Book Review: A History of New York in 101 Objects

A History of New York in 101 Objects
By: Sam Roberts
Published By: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: September 23th, 2014
Page Count: 336
Source: ARC Kindly Provided By Publisher
Audience/Genre: Adult Nonfiction
 Buy it at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Indiebound.

"Imagine having to choose just one object that defined your life. Which one would you choose?" So begins the interesting and surprising, A History of New York in 101 Objects by Sam Roberts, a collection of 101 essential items, along with explanations and anecdotes, that help define the city that never sleeps. Famous NYC people, movements, and moments are all included in this fantastic "coffee table" book.

See photos of 50 of the objects included in a NY Times Article HERE.

First, I have to come clean with the fact that I received an e-copy of this book for my Kindle, and my 3.5 star rating is partly a result of not being able to really see the objects themselves as I read the stories that accompanied them. However, I didn't feel like I was missing much, because the stories are what I found made the book both interesting and surprising.

The "objects" included in this collection had to meet a few basic requirements: "not be a human being" (apparently Ed Koch got quite a few nominations), be not much bigger than a breadbox (no monuments), and they had to have existed at some time, someplace, and still survive in some way. The author also took nominations from , which combined with the requirements, lead to some interesting inclusions.

From Leonard Bernstein's baton, to a jar of dust, to a black-and-white cookie, to a school doornob, to the I <3 NY image, to the bagel, and even Madonna -- it's all authentic and obscure New York and the objects and stories weave together a picture of a city with a most unique footprint.

Summary via Goodreads

The vibrant story of America's great metropolis, told through 101 distinctive objects that span the history of New York, all reproduced in luscious, full color.

A wooden water barrel and an elevator brake. A Checker taxicab and a conductor's baton. An oyster and a mastodon tusk. Inspired by A History of the World in 100 Objects, The New York Times' Sam Roberts chose fifty objects that embody the narrative of New York for a feature article in the paper. Many more suggestions came from readers, and so Roberts has expanded the list to 101. Here are just a few of what this keepsake volume offers: 

The Flushing Remonstrance, a 1657 petition for religious freedom that was a precursor to the First Amendment to the Constitution. Beads from the African Burial Ground, 1700s. Slavery was legal in New York until 1827, although many free blacks lived in the city. The African Burial Ground closed in 1792 and was only recently rediscovered. The bagel, early 1900s. The quintessential and undisputed New York food (excepting perhaps the pizza). The Automat vending machine, 1912. Put a nickel in the slot and get a cup of coffee or a piece of pie. It was the early twentieth century version of fast food. The I Love NY logo designed by Milton Glaser in 1977 for a campaign to increase tourism. Along with Saul Steinberg's famous New Yorker cover depicting a New Yorker's view of the world, it was perhaps the most famous and most frequently reproduced graphic symbol of the time.

Unique, sometimes whimsical, always important, A History of New York in 101 Objects is a beautiful chronicle of the remarkable history of the Big Apple that will enrich your mind and rekindle memories.