Pretty dense and academic, but not TOTALLY out of reach for the layman. If you want to get an understanding of how much depth the works of Tolkien conPretty dense and academic, but not TOTALLY out of reach for the layman. If you want to get an understanding of how much depth the works of Tolkien contain, this book will enlighten you. It's almost as if you're taking a course from Dr. Shippey himself. ...more
A decent overview of the history of New York's underworld, poverty and vices in the mid-nineteenth to early-twentieth centuries.
Although the subjectA decent overview of the history of New York's underworld, poverty and vices in the mid-nineteenth to early-twentieth centuries.
Although the subject matter would seem quite interesting, I thought the author approached it in a bit of a dry manner at times. For example, making a list of names of famous gangster in the Lower East Side without telling us anything about these people is useless for the reader. Perhaps it serves as documentation, but the reader of the book will likely not need nor remember such a list of names.
In my opinion, when writing a book for the general public, as this book seems to be aimed at, even the academic author must keep in mind that a reader is best served by compelling stories and storytelling. Some parts of this book accomplished that goal, while others did not. Also, I felt some chapters were a bit short compared to the wealth of possibilities each subject could offer. I suppose that is the downside of a general overview.
To be honest, I found the afterword much more compelling than the preceding chapters. The author discusses what it was like to live in the squalor of 1970s and 80s Lower East Side Manhattan. I'd love to hear more about that....more
The Flatiron building in New York City is one of my favorite buildings. Its curves and angles are so pleasing to the eye, and even today one can hardlThe Flatiron building in New York City is one of my favorite buildings. Its curves and angles are so pleasing to the eye, and even today one can hardly imagine how it manages to stay upright.
Although this book is the story of the Flatiron, even more is it the story of the people who envisioned it, built it, and managed it. It's really the story of one Harry Black, the President of the Fuller Company, which constructed the Flatiron.
Many people probably know that the Flatiron was once officially known as the Fuller building, but I, for one, didn't know a thing about the Fuller Company until now. Fuller, which later came under Harry Black's U.S. Realty trust, built not only the Flatiron, but many other iconic New York buildings. The Times building in Times Square, which kind of looks like an inverse Flatiron? Built by Fuller. Macy's in Herald Square? Also built by Fuller. As well as the Plaza Hotel near Central Park.
This book had so many stories about New York City and its turn of the century Real Estate industry, most of which I've never heard. This is a great book for learning about how the New York of most people's dreams was built by a few powerful companies. It's full of colorful characters, infidelity, union troubles, and much more. And, of course, you learn about the genesis of the Flatiron and what it means to New Yorkers....more
I was looking for a good, comprehensive biography of Abraham Lincoln's life. Mission accomplished.
Of course, you will learn all about Lincoln's politiI was looking for a good, comprehensive biography of Abraham Lincoln's life. Mission accomplished.
Of course, you will learn all about Lincoln's political life, but you also get a sense of who he was as a person. A son, a friend, a father, a husband, a community member. Looking back, we think of Lincoln as a strong, intelligent man of leadership. And he was, but it took him a while to get there. He has his problems and weaknesses just like any other human being.
A reader of this book will see how Lincoln had to fight for everything he earned. He worked his way to the top of American political life, and once he reached the top, he found his work had only just begun. This imperfect, somewhat inexperienced man faced managing a war, dealing with splits between Democrats and Republicans and splits within the Republican party, figuring out how to free slaves and integrate them into a white society that did not want them, and above all trying to save the Union. Why was Lincoln a great man? Because he actually managed to do all of the above, or at least set things on the right path. No other President in American history faced such a great burden.
Although this book isn't exactly a page-turner, it is very easy to follow and provides a very good overview of Lincoln's life, both personal and professional. If you want to have a good foundation for learning about the great Abraham Lincoln, this is an ideal place to begin....more
**spoiler alert** Normally I don't much like novels that follow multiple generations. It's too hard to keep track of everyone, and just when you're us**spoiler alert** Normally I don't much like novels that follow multiple generations. It's too hard to keep track of everyone, and just when you're used to one generation, you've moved on to the next one.
Somehow, this novel breaks that barrier for me. It follows multiple generations over 400 years, skips some generations, and brings new families in and out of the story, but somehow keeps your interest throughout. I think that's because the author is so good at writing relatable characters. You feel like you know these characters even if you haven't read much about them yet, and you truly come to care about them. Without good characters, a multiple-generation story just doesn't work.
New York: The Novel is a great combination of novel and history. It takes the fictional story of a Ducth-Anglo 'old money' family and sets it against all the touchstones of American and New York history -- the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, the Draft Riots, the Triangle fire, the stock market crash -- all the way up to 9/11. Also included in the narrative are so many familiar New York landmarks including the Five Points, the Public Library, the Chrysler building, and all the splendor of Fifth Avenue. While reading this book, one gets to see New York change over the decades as one building and neighborhood gets built over another, yet somehow the spirit of the city never changes.
I have to say I really enjoyed this novel. It's epic-length and it deserves to be. If you are from New York, it will make you feel at home. If you are from anywhere else, like me, you will still feel at home. We all have a little New York in us....more
Quite simply, these are the stories of people who work the night shift in the New York City area. Most of the stories are really interesting and inspiQuite simply, these are the stories of people who work the night shift in the New York City area. Most of the stories are really interesting and inspirational. Each worker has a different story, different reasons for working at night, and different coping strategies. Even so, there are similarities among all of these hardy individuals. Lack of sleep seems to be the largest theme. Reading this book will make you appreciate people who alter their natural body rhythms to work at night, either willingly or unwillingly. And in no other city than New York could so many people work such a shift....more
**spoiler alert** From the moment I read the back blurb, I knew I had to read this book. It didn't disappoint, although it was a little different than**spoiler alert** From the moment I read the back blurb, I knew I had to read this book. It didn't disappoint, although it was a little different than what I thought it would be like.
David Roberts, author and adventurer, found out about the story of four Russian sailors who were forced to survive in the Svalbard islands in the Arctic after their hunting ship sank. Those four sailors had made a trek to find a previously-known structure on the island they found themselves upon, only to return and find their boat simply gone. For a little over half a decade, these four men had their limits tested as they hunted, tried to stay warm, and fought off the constant threat of polar bears.
Roberts gives us plenty of information about the four sailors' incredible story, but this book isn't about that, exactly. Rather, it is about Roberts' quest to find the truth about the situation. Whose truth? That's one of the more important questions the book raises.
Roberts' primary source is an account by a Frenchman named Le Roy, who interviewed the sailors several months after their return from their exile. Le Roy reports the incredible details of the adventure, but Roberts constantly questions the accuracy of his findings. Did Le Roy understand everything the sailors were telling him? Did he really accurately report what he had heard? Roberts tries to find other sources to dig deeper into the story and find out what really might have happened.
Finally, Roberts, two of his buddies (who are more than qualified to join such a journey) along with a Swedish/Norwegian guide trek all the way to Svalbard to find out what that harsh landscape can tell them about the Russian story. Even in the warmest month in the Arctic, the conditions are rugged and even dangerous. One slip-up could have made the difference between survival and near-death. All the while, David and his fellow travelers attempt to find the whereabouts of the hut the Russian sailors lived in.
This last part of the book was the most interesting and incredible for me. Although not as compelling and simply awe-inspiring as the story that prompted it, the trip to Svalbard by Roberts and colleagues forms an adventure tale all its own. Roberts' firsthand account of the "godforsaken" Arctic islands lets the reader get closer to the true reality of life in such a place than any centuries-old manuscript or tale.
In his own way, Roberts adds to the story by journeying to perhaps the very same place and facing a few of the same conditions and dangers. He may or may not have found the famous survival hut, but at the very least he was there, just the same as the Russian hunters centuries before. Just think about this: With the exception of a man-made structure or two, various scattered hunting traps and the garbage left behind and washed ashore over the years, the islands of Edgeøya and Half-Moon Island remain much the same as they did when the Russians lost their way.
I really liked this book. I learned a new story and I got to imagine what it might be like to be on an island in the middle of nowhere surrounded by fog, ice and hungry polar bears....more
With this book, Jacob Riis changed New York City, and the lives of its people, forever. Riis was a journalist and photographer whose aim was to help rWith this book, Jacob Riis changed New York City, and the lives of its people, forever. Riis was a journalist and photographer whose aim was to help reform the horrible conditions in the tenements of 19th century Manhattan. He wrote "How The Other Half Lives" to make people aware of the troubles in the tenements. This book, along with his intense photographs, helped spark reform laws that cleaned up the slum areas of Manhattan and changed how tenements were built. It is not everyday that a piece of writing changes history, but Riis book did just that.
This is not an easy book to read. The language is sometimes clumsy, and the horrible conditions that shocked readers back then are well-known today. Even so, there are definitely details that grab the reader and threaten to outrage or sicken.
The writing is sometimes very dry, and other times very sensationalistic. I think Riis probably exaggerated in a few places to help make his point. He wanted to raise outrage about the tenement conditions, and the book should be filtered through that agenda. Occasionally a prejudice or two will show in Riis' writing. Educated upper classes had views very different from our own about minorities and nationalities. However, Riis is careful to place most of the blame on the tenements themselves, not the people living in them.
Riis covers many topics and doesn't seem to have much of a narrative. He skips from topic to topic haphazardly. He talks about different areas of the Lower East Side (Chinatown, Little Italy, etc.) and details the condition in each. He talks about stale beer dives, the clothing industry, children, and youth gangs, among other topics. I must say he's very thorough and packs a lot of detail in each chapter.
This book is for you if you have an academic interest in the history of New York City, immigration, or slums. This is a very famous work, but not necessarily the most enjoyable read. It has its interesting parts, but it won't keep you turning the pages....more
I first learned about the New York Draft Riots of 1863 in the movie Gangs of New York. I found the topic interesting and wanted to learn more, so yearI first learned about the New York Draft Riots of 1863 in the movie Gangs of New York. I found the topic interesting and wanted to learn more, so years later I have read this book about the event. As expected, there was a whole lot more going on than what was portrayed in the movie.
I have also recently been learning more about the U.S. Civil War, so reading about the Draft Riots is timely. The book approaches the War from a social and political point of view. I learned a lot about the social conditions during the War, and how the average working man felt about things. Just like today, the Civil War era was a time of great change, and society needed to figure out what direction was best to take.
I enjoyed all the background information about the politics of the time and how the Republicans and Democrats fought each other in the newspapers and halls of government just as the soldiers were fighting each other on the battlefields.
This book really let me in on how much racism there was during the Civil War period. As much as we like to think that the Confederacy was pro-slavery and union was abolitionist, things were much more complicated in reality. Abolitionists were seen as radical by some and were routinely criticized.
As for the riots themselves, there are heroes and villains, and many acts of vicious cruelty. Once again, things aren't as easy as Irish vs. African. The rioters were actually only a small segment of the overall Irish population, and in many cases were misled by inaccurate information from those who would use them for their own gain.
The draft riots were very important in U.S. history and had far-reaching implications. I found it enjoyable to learn more about them and how they fit in with everything else that was going on in the late 1800s in America....more
This book is supposed to be about Jimi Hendrix, but it doesn't have too many pages of information about its subject.
The author's style here is to giveThis book is supposed to be about Jimi Hendrix, but it doesn't have too many pages of information about its subject.
The author's style here is to give a history of different styles and subjects (blues, jazz, soul, etc.), discuss their impact on the culture of the 1960s, and then discuss how Jimi Hendrix fit in. The result is many pages of information about different styles and eras of music and very few mentions of Jimi.
As a music book, this is decent. There are interesting examinations of masculinity in popular music, the myths surrounding Robert Johnson, and developments in blues and jazz. As a Hendrix book, this is very poor.
I think the best chapters are those on blues and soul music. The author clearly connects Jimi to these musical traditions, as they influenced Hendrix and as Hendrix influenced them.
If you're looking for a book mostly about Jimi Hendrix's music, look elsewhere. If you're curious about music in general, this might interest you....more
How did American cities develop? Why are they the way they are, and how did they get that way? How and why are they different from European cities?
AlHow did American cities develop? Why are they the way they are, and how did they get that way? How and why are they different from European cities?
All of these questions, and others, are answered in this history of urban America. The author sprinkles personal observations into his narrative, but the bulk of the writing is academic and historical.
This book isn't as dry as one would imagine. It's fascinating to read about the layout and (brief) history of cities you know, like Chicago, and cities you don't, like Woodstock, Virginia.
Rybczynski discusses the internal and external forces that shaped American cities - the need to move about, the desire for space, and ever-changing technology. Successes and failures alike are analyzed. Finally, in the last chapter, Rybczynski states his opinion about the future of the North American city.
What did he say about the future of the North American city? You'll have to read to find out....more