My favorite New York City history books.

12 06 2010

Cross-posted from the Big Apple Trip Blog. The two I assigned the students were Up in the Old Hotel, by Joseph Mitchell and The Great Bridge, by David McCullough.

I assigned you two of them already, but if you didn’t get enough New York City history while you were still there, here are some more (by category):

Really big books (over a thousand pages a piece):

1. Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898, by Edwin G. Borroughs and Mike Wallace. Matt calls it “his Bible,” which might tell you more about Matt than it does about the book. The sequel is coming out very soon and I’ll probably pre-order it.

2. The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York, by Robert A. Caro. Over thirty years old and still as fresh as today’s headlines. I borrowed my copy from my mother when I went to grad school and never gave it back.

Sleazy stuff:

1. Five Points, by Tyler Anbinder. The history of New York’s most notorious slum is every bit as fun as you’d expect it to be.

2. Low Life, by Luc Sante. Kind of like Gangs of New York, but none of it is made up.


1. The Alienist, by Caleb Carr. E.Y.’s right, this one is very, very good.

2. The Waterworks, by E.L. Doctorow. Actually, I prefer Ragtime, but that book doesn’t really fit on this list.

People we know:

1. Ship Ablaze: The Tragedy of the Steamboat General Slocum, by Ed O’Donnell. I bought this book long before I met Ed after I saw a print of the disaster in the men’s room of a Cleveland bar. It’s better than you’d ever imagine, but then again so is Ed.

Added bonus T.R. Books (in honor of our visit earlier today):

1. Mornings on Horseback, by David McCullough. I almost assigned this instead of the Brooklyn Bridge book. Most biographies drag at the beginning until the people become famous, but it is a credit to both McCullough and Roosevelt that this one is absolutely riveting and its ends when he’s like 24 or something. As an added bonus, it’s set almost entirely in Manhattan.

2. River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey, by Candice Millard. The definitive account of the trip to Brazil that almost killed him.



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