"A History of New York in 101 Objects" (Simon & Schuster), by Sam Roberts
This is a book destined for coffee tables in Tribeca lofts, Upper West Side apartments and Brooklyn townhouses. With stoops.
Stoop is object No. 40, in fact, in this book that needs no explanation beyond the title, "A History of New York in 101 Objects."
Sam Roberts, the urban affairs correspondent at The New York Times, wrote a column two years ago highlighting 50 city-defining objects, but reader feedback inspired him to expand the list to the 101 featured here.
He freely acknowledges in the preface that his selections are "highly subjective." How else to explain the artichoke, chosen to represent mobster Ciro Terranova, who imported both the produce and organized crime to the city?
There are plenty of other examples, but none of them feels arbitrary. Each tells a brief — three pages, max — story of how and why the object helped shape the history of New York. From the expected (a bagel, a subway token, a Checker cab) to the less so (a bronze horse's tail, hacked off an equestrian statue of King George III following a public rendition of the Declaration of Independence in July 1776), each item is accompanied by a glossy, mostly color, photograph.
The images are helpful. Reading about the brass doorknobs on classrooms and seeing "Public School City of New York" embedded artfully among golden flourishes are two different things.
The brevity of the chapters makes the book perfect for your bedside table or for houseguests to peruse while you're mixing drinks.
Readers will no doubt argue over some of the choices, and that's the point. Think of it as an old-school bound version of a very long BuzzFeed list, meant to inspire conversation with friends.