascination throughout. For me, this was a very enjoyable tome.
Lisa T.
Jun 30, 2016 Lisa T. rated it really liked it
This book is a combination of history, sociology, and tour guide. The author, a college teacher, walked all over the boroughs on New York, meeting citizens and making observations.
April Edwards
I won this book on Goodreads as a giveaway. It is like a course in New York City. I love the idea that the author literally walked all over the entire city, and there is a lot of fascinating information here. I live in the Midwest and have never been to New York City, so to tell the truth, the book was hard to get through just because it was an unfamiliar subject for the most part. I picture residents of NYC and people who love to visit NYC reading it and nodding along. There are several things ...more
Sep 09, 2015 Caragh rated it it was ok
To be honest, I didn't finish it, but I think I'm going to have to put it down. It's not terrible, it's just that I'm not a huge fan of the writing style, and the author and I butt heads politically a lot, it seems.
David Marans
Jul 10, 2014 David Marans rated it it was ok
Oh how I wanted to like this book! I am an urban explorer who had lived his many decades in the New York area (mostly within the New York City borders).

How promising it seemed to open a book by a distinguished expert of The City, one promising insights and previously hidden information.

Unfortunately, this repetitive, disjointed book failed to deliver. Granted, there were several enjoyable and occasionally memorable anecdotes. But it rambled on.
Mar 30, 2014 Jeramey rated it liked it
Shelves: urbanism
I was really excited when I learned of the concept of this book (person walks every block in the city). The actual implementation is not what I expected at all. In reality, the author could have walked very little of the city and written the same book.

If you're looking to get the feel for every area of New York City, this book doesn't accomplish that. It does have a decent discussion of race relations and gentrification issues as they relate to NYC.
David Moss
Jan 06, 2015 David Moss rated it really liked it
The details of the individual interactions were great, and the analysis of immigrant life was worth the read. This book definitely leaves open a lot of questions for further analysis, such as 'Who are the gentrifiers?', and 'How are the suburbs and exurbs of the entire metropolitan region interrelated with the city neighborhoods in the push and pull of places where one might choose to live?'
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