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spoko

spoko

Currently reading

The Oligarchs: Wealth and Power in the New Russia
David E. Hoffman
The Master and Margarita
Mikhail Bulgakov, Diana Burgin, Katherine Tiernan O'Connor
Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life
Arun Gandhi, Marshall B. Rosenberg
Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy
Eric Metaxas, Timothy Keller
Parting the Waters: Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement 1954-63
Taylor Branch
The Path to Power
Robert A. Caro
The Nature of Nebraska: Ecology and Biodiversity
Paul A. Johnsgard
Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original
Robin D.G. Kelley
Cutting for Stone
Abraham Verghese
Brooklyn Then and Now - Marcia Reiss This is part of a series. The gist of it is that each folio shows two pictures—on the left is a historic photograph of something (or occasionally a painting or drawing), and on a right is a modern photo that matches the original as closely as possible. And then of course there's explanatory text on each page. I'm not explaining it very well, but you can use Amazon's "See inside" thinger to see what I mean.

I've always been really interested in NYC history, and this was a novel way to approach it. At times it's interesting to see how much things have changed—some of the photos of the Brooklyn & Williamsburg bridges, for example, and several places (like Ebbets Field, or the Brighton Beach Hotel) that have simply been replaced by housing projects. In other places, it's amazing to see how little things have changed. Prospect Park South looks almost just the same, except that the trees are fuller. And Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Stand is virtually identical in its two pictures.

I learned quite a bit about the city, and this led me to do a lot of auxiliary reading. The McCarren Park Pool, for example, has become a subject of interest. I've also read up on the bridges quite a bit. And of course I've become much more familiar with the neighborhoods. I had never heard of Greenpoint before this book, and I didn't know much about neighborhoods like Williamsburg or Bay Ridge or Brighton Beach.

About 80% of the folios were interesting, but there were a few that just didn't seem to have much point. I suppose they would if I lived in Brooklyn, or especially in the area where the photos were taken. But I don't. The book was about history, to some extent, but it didn't tell me much or give me much to think about. The biggest exceptions were the McCarren Park Pool (though I found much more thought-provoking material elsewhere) and Coney Island. I would recommend it, though, because it's such a cool idea and it's pretty well executed. I might recommend starting with a different city, but I very well might not. How many cities have a more interesting history than Brooklyn, after all?