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Mapping Manhattan: A Love (and Sometimes Hate) Story in Maps by 75 New Yorkers

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  Armed with hundreds of blank maps she had painstakingly printed by hand, Becky Cooper walked Manhattan from end to end. Along her journey she met police officers, homeless people, fashion models, and senior citizens who had lived in Manhattan all their lives. She asked the strangers to “map their Manhattan” and to mail the personalized maps back to her. Soon, her P.O. box was filled with a cartography of intimate narratives: past loves, lost homes, childhood memories, comical moments, and surprising confessions. A beautifully illustrated, PostSecret-style tribute to New York, Mapping Manhattan includes 75 maps from both anonymous mapmakers and notable New Yorkers, including Man on Wire aerialist Philippe Petit, New York Times wine critic Eric Asimov, Tony award-winning actor Harvey Fierstein, and many more.

Praise for Mapping Manhattan:

“What an intriguing project.”—The New York Times

“A tender cartographic love letter to this timeless city of multiple dimensions, parallel realities, and perpendicular views.” —Brain Pickings

“Cooper’s beautiful project linking the lives of New Yorkers is one that will continue to grow.” —Publishers Weekly online

120 pages, Hardcover

First published April 1, 2013

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Becky Cooper

8 books223 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 53 reviews
Profile Image for Negin.
613 reviews151 followers
December 1, 2019
I thought that this would be a fun read and loved the idea, but it just ended up being “meh”. Most of the maps and print were too small and/or illegible. Most of the stories and poems were boring also.
Profile Image for John.
150 reviews4 followers
July 4, 2013
this is a unique format - part essay, part art project, part found media(?). it can be read in one sitting, but is the kind of book that anyone who loves new york will naturally feel drawn back to time and again. there is so much charm and room for empathy in the maps. i have the feeling that this book will resonate less with people who have not spent time in new york. there is something about the richness and intensity of simply being in new york that imbues places and life events with such a sense of time and place. the allure and storytelling of the maps are about human connection, which will reach certain readers regardless of their location or how they come to this book. where the book may otherwise fall short for some is the looseness with which the maps were executed, compiled and/or created by contributors. these are fragmented glimpses at personal stories, not concerted efforts at cartography or directions to a friend's house or even emotional narratives. these are human elements, which are the best elements new york city has to offer.
Profile Image for Allan.
478 reviews68 followers
September 20, 2016
A beautiful object of a book, and a really interesting concept - the author spent a day walking the length of Broadway with her friend handing ordinary New Yorkers a uniform blank map of Manhattan, encouraging them to map their own experiences. Many different interpretations, some more engaging than others, but both the maps and the occasional added rationale makes this book a worthwhile read for anyone interested in the borough.

Thank you to Barbara for her kind gift of this book!
Profile Image for Jennifer Spiegel.
Author 10 books83 followers
January 15, 2021
I just picked this up on a whim, seeing it on goodreads. Not a predetermined read. It's really more of an Art Book, whatever that actually is. I did, however, read it from cover-to-cover.

Its idea is better than its execution, if I'm being honest. Becky Cooper is this artsy New Yorker with great degrees, and she envisioned this project in which she hit the streets of Manhattan--from the northern tip to the southern tip--and handed out blank maps of Manhattan to random New Yorkers. She asked them to map their Manhattan, in whatever way they wanted, and then mail them back to her. Then, she made a book. I love this idea. I really love it.

The goodreads crowd says similar things, though: we loved the idea of the book more than the book . . .
I'm still trying to figure out whose map is whose, despite the list of contributors.

I'm guessing, based on the handwriting, that all of the maps were actually redone by one illustrator? If so, that bugs me.

But: I kinda did love going through the maps and reading the Manhattan stuff because I love NY in an indescribable way. I'd love to map my own Manhattan, even though I only get to claim it for 3.5 years, but I'd include Cafe Reggio in the Village, the dog-run in Washington Square Park, Tower Records where I bought a Nirvana cassette on the day Kurt killed himself, where I lived in first the East Village and then the West Village, places I worked in Midtown and Chelsea and the Upper East Side, Cafe Mona Lisa because I loved it but not as much as Reggio, the Met because it's awesome in every way, the neighborhood where I had eye contact with Ethan Hawke (twice!), NYU where I got the wrong degree, Central Park because it's a haven--but I like how everyone mapped their romances and their sorrows too.

Nonetheless, great idea, so-so execution.

But here's a kickass quote: "And yet, there will always be something essentially ELSEWHERE about New York. It is a place people come to precisely because it doesn't ever fully offer itself. It's intoxicating. Keeps you on your toes. Keeps you drinking coffee and keeps you walking."
675 reviews12 followers
September 22, 2013
This was a book that although interesting to read, did not live up to my expectations. The concept seemed wonderful, but I felt that some of the maps chosen for the book were just OK.

The book is printed in a small and narrow format, which I felt made it difficult at times to read all the handwriting on the maps.

Though it was interesting to see what individuals decided to create with their blank maps, I guess I just had the idea that there would be more wild and elaborate maps. In general, I felt the maps were not that creative. And I guess I thought with all of the wildly great creativity in NYC, that more of it would have shown up on these maps--there were a few maps that did shine through, but on the whole, I was disappointed.
Profile Image for Sandy.
820 reviews
July 10, 2013
Becky Cooper and friend hiked the entire 13-mile length of Broadway handing out blank maps of Manhattan for people to fill in and mail back to her. The results (by some famous names but mostly anonymous folks) are a delightfully artistic and fascinating ode to the city... and to life and love. Interspersed with the maps are Cooper's own reflections of her project and the history of the city. This is one to savor! I found myself wondering how I would fill in a map of my favorite city (San Francisco). The only (minor) criticism I have: I wish Cooper had included a map at the beginning that actually showed some of the cross streets and landmarks she mentions in her text... for those of us who are NOT New Yorkers.
Profile Image for Kristin.
312 reviews1 follower
June 4, 2013
I absolutely loved this book, what an awesome idea for a project. I read this with a post it note in the back where I jotted down things to include on my map of Manhattan, so many memories. So glad I bought it, and I highly recommend it to anyone who's been to NYC.
Profile Image for John.
196 reviews2 followers
August 8, 2013
For all of us who've ever been in a relationship with that little island off the coast of America, this book is a tiny window into her other suitors' souls. I laughed. I cried. It was better than "Cats."
Profile Image for Zahreen.
392 reviews
July 8, 2013
Absolutely beautiful book - really makes you think about the places where memories are made and how location impacts what you think of a city as a whole.
September 7, 2014
I love the many layers of this book...tidbits of NYC history, personalized maps by a spectrum of New Yorkers, little illustrations of buildings or landmarks, mini-journal entries about the author's journey and lots of food for thought with bios about each mapmaker and more book recommendations related to NYC. I read it over a long time just examining a couple of maps at a time. My faves include "My Lost Gloves" by Patricia Marx, "Manhattanhenge" by Neil Degrasse Tyson, "Ava is Here," and a "Pedestrian's Guide to Leaving Manhattan" by Matt Green. This book is great for those who love New York or want to have a new perspective of it!
15 reviews
October 29, 2013
The maps were almost all too small to read on a Kindle. Somehow I thought this would be fun to read but it's really not too suitable for the casual tourist. Also the actual writing was minimal, with the focus in the hand-drawn maps.
Profile Image for Nan.
541 reviews31 followers
June 18, 2015
Creative cartography, psychogeography, or personal mapping-- all apt descriptors of this intriguing collection of hand drawn impressions of Manhattan. Hard to read without being inspired to create your own maps of places that have touched your soul.
Profile Image for Roxani.
283 reviews
December 14, 2019
Achingly beautiful, nostalgic project by a Harvard classmate. If you love maps, wandering, and the stories that stem from them half as much as I do, you will love this book.
Profile Image for Antonio Carralón.
Author 1 book7 followers
April 10, 2018
9° de mis #librosen2018: "Mapping Manhattan", de Becky Cooper. Editado por Abrams Image en 2013.
2.774 #páginasleídasen2018.
De paseo por el precioso barrio de Nolita encontré en una librería este otro Mapping Manhattan, un precioso proyecto de Becky Cooper encuadernado y editado con el gusto propio de una buena diseñadora que me ocupó la mayoría de las lecturas nocturnas. Durante varios meses Cooper recorrió Manhattan de norte a sur a través de la larguísima calle de Broadway pidiendo a los neoyorquinos que pintarrajeasen un mapa de la isla y se lo enviaran después por correo ordinario con lo que quisiera que sus vivencias en la misma les hubieran recordado. El resultado es una cuidada y elegante edición compuesta por 75 mapas de otros 75 neoyorquinos, más y menos ilustres, así como por la crónica e ilustraciones del proceso de búsqueda de participantes. Meterme cada noche con él en una cama del Upper West Side con Virginia a mi lado y pensando en volver a patear una ciudad tan especial al día siguiente ha sido una experiencia inolvidable.
26 reviews
September 29, 2022
An interesting read. It's part art project part book. I think these quotes describe it what you get out of it well enough.

“Part of why I love New York so deeply is exactly this elusiveness. This refusal to be caught is what allows it to carry such fantasy, mystery and myth, yet also be home. It is simultaneously no one's city and everyone's city.”

“And yet, there will always be something essentially elsewhere about New York. It is a place that people come to precisely because it doesn't ever fully offer itself. It's intoxicating. Keeps you on your toes. Keeps you drinking coffee and keeps you walking.”

As someone who now lives in New York, I relate to the sentiment that this city breathes itself anew every morning. Is New York dangerous? Is it dirty? Is it chaotic? Yes, it is all of those things, but above all else, it is a place anyone can come and feel like they belong because every sort of wacky and wild and crazy live here. And if you think I'm lying, you just haven't lived here long enough.
46 reviews
February 18, 2018
A nice look at the different ways people can experience, see, and remember the same piece of land. I read this immediately after "Map" from Phaidon (which shows and example from and cites this book). "Map" is tremendous and wide-ranging, covering maps spanning millennia from around the world, and its main strength is using that variety to highlight similarities and differences between representations of reality across the ages. "Mapping Manhattan" accomplishes much of the same with a tighter focus. As a native New Yorker, I enjoyed the book, but I wish that its organization was as creative as its concept. The book is mainly laid out by geography (with a couple of exceptions for purposeful juxtaposition across a page spread), but that works best when the map focuses on one part of Manhattan or its creator is associated with a certain place. Most of the maps cover the entirety of the island, so that ordering becomes unclear.
Profile Image for Kelly Sedinger.
Author 6 books23 followers
June 22, 2019
I loved this! Just loved it. This is a wonderful "collaborative art" project book that has no through-line, so you can dip in wherever you want (or read it straight through, as I did). I suppose how much one enjoys this will be dependent on how much one likes NYC in general and Manhattan in particular. (I love both.) The creativity expressed in the Manhattan maps that random people marked up and sent to the book's creator is amazing, at times funny and at times sad and a few times heartbreaking. I'd cheerfully thumb through a companion volume three times the size.
Profile Image for Renee.
1,505 reviews22 followers
February 2, 2019
What happens when you walk the complete island of Manhattan and hand out hundreds of blank maps printed by hand to random New Yorkers asking them to write/draw/color any significant experience on the map? You get a beautiful treasure of a book that reads like secrets are being unfolded before ones very eyes. I never realized how maps can be used as a vehicle for creativity, storytelling, and self-discovery.

This book is the ultimate tribute to New York and to the people who live there.
Profile Image for Jesse Richards.
Author 4 books13 followers
September 9, 2017
This was fun, and the highlights were the celebrity contributions and the more professional artists. But the rest of the maps just show similar memories (this was my first apartment, this was my first Broadway show) from people we don't know.
Profile Image for M- S__.
278 reviews10 followers
July 16, 2018
Really cute concept. Some of these maps are so imaginative.
Profile Image for eindra lin.
137 reviews10 followers
June 6, 2021
a cute project! personal mapping is always fascinating. a lil window into people's lives.
Profile Image for Stephanie.
196 reviews7 followers
July 16, 2021
This is an interesting project, just seeing all of the entries from so many people was intriguing because we all view the same place through memories we lived there.
Profile Image for Jordyn.
129 reviews
April 13, 2022
very cool to me, the person whos entire personality is wanting to live in nyc. i wish it was bigger bc some maps were hard to read
Profile Image for Aaron Koelker.
146 reviews27 followers
August 19, 2022
Wonderful atlas of crowd-sourced maps giving you a look in the personal lives of dozens of strangers, feels very intimate and sincere.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 53 reviews

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