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Twenty Minutes in Manhattan
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Twenty Minutes in Manhattan

3.44 of 5 stars 3.44  ·  rating details  ·  133 ratings  ·  21 reviews
The walk from my apartment in Greenwich Village to my studio in Tribeca takes about twenty minutes, depending upon the route and whether I stop for a coffee and the Times. Invariably, though, it begins with a trip down the stairs.

And so sets out architecture critic Michael Sorkin on his daily walk from his home in a Manhattan old-law-style tenement building. Sorkin has fol
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Hardcover, 215 pages
Published June 30th 2009 by Reaktion Books (first published April 15th 2009)
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Tosh
If you look at my list of titles on Goodreads, you can see that I am interested in books that are in a specific place and time. In many ways I think I prefer that than to say 'character.' But then again I find cities and locations are very much character in the sense that the architectural or urban landscape is a narrative in itself and there lies the suspense and often tells how humans react to that environment.

Michael Sorkin, like a skilled surgeon, writes about his neighborhood in lower Manh
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Dario
In Twenty Minutes in Manhattan, Michael Sorkin uses his rambling walk from home to work as a template for an equally rambling and varied book filled with thought provoking asides about living in NYC, and about the nature of cities and living spaces in general. It's all over the place, which can make it somewhat difficult to get into, but it is worth going along with the author for the ride, as it's a really enjoyable and wide ranging book once you get into it.

It's certainly not perfect, though.
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Raja
There are little bits of interesting facts buried among his preachy writing. Not worth the time navigating his rant-like writing
Irene
The book is relatively well written although the style is pompous at best and a thinly veiled rant fundamentally driven by a sense of entitlement.

(I grew up 10 blocks away from his apt during the same period that he moved there and i can guarantee you my working class family did not shop at Balducci's or Jefferson Market because it was too expensive.... he was part of the wave of gentrification that has now left him behind and is whining because what happened to those of us who made up Little S
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Victoria
To fully enjoy this book, do you have to live along the walk Michael Sorkin uses as the basis for free-ranging meditations about urban life and community, and it's perpetual struggle with real-estate developers? Although I do, I don't think it's necessary: Twenty Minutes in Manhattan ranges over all of NYC and adduces examples from other cities in the U.S. and abroad, describing and analyzing in an attractive flowing prose the signs indicating the rise and fall of urban neighborhoods, and the pe ...more
David
I appreciate Sorkin's balanced appraisal of New York's urban antagonists of the mid-20th century, Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses. Sorkin's ambulatory essays often focus on the tensions between private profit-seeking and collective action for the public good; he is no doubt right to be alarmed by the squeezing out of the poor and middle class from Manhattan. His criticisms can be refreshingly blunt: "As urbanism, it's vandalism," but he is also prone to professional jargon: "a genius loci via a for ...more
Callie Craighead
I read this book for a class I was taking about New York City and it's history. The abundance of information in this book is overwhelming, and at times too much to take in. I did find little bits and facts that I found really interesting, but then Sorkin digressed and I became confused. Overall, not a book I would read by choice.
Jenna
Wow. The person that said he writes like a surgeon was right on. A whole chapter on staircases followed by another chapter analyzing "the stoop"?? This book will live in my work desk drawer when I'm desperate for something to finish on the train ride home.
Peter
I was looking forward to a good book on the history of neighborhood architecture in NYC. This book looked like if fit the bill but each section that was defined using a specific neighborhood just gave the author space to pontificate on his own personal beliefs and prejudices. Too bad.
John
I'm fairly liberal myself, but the author's old-school, leftist rants became too tedious to continue reading beyond the middle of the book.
Elizabeth Schurman
I started reading this once before. That one was a hardback copy. Also I didn't live in New York. This time I made it through quickly. He's a terrible snob. Good history. Quick enough philosophical musings.
David
I was initially disappointed that this wasn't a "walking tour" of Lower Manhattan, per se. Instead there are some fascinating tangents about the history of the Village, Soho and Tribeca; landlord/tenant concerns, including the pros and cons of rent control; issues around physical space; and a general sense that NYC has fallen completely down the path of gentrification/Disneyland-ization that is now common in American cities more generally and that the burrough is increasingly pricing out all tha ...more
Connaire Demain
a really thought provoking look at the the way the city changes. ironically wants me to go walk those streets now.
Kara
A great concept -- pretty much the absent-minded professor rambles about stuff he sees along his 20-minute walk to work in New York, with most themes related to architecture and urban planning. Definitely not for everyone, but I really enjoyed his historical tangents and interior monologues, particularly related to the history of the staircase through Europe and in New York (at the beginning) and elevator etiquette (at the end).
Kaitlin
informative and interesting, this read had a lot more than I was expecting. unfortunately this is one of the few times that that mismatch affected my perception of a book to the negative.
what I thought would be more of a personal play-by-play of a neighborhood walk became more a sprawling discussion on cities, architecture, and planning.
will be enjoyable for architecture and city planning people for sure!
Edith
This book has some interesting minutiae on the history and current structural organization of Greenwich Village in Manhattan, but I didn't like the tone of the book at all. The language is pretentious and clunky, and it left me with the impression that the writer is not a very pleasant person to be around.
Renee
Jun 29, 2010 Renee marked it as abandoned
It isn't this book, it's me. I wanted something else when I picked this up and was disappointed at the reality. It has a lot of history and facts and details...and maybe another day this would have interested me...but probably not. Just not my kind of read. I wont star it because it just is not fair.
Kailin
this is his manhattan, but it is also mine. it could be yours too. i can picture where he lives, where he walks with startling accuracy. it makes me think of my own memories of the city, and hopes that they are etched there, somewhere, for me to happen upon later.
Anas
Interesting content, but the title and summary are misleading. I learned a lot about urbanism, architecture and history, but the tone makes it at times boring and long to read.
Sarah
Not what I was expecting in that it was way more architectural theory and less interesting historical facts but still enjoyable in parts.
Nayomi
Concept seems good, but the book is utterly boring, especially for those who prefer fiction. It reads like a long essay full of facts that are most likely meaningless to anyone who isn't from New York. The author's tone is condescending and doesn't do much to encourage people to visit the city, which he seems to describe as a club that only he and a select few would understand.
Laura Kepus
Laura Kepus is currently reading it
Mar 27, 2015
Laura
Laura marked it as to-read
Mar 18, 2015
Kim
Kim is currently reading it
Mar 16, 2015
Erin Hart
Erin Hart marked it as to-read
Mar 12, 2015
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Michael Sorkin (born 1948, Washington, D.C.) is an American architectural critic and author of several hundred articles in a wide range of both professional and general publications. He is the Principal of Michael Sorkin Studio in New York City, a design practice devoted to both practical and theoretical projects at all scales, with special interest in sustainable urban environments/green city arc ...more
More about Michael Sorkin...
Variations on a Theme Park: The New American City and the End of Public Space All Over the Map: Writing on Buildings and Cities Exquisite Corpse: Writings on Buildings Pamphlet Architecture 22: Other Plans University of Chicago Studies 1998-2000 Some Assembly Required

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