Non-Fiction book suggestions to learn more about Manhattan and Central Park

This statement bears repeating – I love to read.  When my husband and I decided to move to Manhattan, one of the first things I did was choose some books to read to learn about the City I would be living in.  As time went on and we lived our lives there, I learnt a little more about the place, met some of it’s people, got their recommendations, heard of this and that, and read a little more.  I volunteered as a Greensward Guide at Central Park, and before they let you loose on the tourists, they give you several hours of training, and suggest various books to read.  Central Park has 38 million annual visitors, it can’t have failed to inspire a few of them to write something about it!

Visitors should always read the tourist guide for a place they are visiting, before they go, and when they are there.  Yesterday I posted a blog on my recommendation of fiction to read if you’re interested in learning more about Manhattan and the area surrounding Central Park.  This list (not in any particular order of preference) is my recommendations for non-New Yorkers, and New Yorkers alike, of the non-fiction books that will teach you a little more about Central Park and the city of New York.  And if you are intending to make the biggest promise of your life to the most important person in the world in Central Park, wouldn’t you want to know a little more about where you really are when you’re doing it?

Central Park, an American Masterpiece – Sara Cedar Miller
This book was produced to commemorate the Park’s 150th anniversary, the aim was to be the Park’s definitive illustrated history.  It’s full of information about the creation and history of the Park and its architecture.  It’s a gorgeous coffee-table book, and you could pore over the beautiful photographs again and again to relive your time there.  Alongside these photos, the book has more than two hundred color illustrations, original plans and drawings.

Central Park, an Anthology – Andrew Blauner
This is a collection of twenty-one essays; several exclusive pieces of writing commissioned especially for this book  along with some classics.  Some of the writers are very well-known, and the majority have written for The New Yorker.  These are all tributes to this beautiful park written by people who know it well.  This is a good one if you don’t like a long story, and just want to read snatches of information here and there.

My City, My New York: Famous New Yorkers Share Their Favorite Places – Jeryl Brunner

All New Yorkers have a favorite spot in the city, their favorite thing to do when the weather is good, their favorite restaurant or bar, or a place that sets off particular special memory.  This is a collection of interviews with celebrity New Yorkers about their favorite places in the city.  The list of celebrities involved is quite a diverse one, so the stories and suggestions they make cover a vast range.  It will certainly lead to a few new ideas for places to visit on a trip to New York.

The Greatest Grid: The Master Plan of Manhattan, 1811-2011 – Hilary Ballon
This was published to coincide with a 2011 exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York celebrating two hundred years since the commissioning of this grid, which I saw and enjoyed, I loved seeing how the block I lived on was mapped out, who bought the lot where my building now stands, and what the streets around my home looked like as they were developing.  This fascinating book tells the story of what may have been the world’s most ambitious city planning project ever.  It has lots of rare maps and images, which are fun to compare with the city today.

New York Diaries: 1609-2000 – Teresa Carpenter

This is a collection of excerpts from the memoires and diaries of famous and unknown New Yorkers and visitors from the early 1600s up to 2000.  It starts on the 1st of January and moves day by day through the year, skipping forwards and backwards in time from year to year.  The book provides fascinating snippets of information covering a vast history of the city, which will leave the reader wanting to learn more about their favorite excerpts.

Central Park, Then and Now – Marcia Reiss
I love pictures from years gone by of places that I know well.  That’s why I love to flick through this book.  As you might have guessed from the title, the book contains many beautiful pictures of Central Park, comparing how one structure, building, field or pathway had looked sometime in the past, either back when it was first built, or sometime since then, compared to modern days.  In some cases, things have changed a lot, but in others, all that has changed in the dress of the people in the photos.

I would love to hear what people think of the books I have listed here.  And any recommendations from others of non-fictions book to read for couples coming to New York to get married in Central Park, to get them in the mood for their trip, or just for people who want to learn more about this incredible city and it’s major park.  For those that prefer fiction, I posted a lost of novels I recommend yesterday.

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3 Responses to Non-Fiction book suggestions to learn more about Manhattan and Central Park

  1. GrayFoxDown says:

    I lived in and experienced NYC all of my life (Brooklyn), via my grandparents who came here in the 1890s. From your reading, you must have picked up on the fact that the city is forever mutable; a constantly varying cynosure for new ideas, new designs, etc., if only based in whimsy. The NYC that I knew as a kid (1950s/60s) is, in many ways, not the same city that I see today. In many ways, this was a good thing; in other ways, not so good.

    Excellent reading list you’ve compiled in this very exceptional post. I would add “Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898” by Mike Wallace to it; in my opinion, the most thorough examination of NYC history ever written.


  2. Victor Ho says:

    Thanks for visiting my blog. I often saw weddings in Central Park when I would wander. The bride and groom always drew appreciative congratulatory glances. All the best.

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