Arts & Leisure
Ten Recommended Reads About Our Beloved Brooklyn
(Photo: via Project Projects)
It’s always nice, when watching a TV show or reading a book, to recognize something familiar from your own life; it’s fun to see a new perspective on a place so familiar to us, enlightening us of our surroundings and playing with our imagination in a way that can make our own mundane lives more interesting.
So here we present to you some of our favorite books regarding our favorite home, Brooklyn. These books vary in subject and genre, so they are presented in no particular order of quality; each is special in its own way, and no matter what your interests, there is sure to be a book listed here to tickle your fancy.
1. Brooklyn Modern
By Diana Lind
Diana Lind’s Brooklyn Modern is required reading for those interested in architecture and interior design geeks. The book explores the borough’s evolving architecture with respect to its hip, new artistic and bohemian culture. Exploring how some Brooklynites have reinvented the old brownstone into innovative new living spaces, Lind presents 18 homes that are sure to wow you and inspire more creativity in your own living space than just a simple trip to Ikea.
2. Literary Brooklyn: The Writers of Brooklyn and the Story of American City Life
By Edward Hughes
There’s no denying that Brooklyn’s culture is intertwined with the literary heritage of the country, from Walt Whitman to some of today’s most acclaimed writers. Each chapter of Literary Brooklyn features one writer (or a representative group of a time period), examining their lives and touring the spots near and dear to them. From the 1820s to today, Hughes presents portraits of Brooklyn through the eyes of those writers who wrote their time here best: Whitman, Hart Crane, Henry Miller, Truman Capote, Jonathan Lethem and more. If anything, it will tip you off to a necessary, must-read canon of Brooklyn literature. (Photo: CS Monitor)
3. Brooklyn Noir 3: Nothing But the Truth
By Tim McLoughlin and Thomas Adcock
Fans of Law & Order will enjoy the Brooklyn Noir series, chronicling crime stories taking place within the borough. The series, which began in 2004, collected fictional noir stories, but this third volume collects true and chilling accounts of crime that may have occurred down your very own street. Not for the faint of heart, these stories are sure to thrill those who love noir and are looking for something a little bit closer to home. For nervous readers who would be happier reading fictional Brooklyn noir stories, be sure to check out the previous volumes in this chilling series.
4. The ABC’s of Brooklyn, An Alphabet Guidebook for All Ages
Written by G. Augustine Lynas & illustrated by Peter Vadnai
This isn’t your average alphabet book; in The ABC’s of Brooklyn, children learn both letters and numbers while identifying landmarks and popular scenes of the borough in which they live. Lynas ups the ante by using language that is not too difficult for a young child to learn, but will make them sound verbose, some words running three syllables long entwined in rich alliterative phrases. Photographs accompany each letter and number, featuring scenes like the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, the Brooklyn Bridge, and the beautiful sculptures at the Pratt Institute where Lynas once taught. If that’s not enough, alongside each photo is an interesting tidbit of trivia that will interest parents as they read to their children and foster fun conversation between them. (Photo: Annie's Blue Ribbon)
5. Brooklyn Then and Now
By Marcia Reiss
Have you ever wondered what your street looked like fifty years ago? Or perhaps a hundred years ago, or longer? If so, check out Brooklyn Then and Now, which collects archival photos of scenes throughout the borough—then its own, independent city—juxtaposed against present-day photos of the same scene. Brooklyn Then and Now allows readers to experience the city’s growth throughout the past century, re-examining familiar landmarks that may have otherwise been taken for granted. This book is perfect for those interested in Brooklyn’s history, nostalgics, and should delight anyone who calls the borough home.
By Emily Barton
Emily Barton’s second novel focuses on 18th-century “Brookland,” an early-day set of communities across the East River from Manhattan before any bridges came between them. Prudence Winship, the novel’s protagonist, imagines a passage between the two cities. She is idealistic and a proto-feminist, with lofty ambitions and an immensely successful gin distillery under her authority after the death of her parents. Gaining confidence with her new role in leading the family business, Prudence and with her sisters arouse the idea to others of constructing a bridge linking the two cities, Brooklyn and Manhattan, together. (Photo: Henry Sene Yee Design)
By Colm Tóibín
Brooklyn, like much of New York City, is a land of transplants; many of us strayed here from somewhere else, adding to the diversity of the experience. Set in the 50s, Tóibín’s novel follows a young Irish girl moved to America. We witness her adjustment to her new surroundings, finding a home, a job, friends, all the while learning about the class and cultural differences existing during the middle of the last century. Slowly, a love story and courtship unfolds. This book plods along at a relaxed pace, but you won’t suspect a shocking ending at the very last moment—well worth the read!
8. The Invention of Brownstone Brooklyn
By Suleiman Osman
In just the past decade or so alone, many throughout Brooklyn have seen their neighborhoods, or those communities around them, change: Williamsburg has gone from [WHAT?] to a hip artist’s enclave; Bushwick is already following suit, perhaps with Bed-Stuy to follow. Perhaps Suleiman Osman’s The Invention of Brownstone Brooklyn, focusing on gentrification and Brooklyn transformation over the past five decades, is very pertinent today. Tracing the development of post-industrial Brooklyn, Osman explains cultural upheavals as “brownstoners”—white college graduates searching for life outside the suburbs, and gentrifying the poorer areas along the way. Those interested in not just architectural but the cultural history of Brooklyn’s diverse population will doubtlessly find this book essential reading in examining the cultural and political climate of our city both in the past and today. (Photo: New York Observer)
9. Sunset Park
By Paul Auster
Miles Heller finds himself squatting with Brooklyn artists in the rough-and-tumble Sunset Park, each of them with their own quirks: a struggling writer, a drummer with a panache for fixing doohickeys of the past, and Miles himself, on the run from the sister of an under-age girl he’s fallen in love with. So are Brooklyn’s adult misfits, whose stories weave together in a network of relationships between them—enlightening Miles’ relationship with his estranged parents along the way. A heartening story set against the familiar backdrop of a favorite Brooklyn neighborhood, this novel is a must-read for Brooklyn fiction fans.
10. Walking Brooklyn: 30 Tours Exploring Historical Legacies, Neighborhood culture, Side Streets and Waterways
By Adrienne Onofri
Now you can get your daily exercise while learning about your neighborhood at the same time, with Walking Brooklyn. Accompanied by stunning photography, this book will guide you all over the borough’s various neighborhoods along with histories of buildings and landmarks you might have otherwise passed by without a care. Impress your friends on a walk by enlightening them on their own neighborhood. This book is perfect for those who enjoy a good stroll, or need a reason for one, or local history buffs.