Friday, August 5, 2022

Book Review: The Intimate City

As New York came to a halt with COVID, Michael Kimmelman composed an email to a group of architects, historians, writers, and friends, inviting them to take a walk. Wherever they liked, he wrote—preferably someplace meaningful to them, someplace that illuminated the city and what they loved about it. At first, the goal was distraction. At a scary moment when everything seemed uncertain, walking around New York served as a reminder of all the ways the city was still a rock, joy, and inspiration. What began with a lighthearted trip to explore Broadway’s shuttered theater district and a stroll along Museum Mile when the museums were closed soon took on a much larger meaning and ambition. These intimate, funny, richly detailed conversations between Kimmelman and his companions became anchors for millions of Times readers during the pandemic. The walks unpacked the essence of urban life and its social fabric—the history, plans, laws, feats of structural engineering, architectural highlights, and everyday realities that make up a place Kimmelman calls “humanity’s greatest achievement.”

Filled with stunning photographs documenting the city during the era of COVID, The Intimate City is the ultimate insider’s guide. The book includes new walks through LGBTQ Greenwich Village, through Forest Hills, Queens, and Mott Haven, in the Bronx. All the walks can be walked, or just be read for pleasure, by know-it-all New Yorkers or anyone else. A kaleidoscopic portrait of an enduring metropolis, The Intimate City reveals why New York, despite COVID and a long history of other calamities, continues to inspire and to mean so much to those who call it home and to countless others.

This book comes out on November 29, 2022. Penguin Group Press provided an early galley for review.

I love New York City. I always have. Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to go there. I saw it in movies, on TV shows, in comic books. It seemed mythical and magical to me. When I was 21 years old, I had the opportunity to visit the city three times in the course of six months; it was a dream come true.

Reading The Intimate City brought everything back from those three brief visits. The sights, the smells, the energy, the anticipation, the wonder of it. It was a rush to experience those sensations again. Thank you, Michael Kimmelman and his various walking cohorts, for renewing that in me one more time. I also got exposed to a number of areas of the city I've not been before, and that just makes me want to plan another trip back there someday.

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