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New York Diaries: 1609 to 2009

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  381 Ratings  ·  67 Reviews
New York is a city like no other. Through the centuries, she’s been embraced and reviled, worshipped and feared, praised and battered—all the while standing at the crossroads of American politics, business, society, and culture. Pulitzer Prize winner and New York Times bestselling author Teresa Carpenter, a lifelong diary enthusiast, scoured the archives of libraries, hist ...more
Hardcover, 502 pages
Published January 3rd 2012 by Modern Library
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Feb 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
First, I have to out myself, I was one of the fact-checkers for this book. But I would have loved New York Diaries in any case. I only got to see the diarists I was checking so I'm reading the book now, luxuriating in all the other entries in the order Teresa Carpenter presents them.

The book is based on a calendar year. On any one day you might see entries from the four centuries Teresa Carpenter researched, and Carpenter picked the best of the best. For instance, April was a lovely spring month
Kate Childs
Beautiful and compelling book about the stories that make up New York City. As a somewhat recent NYC transplant (three-plus years and counting), I found NEW YORK DIARIES to be fascinating. Walking around New York City is reminder enough of the city’s heritage, but here was a new look into the city that I now called home. Culled from the diaries of some of the most famous (and not so famous) people to walk the streets of New York over the past 400 years, the entries in NEW YORK DIARIES are memora ...more
Anna Maria Ballester Bohn
Feb 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This has journal entries from well-known and absolutely unknown people, from the first boats who bumped on the shore in 1609 to 9/11 and beyond. It's walks in the wind and food and dances and work and drink and glory and misery, it's absolutely fantastic and if New York has ever held the slightest bit of fascination for you, you should read it. Or if you like journals. Or if you like, you know, life, and history, and stuff like that.
Aug 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Spanning four hundred years of diarists, Teresa Carpenter picked several entries each day from January 1 to December 31. There were poignant entries, entries where you look at it with our own historical hindsight and just shake your head, funny entries, sweetly mundane entries, and even one or two blog posts. It's interesting, diary writing is such a distinctly teenaged girl thing to do. But most of these diarists were men (and one hilarious teenager from the 1800s complaining about getting a ne ...more
Jan 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is not the kind of book that's going to appeal to everybody, but I LOVED it. I'd read a few pages at night, kind of like a book of meditations--often I got sucked in and couldn't put it down after just a few entries (like Lay's potato chips: "bet you can't eat just one...").

The diaries come from visitors and residents of New York over the past four centuries. They include notes by Henry Hudson and other early Dutch explorers, Revolutionary War rebels and Loyalists, politicians, celebrities
Sep 01, 2012 rated it liked it
I really wanted to like this book, because it's such a great concept... but honestly, I found it to be kind of boring. I gave it to my dad for his birthday, which was a great choice for him, but probably I should've just left it at that.

May 13
Dreaming of a more civilized place to raise my children, I swerve to avoid a cab that stops short, . . . whereupon a bicyclist calls me a cock and accuses me of trying to kill him. Meaning to explain that I had narrowly averted an accident and to inquir
Jim Blessing
Apr 12, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
This was an interesting premise for a book, but was not all that interesting to read. It was New York City daily diary entries of various people between 1609 and 2009. The more famous people such as President George Washington and TR were of the most interest to me. Most of the rest of them, although informative of the times, were fairly boring and dry reading of diary entries.
Jan 21, 2012 marked it as to-read
Shelves: diary-journal
Enticing review from NYT.
Rachel C.
I enjoyed this collection, which contains a good mix of famous people and regular people. I did find the organization a bit disorienting. The selected diaries are organized by day of the year, and then chronologically for each day. So for March 3 or whatever, you might read the diary of a Revolutionary War lieutenant, followed by Andy Warhol. I don't think strictly chronological would have worked either, but perhaps different fonts for each century?

September was tough.

My favorite entries were by
May 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fic, history
I love this idea! Diary entries from a whole bunch of New Yorkers (or people just visiting) throughout 4 centuries. I wish there were a way to be able to easily read the entries for one particular person in chronological order, but that's a minor quibble and not something you can really get around when dealing with books on paper. I strongly suspect I will dive back into this many many times in the future.
Feb 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, history
I chose this book because I spent the months of June and July at the bedside of both of my dying parents. I knew that my capacity for reading and absorbing information would be fragmented and limited by grief, anxiety, exhaustion and a simple lack of time. New York Diaries provided a book that I could read in five or ten minute segments and each entry stood alone. It was the perfect fit for me during this extremely difficult time.

The book is set up in chronological order, from January 1 through
May 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
"Lately—due to not working and due, too, to observing how much more prestige and authority other people with less ability carry—It seems to me, now that I definitely want rewards during my lifetime, that given a good talent, its recognition and elevation to great are utterly dependent on exploitation and outside funny-business, the personal approach. If someone doesn't do this for you, you must do it yourself." Dawn Powell, 1935 (12)

"Lord, how these films do concern themselves with matter extran
Jan 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
greetings new york

400 + pages later, i am still spinning with literary delight. i don't know how anyone with a sound & open heart would disapprove of this novel. it left a footprint upon my soul. there is so much to revere inside this hallowed pages. there are historical references. there are whimsical notes too. there are tragedies being accounted for as well. it's the characters that are the main stars as well. you have george templeton strong. never heard of him before. married to ellen s
Jan 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: letters
This book was such a gem! It pays to look at friends' friends' reading lists! I loved the concept of the entries spanning across three centuries with a chronological year to read through. Naturally, there were diarists whose entries I enjoyed more than others (i.e., Simone De Beauvoir (1940s), Inspector William H. Bell (1800s), Chad the Minx (2000s), Dawn Powell (1900s) and Theodore Roosevelt (1800s) just to name a few!), but all the entries were well-chosen and offered a real cross-section of N ...more
Mar 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. It is an ambitious project. I appreciate the enormity of the task of taking diary excerpts from about 166 people, famous and otherwise to chronicle major historical events and the banality of daily life. The book is arranged by date so In the same day entries can be as quotidian as what was for lunch to the beginning of the civil war. It's interesting to read about the fruit trees and hardwood trees suitable for boat making as the Dutch found it in the 17th century. I ...more
Angie Mangino
Aug 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
New York Diaries
By Teresa Carpenter
Reviewed by Angie Mangino
Rating: 5 stars

Teresa Carpenter sums up this book about New York City accurately in the Preface.

“What you will find here is an unorthodox history covering roughly four centuries of the New York experience from September 11, 1609--- the first incursion of Europeans into the Upper Bay--- through the destruction of the World Trade Center, a short distance upriver, on September 11, 2001, through the healing thereafter.”

The author defin
Joshua Emil
Feb 08, 2012 rated it liked it
After eight months of on and off reading, it's finally done. This book was a burden for me and I had high expectations for this book. I was hoping to get more of a history and way of life in New York City through the use of dairy entries delegated to certain topics. This was arranged by month, day and year and the focus was jammed everywhere. So, it was a burden to read random topics despite being arranged through month and day.

This would be a good example for historiography, if you are hell be
Mar 10, 2012 added it
Recommends it for: New Yorkers, history buffs
I really wanted to like this singular book of days covering four hundred years in the life of New York City. And was a drag. The layout was fascinating—starting on January 1, and a crapshoot as to what year you'll read from on every subsequent day—but too often I skipped ahead to the end of an entry to see who the author was. It was too easy to avoid entries from people who just weren't that interesting, and despite the list of dramatis personae at the end, I still had little grasp as t ...more
Donna Jo Atwood
Going through the year from January 1, the reader is treated to random diary entries by various people who encountered New York City--some residents, some visitors. Most of these were pretty entertaining or apt. I especially liked the English Actor in 1849 who wrote "Let me die in a ditch in England, rather than in the Fifth Avenue of New York City." Obviously not having a good day.
I did feel that the editor was just a little too taken by several of her diarists, especially Judith Malina and Daw
Linda Curtis
Jan 03, 2013 rated it liked it
This was a fascinating buffet to pick through, and it must have been a blast to edit. Ms. Carpenter has combed through countless diaries, dating from the early 17th century to the 21st, and selected multiple entries for each day of the year. A few of the entries, strung together, recount particular events in sequence; others are one-time entries. Taken together, they paint a picture of New York City, from its earliest days with many wild plum trees and verdant landscapes to the present. Some of ...more
Aline Newman
Sep 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The time frame of the diary entries spans 400 years, and they're grouped according to day. So on a particular date, you might read totally unrelated entries from 1612, 1809, 1865, and 2005. This allows for a wide perspective and some surprising connections. But I sometimes longed for a more linear grouping so that I could read all the entries related to a particular event in succession. So the format took a bit of getting used to. That said, I found the book intriguing and compelling. The person ...more
Apr 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
This would make a great gift for the New Yorker in your life. Diverse diary entries that contain both the best and worst of the city and its inhabitants. The book does a great job of illustrating the tremendous changes in the city over the last 300+ years while making you also feel like New York is virtually unchanged. The struggles of today's residents often mirror those of the people who came before us, whether they were George Washington (incredibly boring diarist), an adolescent girl from 15 ...more
Apr 27, 2013 rated it liked it
Didn't make it all the way through this New York Times bestseller. Most intriguing for those of you living in, and intimately acquainted with, New York City. It consists of diary entries starting in 1609, as the title says, and going to 2009. It is arranged like the calendar year, so each successive day is filled with diary entries from a wide range of time periods and persons, some notable, some ordinary citizens. While some threads appear when the same diarist is quoted every few weeks, it is ...more
Mar 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
I love reading people's diaries and I love NYC so there was pretty much no option for me other than to really enjoy this book. I appreciated the way that it weaved in entries by well known historical figures with completely unknown people who happen to have written interesting diaries. I love the idea of glimpsing into people's lives and what moves them to write. It was also great motivation to write more in my own diary. I'm never going to reach George Templeton Strong fame if I don't start wri ...more
Apr 14, 2014 rated it liked it
This was a fairly enjoyable read, nothing groundbreaking, It's a collection of diary entries from people based or visiting New York across hundreds of years. I liked that it was organised by day so you could see reviews of the same day across the years. I have to admit that I much preferred the entries from the 1850s to modern day but that is probably personal preference. A lot of the wartime entries were hard to keep up with, and it's hard to remember which diarist is who after a while. Not sur ...more
Jan 04, 2015 rated it liked it
There are definitely lots of interesting tidbits in this book, but the organization of the material just didn't work for me. I understand the reasoning behind ordering the entries by month, rather than chronologically, or by subject, author etc., but it made it a more difficult read for me. History isn't my strong suit, and I've spent less than two full days in New York, so I would have appreciated the context that a chronological approach would have provided.

There are a couple of full diaries
Jan 04, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommended to Melissa by: NPR
There are some real gems in here (Teddy Roosevelt's adoration of his first wife, for example) but I would have liked it to be a bit more focused -- social history, military history, etc. Also, the idea of listing all the diary entries by day (starting with January 1) is interesting but didn't really pan out for me -- plus, there are some stories I was following that were all out of order by year. Still, worth picking up for fans of diaries and NYC -- but skip around and read the stuff that inter ...more
Doug Wells
Mar 24, 2012 rated it liked it
I really enjoyed the format of this book - diary entries over the past 300+ years, all about New York City, by day. An eclectic mix of writers - from Andy Warhol, to Anais Nin, George Washington, Bella Abzug, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Jack Kerouac, Theodore Roosevelt, Walt Whitman, etc. to many lesser known or unknown diarists. Fascinating, and in the end, a bit much - at times I was enthralled, at times it was blah, blah, blah...too many blahs for my taste, but a nice concept.
Bertha Leal
Jan 15, 2013 rated it liked it
Spanning the course of four centuries, from 1609 to 2009, Teresa Carpenter's "New York Diaries" is a fascinating look into the history of a city as dynamic as its diarists. Whether they're praising or tearing it down, their individual and honest experiences capture the complete evolution of what we've come to know as New York. Although the pre-1880 entries bored me (sometimes I didn't even know what it was referring to) the rest were very entertaining!
Jan 03, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
I REALLY wanted to like this book. The premise is interesting and usually the combination of diary and history is a win for me. But the organization of this book (diary entries from various years and authors, organized by calendar date) made it difficult to pull out any narrative or theme relating to the city. The entries were just too dry and unconnected for me to enjoy. I found myself skipping around often, just to finish the book.
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Goodreads Librari...: Please add an author to anthology 2 10 Jun 22, 2014 09:30AM  
  • Inside the Apple: A Streetwise History of New York City
  • I Never Knew That About New York
  • New York
  • Waterfront: A Walk Around Manhattan
  • Here Is New York
  • A Walker in the City
  • My First New York: Early Adventures in the Big City (As Remembered by Actors, Artists, Athletes, Chefs, Comedians, Filmmakers, Mayors, Models, Moguls, Porn Stars, Rockers, Writers, and Others
  • Five Points: The Nineteenth-Century New York City Neighborhood That Invented Tap Dance, Stole Elections and Became the World's Most Notorious Slum
  • Low Life: Lures and Snares of Old New York
  • The Epic of New York City: A Narrative History
  • The Measure of Manhattan: The Tumultuous Career and Surprising Legacy of John Randel, Jr., Cartographer, Surveyor, Inventor
  • Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898
  • Forgotten New York: Views of a Lost Metropolis
  • Evening's Empire: A History of the Night in Early Modern Europe
  • Manhattan, When I Was Young
  • The New York Nobody Knows: Walking 6,000 Miles in the City
  • Central Park: An Anthology
  • London Labour and the London Poor
Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

Teresa Carpenter is the author of four books, including the bestselling Missing Beauty. She is a former senior editor of the Village Voice, where her articles on crime and the law won a Pulitzer Prize. She lives in Greenwich Village with husband Steven Levy, a senior writer
More about Teresa Carpenter...

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