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

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  2,763 ratings  ·  321 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 t
Paperback, 376 pages
Published June 26th 2007 by Picador (first published 2005)
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Average rating 4.08  · 
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 ·  2,763 ratings  ·  321 reviews

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Aug 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hot times, summer in the city. The mercury in my car read 95 degrees today. School starts in a week and a half and the last days speeding into the school year are long and steamy. The kids are spending their last days in the pool, and I have been enjoying steamy, summer reads. For many, this could be a beach book, but in this nonfiction year, summer reading means one thing for me: baseball. I recently noticed that a goodreads friend had read Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx is Burning about 1977 ...more
Bob Mayer
Jun 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Bought this book as research for my current work in progress which is set in the summer of 1977. I remember that summer, although I spent a good portion of it in Beast Barracks in my first year at West Point. I do remember going to see Star Wars when it came out.

So much happened, which is why I'm using the city that summer as the backstop for my next book, New York Minute. Son of Sam was finally caught-- his last victim was a girl who'd been in my class at Holy Rosary in the Bronx. Those long, h
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
Mar 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ed Koch - Mario Cuomo - Martin - Reggie - Steinbrenner - Rupert Murdoch - Son of Sam - disco - punk - ConEd - the Blackout - Bushwick - the Concorde ... it’s astounding the number of things that happened in NYC in 1977 that laid the foundation for years to come. Mahler does a commendable job of weaving them all together in this thorough narrative of this time and place in American history.
Dec 04, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-about-nyc
A bit more about baseball than I ever needed to know...dramatic history of NYC during the time my parents met there!
Patrick McCoy
Sep 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, sports
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
Jul 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a terrific book. You don’t have to be a baseball fan to follow along, though you should be interested in the history of New York City. This mostly takes place in 1977, though there is also a lot of backstory, such as John Lindsey’s two terms as mayor (if you really want to dig deep into Lindsey, I heartily recommend “The Ungovernable City” by Vincent J. Cannato) and the racial and financial troubles that followed his best of intentions. There is also a nice history of the New York Post, ...more
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
Jul 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nyc, non-fiction, baseball
As a NYC history and baseball fan, this book is made for me. I can see why this was made into a mini-series. There's so much to work with and it's all interesting. The book does a good job in getting the broad strokes for many stories and players involved and it reads like a magazine article. The key is that it rarely feels too simplified. It flows well and you get the point and it's all interesting. I'm intrigued by the vastness of NYC and this book does a good job in getting that across while ...more
Jill Hutchinson
May 18, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-history
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
Jun 13, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The first World Series I ever watched was in 1977 when the Yankees beat the Dodgers. I was pulling for the Dodgers. The title of the book is actually a quotation from Howard Cosell during one of the games when cameras captured images of abandoned buildings on fire.

Mahler started out to just write about Reggie Jackson, George Steinbrenner, Billy Martin and the 1977 Yankees, but during his research, he realized that the backdrop of New York at that time was too much to ignore.

The Son of Sam murde
Jennifer Ozawa
This is SUCH an important book. I’ve been on a bit of a kick with books about NYC and this one really captures an era in the city. NYC is probably the most exciting city in the world and one can’t help feeling that after reading this book.
Aug 18, 2015 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I'm wicked interested in NYC in the 70s, so this gets good press and if you have any other suggestions - fiction or non - bring 'em on. ...more
Martin Doudoroff
Jul 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Engaging, brisk read for anyone into NYC history
Jun 25, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: baseball
3.5 stars

There are three threads about this story of New York City in 1977.

The first and best thread is about the New Yankees and their drive to their first World Series victory in decades. It focuses heavily on Reggie Jackson, Mr. October, and his fractured relationship with manager Billy Martin.

The second thread is cultural focusing on events like the Great Blackout and subsequent riots and the Son of Adam murders. This was an interesting thread but not in enough depth for my liking.

The last
Roz  Milner
Aug 31, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Jul 25, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  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
Jan 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 05, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It took me forever to finish this book, but I finally did. It's basically about the summer of 1977 in New York City, which was a crazy chapter in the city's history. The city was bankrupt, crime and poverty were at an all-time high. The Son of Sam serial killer was on the loose. A pivotal mayoral race was taking place (which Ed Koch ultimately won), and the Yankees had a very memorable second half of the season and post-season, involving Billy Martin, Reggie Jackson, and George Steinbrenner. A m ...more
Sep 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, 2012
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
Mar 21, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3 1/2 stars. Some parts of this book were great, but other parts dragged. The biggest flaw was the author was basically trying to tell multiple different stories without doing enough to connect them. Specifically, the story of the '77 Yankees is basically a separate story from the rest of the book. In the early chapters, I found the Yankees chapters to be the most compelling and interesting, as he dove into the different characters, while the other story lines plodded along slowly. But later in ...more
Kathleen (itpdx)
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
Amy Lively
Jul 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If a city can have a biography, this is it, or at least this is it for one year in the life of a city. And what a year! The author takes the narrative approach and infuses the story with in-depth looks into personalities that made New York City, circa 1977, one worthy of a close examination. I hated having to relive the painful American League playoffs that year, in which my beloved Royals were ousted by the Yankees. However, Mahler has me wanting to know more about Billy Martin. He also had me ...more
Sep 30, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  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
Dec 05, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Carol Storm
Pretty good book overall, describing NYC in the Summer of 1977. Reggie Jackson, Son of Sam, political conflicts, crime in the street, etc. etc.

Problem is the book reads more like a collectin of NEW YORKER profiles than a coherent narrative. One minute you're reading about Billy Martin and the next it's Bella Abzug?

I burned out about halfway through.
Sep 30, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
Adam J.
Nov 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellently blends baseball, politics, and culture in a formative era in NYC history. I personally would have liked a bit more baseball and a bit less politics, but that is nitpicky. Strongly recommend.

On rereading, the politics are perfect.
Vam Norrison
Jan 22, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fast, fun, and gritty. The narrative's scope is too wide to deliver fully on any one of its major story lines. Its episodes deliver a portrait of a city bursting with tension. A great jumping-off point--recommended. ...more
Mike McPadden
Oct 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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). ...more
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