Saturday, October 24, 2009

Five best books on the history of New York City

Russell Shorto, author of The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Forgotten Colony That Shaped America, named a five best list of books on the history of New York City for the Wall Street Journal.

One book on his list:
by Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace
Oxford, 1999

New York is so superlative—so big, so fecund, so messy and ever-churning—that it squashes the life out of most books attempting to corral it. Not "Gotham." Eschewing the tendency of modern historians to retreat to narrow niches, Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace go old-school and try to tackle the whole big bear of a subject. (Or at least up to 1898; Wallace is working solo on volume two.) "Gotham" begins by describing the "lush ecosystem" that astonished Europeans when they arrived three and a half centuries ago, a place that 50,000 years earlier had been covered by a sheet of glacial ice 1,000 feet thick. The story ends more than 1,400 pages later with the chapter "Imperial City." This book is a rarity: gargantuan in size—fittingly, given the subject—yet elegant in execution.
Read about another book on Shorto's list.

Gotham is one of Pete Hamill's five best books about cities.

--Marshal Zeringue