Fans of the Big Apple will delight in this well-written, abundant and justly prideful collection.


From the pastrami sandwich to TV comedy and Santa’s reindeer, a compendium of New York’s countless contributions to world culture.

If it didn’t happen in the five boroughs, it didn’t happen. That is to say, to trust the editors of New York, “even figuring out what belonged in this book made us realize what an innovation engine New York City has been.” Their enthusiasm sometimes leads them into the land of the spurious—they attribute the bagel, or “beigel,” to a baker by that name when it comes from the Yiddish word for stirrup, though they allow that the former attribution “is questionable.” Still, given the richness of New York inventions, the mass-distributed bagel among them, one can forgive the rare slip made in the name of exuberance. Take pastrami, for example, a Turkish way of cooking meat that found its way to New York in an immigrant’s repertoire and was then presented to a grateful municipality, a cheap cut of beef brisket corned, “then dry rubbed with spices, then wood smoked, and then eaten, enthusiastically.” Who was that immigrant? No one knows, and just which deli began to sell pastrami is a matter of controversy—and now, write the editors, “the Jewish deli is an increasingly rare bird in New York City owing to high rents, changing demographics, and a sense that using rendered chicken fat as liberally as others deploy ketchup may not be the best thing for a person.” More certain is pizza, imported from southern Italy and first sold on Spring Street in 1905 by Gennaro Lombardi, and General Tso’s chicken, an import from Taiwan by way of New York’s Hunanese restaurants. Not all is food: The editors convincingly argue that everything from abstract expressionism and the auteur theory to punk rock, Q-Tips, the teddy bear, toilet paper (and the urinal), and zoning regulations owes its origins to the five boroughs.

Fans of the Big Apple will delight in this well-written, abundant and justly prideful collection.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6695-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.



The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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