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Bowery Boys Bookshelf

Eleven holiday gift ideas for New York history buffs: The Bowery Boys favorite books of 2017

For this holiday season, what single present can satisfy a native New Yorker, a history buff enchanted with the city’s rich heritage, or a person who’s dreamed of coming here to visit one day? A book of course! Here are our picks for ideal gifts this year — from hard-hitting non-fiction to nostalgic memoir, from the Revolutionary […]

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Bowery Boys Bookshelf

‘Greater Gotham’: Admiring the biggest, most important New York City history book of the year

Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898, by Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace, is my bible. It sits with my reference books, not with the other history non-fiction, foundational in its importance to this subject. I’ve read every page, although not in one or even 50 sittings. It winds through about 275 […]

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Bowery Boys Bookshelf

‘The Creative Destruction of New York City’: The Tools For Fighting Back Against Unwanted Change

Talk of hyper-gentrification, skyrocketing real estate and the ‘end of New York’ comes bundled with despair and helplessness. Walk down 59th Street and gaze as the super-talls blocking the sun, built for foreign investors who may never once step inside these luxury caverns. Or stroll along Smith Street in Cobble Hill, observing the rows of […]

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Revolutionary History

The Martyr and the Traitor: Choosing Sides In The Revolutionary War

You may know Nathan Hale well from history books or from New York’s numerous memorials as a symbol of American patriotism, dying for his country long before anybody actually thought it would ever be a country. The British hanged him in New York as a spy in the aftermath of the Great Fire of 1776. He had performed […]

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Bowery Boys Bookshelf Politics and Protest

‘Fear City’: The unthinkable tale how New York City almost went bankrupt

Fear City: New York’s Fiscal Crisis and the Rise of Austerity Politics, the title of Kim Phillips-Fein’s riveting new book on the 1970s financial catastrophe, isn’t wantonly comparing New York City to the devilish landscape of a horror film. It’s the actual title of a grim pamphlet the New York Police Department distributed to tourists in 1975, […]

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Bowery Boys Bookshelf Brooklyn History

The New Brooklyn: The ups and downs of a very frenetic borough

The subtitle to Kay S. Hymowitz‘s engaging and often provocative new book The New Brooklyn: What It Takes To Bring A City Back is a bit of a misnomer. Brooklyn is not back in any conventional sense of the word. It has not returned to any kind of sense of normalcy or financial stability. In fact, Brooklyn has […]

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Bowery Boys Bookshelf

The New York Riots of 1964: Violent history with a haunting familiarity

One hot summer’s morning, in the neighborhood of Yorkville on the Upper East Side, high school student James Powell was shot and killed by police officer James Gilligan. Powell either attempted to stab the officer or else the unarmed boy was brutally set upon by a man with violent tendencies. Gilligan, a war veteran, was either […]

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Bowery Boys Bookshelf

Insomniac City: A strange tale of love and a tribute to off-beat New York

Writer and photographer Bill Hayes moved to New York in 2009 and experienced what many of us have already learned:  the nights are magic and the subway is a wilderness. He began jotting down his observations of peculiar experiences, the strange behaviors of others existing in their own little New Yorks. “Every car on every train […]

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Bowery Boys Bookshelf

The Magic of 1930s New York Through a Child’s Eyes

I don’t often review children’s books on this blog, but then again, there are few that use New York City history in such a spellbinding way as Oskar and the Eight Blessings, a winter’s tale spun from nostalgia. Oskar, a waif with wide eyes and curly hair, is sent to New York by his parents under troubling […]

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Bowery Boys Bookshelf

‘Spectacle’: The Story of Ota Benga

In 1906, visitors to the Bronx Zoo observed a rather bizarre sight in the Monkey House — the exhibition of a man in African dress, often accompanied by a parrot or an orangutan. An African pygmy, so read the sign, “Age, 23, Height, 4 feet 11 inches, Weight 103 pounds, Brought from the Kasai River, Congo Free […]

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Bowery Boys Bookshelf

The Lusitania’s final voyage, breathlessly told

They said the Lusitania couldn’t be sunk. The German telegrams to the contrary were merely cheap scare tactics. Besides, England will provide protection once in their heavily guarded waters. The boat is simply too big to sink. There are plenty of lifeboats, enough for the entire passenger list. Even those in steerage! And the best one — […]

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Bowery Boys Bookshelf

Ten holiday gift ideas for history buffs: The best reads of 2014 with Robert Moses, Coney Island and the Statue of Liberty

Illustration from Robert Moses: The Master Builder of New York City GIFT GUIDE What do you get for that history fanatic in your life?  Afraid of buying them a book that they may have already read?  Here are nine books published in 2014 that I’ve had the pleasure of reading this year, illustrating wild and colorful […]

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Bowery Boys Bookshelf

“Bohemians, Bootleggers, Flappers & Swells”: What a party! Courtesy Vanity Fair and the toasts of the Jazz Age

Bohemians, Bootleggers, Flappers & Swells: The Best of Early Vanity Fair Various authors Edited by Graydon Carter with David Friend Penguin Press BOOK REVIEW  Bohemians, Bootleggers, Flappers & Swells: The Best of Early Vanity Fair sounds like a soirée in book form, but it’s a lot more than that.  If anything, the book’s title is a […]

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Planes Trains and Automobiles

The New York City subway system opened 110 years ago today; An interview with The Race Underground author Doug Most

Crowds at the now-defunct City Hall Station of the brand new New York subway system. (NYPL) One hundred and ten years ago today, the first train of the New York City subway system began its first trip underneath the city, filled with eager and excited passengers.  Thousands lined up to take this revolutionary new ride, […]

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Bowery Boys Bookshelf

“A History of New York in 101 Objects” by Sam Roberts: or why you should never throw anything out

BOOK REVIEW Looking at history as a collection of objects is a pursuit best suited for a hoarder.  Every item strewn along the timeline has the potential of being totemic to human experience.  A similar review of your own life might imbue symbolic power to such things as an old teddy bear or a dried […]