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The New Yorkers

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New York City has seen nearly a billion inhabitants in its 400 year long history, and a great many of them have been very remarkable. But there are also many how had an indelible impact on the city, even if they are mostly forgotten today.

I do not like New York City. I am a Bostonian through and through. But I’ve been there many times, and I must admit that there is really no other place like it. The city has a strange essence to it, and some kind of hold over the imagination. As such, I was excited to explore its history through the biographies of thirty-one people who left their mark on the city.

The author discusses a wide variety of people who sprawl across race, socioeconomic class, profession, and the centuries with wild abandon. I enjoyed learning about this multitude of sometimes eccentric, mostly forgotten, but always impactful individuals and how they shaped the city. Roberts answered many questions I never knew I had, such as who had created Central Park, who united the boroughs into a single metropolitan area, and who came up with the idea of time zones and why.

However, I did feel that the chapters could have better arranged, because we bounce back and forth in subject and themes and sometimes chronology in a rather  haphazard fashion. I would have also liked it if the author spent more time discussing the common thread through the stories, helped us follow how we went from this development to the next – while Roberts does point out how some figures tie together, it was difficult to place them all within the same framework. I also thought that sometimes the information presented in some chapters was misbalanced, with too much discussing the context of the times and too little about the person at the center of the section.
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Great stories about early New York and New Yorkers. Delves into the (mostly) unsung individuals who were part of the development of what we now know to be New York City and the surrounding boroughs (Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island). If you are not familiar with street names and areas, you may need to do a little research yourself to get the most out of this book. I found it fascinating and have purchased it for a friend.
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I love this book. I’ve spent the last decade working to preserve NYC’s lesser-known history. Suffice to say, I was excited to read this one for both the subject and the author, Sam Roberts, whose books I’ve enjoyed before. Each chapter is a profile on someone who’s influence changed NYC - the format makes it easy to digest, especially if you aren’t a big nonfiction reader.
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In his latest work, award-winning journalist Sam Roberts delves into the lesser-known but equally influential inhabitants of New York City, just in time for the city's 400th anniversary. From the first woman to appear naked in a film to the couple whose party ended the Gilded Age with a scandalous event, Roberts introduces readers to a diverse cast of characters who have helped shape the city's history. Roberts uses these stories to paint a vibrant and multifaceted portrait of the world's greatest metropolis. The New Yorkers is a must-read for anyone interested in the rich and varied history of New York.
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New York certainly delivers. The book is chocked full of colorful characters and stories of the people who were in New York when the island was a muddy island. The book  provides so much back story that when reading you feel like you are a witness to the events. What makes this book different from other books about New York is the level of detail. Little stories about the first pre-nuptial agreement and how the part of lower Manhattan was fought over by one family for years.

The book is dense, and is best read in increments or on a lazy Sunday. Thank you NetGalley for the opportunity to learn so much about this great city!
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“What bound virtually all of them was oblivion, obscurity rather than celebrity. Hardly any could be found in history books, or have portraits now hanging in museums and public buildings. (And, to be honest, a few are here because I consider their lost personal stories so irresistibly bizarre that they demanded to be shared.)”

The author uses the biographies of 31 New Yorkers to give snapshots of various events in the city. I was more interested in the older stories than the newer ones. I was particularly interested in how the boroughs came to be combined and how New York City got included in New York State (personally, I am not in love with either of those outcomes). Some of the stories seem too inconsequential to have been included (like the model who posed for a lot of the statues in the city), but for some reason they resonated with the author. A problem with writing about less will known people is that there is a lot of guessing rather than facts. “he is said to have” or “he may have”. I really draw the line with “[his father] may have fought under George Washington in the French and Indian War”. I “may have” done that too, but I didn’t. Why speculate about something that is completely irrelevant. 

So, I found the book uneven, but parts definitely interested me. However, unless you really love, and are extremely familiar with the geography of,  New York I’m not sure you’d be interested in any of this. 

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.
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If you are interested in New York real estate of the past, then this will be a winner for you. It focuses heavily on political figures and those who made progress in creating the NYC landscape that it is today. It is also very wordy; I had to look up several words I had never seen before. This is well written and exceptionally researched, but just not what I was expecting. Thank you for the free review e-copy Netgalley & Bloomsbury USA!
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The New Yorkers
31 Remarkable People, 400 Years, and the Untold Biography of the World's Greatest City
by Sam Roberts
Pub Date 25 Oct 2022
 Bloomsbury USA,  Bloomsbury Publishing
 Biographies & Memoirs  |  History  |  Nonfiction (Adult) 

 I am reviewing a copy of The New Yorkers through Bloomsbury USA and Netgalley:

Sam Roberts has a pulsating history of the world's most exceptional metropolis, greet the city anew through thirty-one unique New Yorkers you've probably never heard of-just in time for the city's 400th birthday.

Sam Roberts introduces the first woman to appear nude in a motion picture, becoming the face of Civic Fame as Miss Manhattan; couple whose soirée ended the Gilded Age with an embarrassing bang; and the husband and wife who invented the modern celebrity talk show. The book also reveals New York’s first recorded murder in the seventeenth century as well as the high school drop out who slashed New York’s crime rates in the twentieth century.  The notorious mobster who was imperiously banished from the city and the woman who successfully sued a bus company for racial discrimination a century before Rosa Parks.

Some deserved monuments, but their grandeur was overlooked or forgotten. Others shepherded the city through its perpetual evolution, but discreetly. Virtually all have vanished into New York's uncombed history. The New Yorkers is a living biography of the world's greatest city, and no one knows New York better than Sam Roberts-or is better at bringing its history to life.

I give The New Yorkers five out of five stars!

Happy Reading!

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Interesting,  informative read about many lesser known of New York City history.  Some parts are very enlightening, some bogged down by overly long, convulsed sentence structure.  This could with some careful editing be a truly fascinating quick read.
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Thank you NetGalley for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.  As a native New Yorker I enjoyed these bits of history that were either long forgotten or basically untold. While obviously some interested me more than others I found most to be really interesting.  I would recommend this book to anyone (you don’t have to have any connection to New York) that enjoys reading history and biographies that are blended together. All in all an wonderful read!
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"The New Yorkers" by Sam Roberts is a unique book. Most times, people write about well-known figures. Roberts does the opposite, writing instead about 31 figures that played integral roles in New York history. Each chapter is a mini adventure into the person's life, and the unique role they play in history. A few I knew of beforehand, from reading other books, but most were new to me. Roberts' style of writing is conversational. There is never a point where the text seems too scholarly, with words that you have to look up just to understand the sentence. The illustrations are limited, with 1 or 2 per chapter, but in this case, that works. One or two per chapter is all that is needed, as the text is more important than the illustrations. This book is a wonderful addition to the multitude of books on New York history already in existence, as well as a wonderful addition to the portfolio of Sam Roberts books.
Thanks to NetGalley, Sam Roberts, and Bloomsbury USA publishing for this advanced copy, which I voluntarily read and reviewed. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
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As someone whom lives in NY and loves it immensely, this caught my eye. Such an interesting read. Thank you netgalley & the publisher for the ARC!
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Love, love, LOVE this book. If you are into urban history, this book will take you into the burroughs and byways of New York through the stories of the inhabitants. I read Edward Rutherfurd's "New York" just before this, and now, after gaining so much more insight through the book, I will read it again. You can't go wrong with this book. Even if you aren't a history lover, you will enjoy this well-written, captivating book.
Thank you NetGalley for providing this copy. The opinion in this review is my own.
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This book is interesting in that it blends biographies of lesser known individuals with the history of New York City. This book will most interesting those raised in the area or who have a keen interest in New York City and its history. As with any book of this type, some of the biographies are more interesting than others, but overall a very good read.

I received a free ARC of this book courtesy of Net Galley and the publisher with the understanding that I would post a review on Net Galley, Goodreads, Amazon, Facebook and my nonfiction book review blog.
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The New Yorkers by Sam Roberts combines biography and history into a compelling story of a city and, by extension, the country.

There have been a couple of books that have used this method of tracing the history of a city. Roberts mentions Parisians, and there have been a couple of others. Each puts a slightly different twist on the idea of a history or, as this one calls it, a biography of a city. Makes sense since each city is different. This volume works very well.

I enjoy biographies but usually want more about lesser-known people. While there have been more like that in recent years, they also lend themselves to being almost niche reads, in that I might want to read about lesser-known activists but not lesser-known sports figures, while someone else might be the opposite. This book brings together a variety of people and, because there is a thread tying them together, even they all were of interest to me. Not equally, but there were none I skipped or skimmed because each covered a period and a moment in the bigger picture and I wanted the complete picture, not a partial.

Each chapter is a mix of contextualizing history as well as the story of, usually, a particular incident in the person's life and how that event fit in both their life and the city's history. So everything is woven into a tight fabric that entertains and informs.

In recommending this there are the usual suspects, readers of biographies and readers of history, particularly those interested in NYC. I would also include a specific type of reader, one who likes to have a book handy for when they have limited time and don't want to dive back into a novel or a long single argument nonfiction book. This book can easily be enjoyed as a collection of biographic episodes as well as a single 'biography' of New York. So if you keep collections of short stories or essays handy, this would make an excellent candidate as well.

Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley.
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The New Yorkers by Sam Roberts is one of the most interest books I've read this year. Growing up on Long Island, living in NYC for most of my 20s, and now living just an hour north in CT- I can never get enough stories about New York. I learned so much from the author, and lived his style of writing. Highly recommend!
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I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I'm not from NYC, but I still enjoy reading about it, and learning about people from history. This book takes you from the 1600s to present day. A few stories didn't interest me much, but most were great. If you enjoy reading about people, and moments, from history you'll enjoy this!
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The New Yorkers has a fantastic concept that I wish other writers would steal for other cities. New York, of course, has been more influential than most. Growing up on Long Island, every movie having taken place in NY seemed like the natural order of things. Why wouldn't this be the place where things happen? And then, now that I'm older and getting more involved with History I love when things intersect. New York is a naturally connective place.


The premise here is that we are going to be told the stories of 31 New Yorkers who had some influence on the city. Most are unknown to me by name. Some are famous but not for what the book introduces them for. The book promises you this in the forward and it absolutely pays off. We aren't treated to full biographies of each person. That's not what this is about. Each chapter focuses on one particular person and an important situation that they are involved in. Each chapter also nudges the city along in age. My familiarity grows over time. Of the place itself, not of the people. It's a reminder that New York, in some form, has always been there waiting for the right people to shape it into what it will become.


Now, I will admit that not every chapter interests me. My time for reading is really early in the morning or late at night. I'm either exhausted or about to be. Something really needs to catch my attention to keep me going. The earlier chapters were more impressionable to me. I think it's because originally the people are shaping the structure of New York. Think physicality. As we get closer to modern times, it goes further into politics and unions, and mobsters. The place is there so let's live in it. It all goes hand in hand. I do understand that. Power informs discourse. I heard Franzen say that once.


What the author manages to do here is write New York in a way that reminds me of Alan Moore's Jerusalem. New York as actualized mythology. And these people that we are presented with are ingrained in its DNA. Only time will tell if I will remember any of them in the long run. After all, most of them are here for that very fact. For fans of New York, for people that love that city, this one is for you.
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