Summer means reading and the City Record and Boston News-Letter has some suggestions that you city lovers might find enjoyable. Actually, Fall, Winter, and Spring mean reading too, but since every other publication in the world publishes a summer reading list--why shouldn't I? Note to Southern Hemisphere readers: this is a winter reading list for you.
Joseph Mitchell, Up in the Old Hotel
Up in the Old Hotel might be the best 20th century reportage about any city (in the English language at least). In these essays, originally written for the New Yorker, Mitchell explores mid-century New York City with an eye for the unusual, the underappreciated, and the unknown. His love for New York City's eccentrics is obvious and his ear for conversation will astound you.
Joseph Mitchell, My Ears are Bent
Before Mitchell became a staff writer for the New Yorker, he spent several years as New York City newspaper reporter. Most of these pieces are newspaper stories: late night patrols with New York City police officers, his coverage of the Lindbergh kidnapping trial, and interviews with all kinds of people, including Gene Krupa and George Bernard Shaw. My favorites are the burlesque dancers in the chapter titled "Cheese-Cake". His interview with Florence Cubitt, one of many dancers who hoped to become the Sally Rand of the 1939 New York World's Fair, is a masterpiece. As Mitchell notes, "It was the first time a woman I had been sent to interview ever came into the room naked. I say she was naked. Actually she had a blue G-string on, but I have never seen anything look so naked in my life as she did when she walked into that room." And Brian McGrory complains about the weather causing women to swathe themselves in Gore-Tex!
A.N. Wilson London: A History
Can London's history be accounted for in 200 or so pages? Yes, although this book will likely lead you on to other books about London, like Peter Ackroyd's London: The Biography (which is something like 800 pages long--not exactly beach friendly!)
Jonathan Glancey, London: Bread and Circuses
I've written about this book previously and the themes suggested in it are worth considering as Boston enters the 21st century.
Simon Reynolds, Rip it Up and Start Again: Post Punk 1978-1984
The music of my youth, with a brief (very brief!) account of Boston's own Mission of Burma, but much more about British music in the wake of the punk explosion. While the book is about music, Reynolds also examines the environments which spawned bands like the Mekons (Leeds) Orange Juice (Glasgow), the Specials (Coventry), and Joy Division (Manchester), among many others--the post-industrial decay in the English hinterlands helped thriving music scenes develop all over the country.
The Good City: Writers Explore 21st-Century Boston
A collection of essays looking at the problems and possibilities that await Boston, including essays by Robert Campbell and Jane Holtz Kay, Howard Bryant, Jack Beatty, and Susan Orlean.
Read any good books about cities lately? What will you be reading this summer? Leave a comment!
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