Longlisted for the Brooklyn Public Library Book Prize in Nonfiction
From award-winning New York Times reporter Sam Roberts, the story of the world’s most exceptional city, told through 31 little-known yet pivotal inhabitants who helped define it.
In Sam Roberts’s pulsating history of the world’s most exceptional metropolis, greet the city anew through thirty-one unique New Yorkers you’ve probably never heard of—just in time for the city’s 400th birthday.
The New Yorkers introduces the first woman to appear nude in a motion picture, becoming the face of Civic Fame as Miss Manhattan; the couple whose soirée ended the Gilded Age with an embarrassing bang; and the husband and wife who invented the modern celebrity talk show. It reveals the victim of the city’s first recorded murder in the seventeenth century and the high school dropout who slashed crime rates in the twentieth. The notorious mobster who was imperiously banished from the city and the woman who successfully sued a bus company for racial discrimination a century before Rosa Parks.
Some deserved monuments, but their grandeur was overlooked or forgotten. Others shepherded the city through its perpetual evolution, but discreetly. Virtually all have vanished into New York’s uncombed history. The New Yorkers is a living biography of the world’s greatest city, and no one knows New York better than Sam Roberts—or is better at bringing its history to life.
"An ingenious social history of Gotham rendered in deft profiles … [Roberts] is an ace at compact biography ... And he is an industrious researcher, mining fascinating nuggets—some profound, some just fun—from sources familiar and obscure … You’re likely to finish the book with a new appreciation of the ingenuity, courage, guile and sacrifice that transformed the wooded wilderness Henry Hudson first explored into today’s throbbing, perilous 21st-century metropolis." - The Wall Street Journal
“Roberts knows his New York, in the way both of a scholar who’s read everything ever published on the city’s past and of a reporter who’s spent his career engaging its people … [The New Yorkers] abounds in rich portraits of unheralded New Yorkers whose lives — and, in some cases, deaths — are worth recalling.” —New York Times Book Review
“[The New Yorkers] is my favorite kind of municipal portrait, a gathering of profiles, not of the famous but the merely pivotal. So, murder victims, union organizers and talk show hosts. As Roberts writes: ‘Sometimes people who seem small at the time leave a larger-than-life legacy.''” —Chicago Tribune
"[The New Yorkers is] a detailed look at mostly unknown folks who contributed to the city … Roberts focuses on ordinary people involved in extraordinary things, city dwellers who caught our imagination – at least for a moment." - New York Daily News
"Few writers have both a keen eye for biographical detail and the ability to place those details in a portrait that resonates across history. Sam Roberts, who has worked for The New York Times for decades, is that kind of writer, as he deftly proves in his new book." - Air Mail, "Staff Picks"
“Roberts knows New York on an almost cellular level … Roberts tells an epic tale through these 31 stories, the evolution of a great city developed by people who wrote history with their lives.” —New York Journal of Books
"Roberts, a legendary chronicler of the city, now writing obituaries for the New York Times, digs into the past and illuminates New Yorkers who didn’t make it into the usual narratives of the city yet played a transformative role or personified a moment in its history . . . a congenial expert guide in essays." - The National Book Review
“[Sam Roberts] has done a fantastic job of engaging his readers with the past … The New Yorkers is an excellent book that readers will find fascinating and full of interesting historical tidbits.” —Bowling Green Daily News
"You don’t have to be a New Yorker or even a big-city dweller to be delighted by the tales that author Sam Roberts offers … This is history at its most enjoyable, no matter where you live or hail from. If you love a book full of surprises, put ‘The New Yorkers’ on your radar." - The Bookworm Sez
“Entertaining and informative … Roberts's wry wit and rigorous research enliven accounts of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire, the displacement of white residents from Harlem, and more. The result is a treasure trove of New York City lore.” —Publishers Weekly
“America's largest and most polyglot city is impossible to bring into crystal-clear focus, but this book makes it come alive…. A book guaranteed to enlighten and entertain anyone interested in NYC.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Sam Roberts has crafted thirty-one biographical essays – deeply researched and engagingly written – that together constitute an excellent history of New York City.” —Mike Wallace, author of Gotham
“Of the many dozens of historians who write about the Empire City, Sam Roberts has long been the most clever and most imaginative. The New Yorkers follows in his distinguished tradition. He writes a grand narrative through the biographies of mostly forgotten persons who made a difference at critical moments in the past 400 years. Fans of New York and its colorful history will not be disappointed.” —Kenneth T. Jackson, Barzun Professor Emeritus of History, Columbia University; editor-in-chief, The Encyclopedia of New York City
“From its post-American Revolution resurrection from the ashes to its meteoric rise to a global city, Sam Roberts renders a New York that is as captivating, gutsy, and colorful as its people. A fascinating and eye-opening window onto a storied city.” —Pamela Newkirk, author of Spectacle: The Astonishing Life of Ota Benga
“Anything Sam Roberts has to write about New York City is worth reading, but with The New Yorkers he has outdone himself. Even those who know the city will be surprised to learn about many of the men and women profiled here-and surprised to learn what Sam has to tell them about the ones they do know. If history is biography, then this is both history and biography at their best.” —Kevin Baker, author of PARADISE ALLEY
“In The New Yorkers, Sam Roberts illuminates the city's inimitable personality with a charming cast of groundbreakers, do-gooders, and rascals you will be delighted to get to know. Written with a wry eye, a tender heart, and gusto aplenty, this book provides a binge-worthy carnival of entertainment.” —Joseph Berger, author of THE WORLD IN A CITY
“[Roberts] offers a solid education in New York architecture that pays close attention to the personalities, politics, economics, and natural disasters that inevitably accompany it . . . An entertaining picture of New York through the centuries.” —Kirkus on A HISTORY OF NEW YORK IN 27 BUILDINGS
“[Roberts is] a witty and informed narrator whose enthusiasm for his subject is contagious. This lucid account will help New Yorkers to see their city in a new light.” —Publishers Weekly on A HISTORY OF NEW YORK IN 27 BUILDINGS
“The best thing to happen to New York since Nathan's hot dogs and Junior's cheesecake.” —Marty Markowitz, former Borough President of Brooklyn on A HISTORY OF NEW YORK IN 101 OBJECTS