Category Archives: books

Book Mad in Banbury


Banbury PhoneBox Library – a Little Free Library of sorts which started out unofficially and ended up being done up properly and making the news.

I’ve been book mad a long time, long before I moved to Banbury. When we were house hunting, one of my criteria (and I didn’t have many) was that where ever we ended up, it have a bookstore.

After all, I was moving from Manhattan – land of The Strand (and especially their Central Park Stalls), Housing Works Bookstore, McNally Jackson, – not to mention Mysterious Bookshop, the late lamented Murder Ink and the even more lamented Endicott. I couldn’t go cold turkey.

We ended up in Banbury for a number of really excellent reasons – and while it was not the deciding factor, I am happy to report than Banbury is awash in places for me to feed my book habit.

Read more about what I found, including books swaps, arket stalls, used book stores and charity shops full of titles to feed my habit … Book Mad in Banbury


Echoes of Gotham

Lots happening, lots happening and that is – in part – why there has been a delay since my last post. More details to come on all that but in the meantime, I went to Scotland on a road trip and look what I found!


Hilarious! Not in Scotland (we hadn’t gotten there at that point in the trip) but on the way up via Scarborough. Also on the way up, I found a bookstore that had me homesick for The Strand (though I admit, this one had a lovely cafe as well and the space was spectacular. It’s called Barter Books in Alnwick  and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

I’ll be posting some more details on the roadtrip soon but I just HAD to share these two finds.

Romping With Rogues

grossI love a good local history and at the moment, I am current reading Rogues’ Gallery: The Secret History of the Mogul and the Money that Made the Metropolitan Museum by Michael Gross.  Gross’ name may ring a bell if you read 740 Park: The Story of the World’s Richest Apartment Building (which I didn’t but which a lot of people did).  I gather that 740 Park (much hyped) underwhelmed a lot of people andit seems, from the reader reviews I’ve read and some of the actual reviews – that those people went into the book expecting something else.  I don’t know what.  I mean – I know the book is touted as “social history” but come on – something like that is bound to be more hardcover gossip column in the end.

So it didn’t surprise me that this was the distinct impression I am getting from Rogues’ Gallery. And that’s fine because that’s what I expected. I didn’t expect a detailed, scholarly work on the history of the Metropolitan Museum. After all, Rogues’ is only 560 pages long. How on earth could you do a thorough job of such a subject in only 560 pages. Even the Met can’t do it. They have volumes and volumes. And though many of those volumes are worthy and informative, none of them as entertaining.

The thing that strikes me about the negative reviews of Rogues’ that I have seen is that they seem to be disappointed that there isn’t more about the actual ART in the book. I wonder if they haven’t rather missed the point. It’s not about the art. It isn’t actually pretending to be about the art. There are, in fact, some levels at which the Metropolitan Museum isn’t about the art. Read the subtitle again. “The Secret History of the Mogul and the Money that Made the Metropolitan Museum.” Makes it pretty clear that this isn’t primarily about the paintings and the statues

I am enjoying this hardcover gossip romp and I don’t care who knows it. More when I finish.

Borough Bookshelf: Staten Island

So – we’ve got the borough of Brooklyn done, and Queens has been sorted. I bet you thought I was going to The Bronx next, right? Not so.

I thought it would be nice to thrown a little love Staten Island’s way. Oh I know they get tetchy sometimes but you can’t take all that talk of secession seriously. It’s like a small kid declaring really loudly that he’s running away so that someone will stop him. We understand, SI. And we love you anyway. Never fear, Da’ Bronx. Your turn is coming.  We’re just gonna put SI a treat as part of our new outlook for the new year and build up it’s virtual bookshelf next.

As was the case with Queens, a lot of the most current non-fiction on Staten Island is pictorial with commentary. There was a great deal of serious scholarship and reports published in the first half of the 20th century but – as you might expect – much of that is now out of print. I’m starting to think a 5 volume history of the city (one volume per borough) might not be a bad idea . . . It wouldn’t be cheap and it wouldn’t be the kind of thing someone would pick up on a whim but I can see a place for it. Hmmmm.

Borough Bookshelf: Queens

Previously on “How I Purged My Bookshelves Only to Fill Them Up Again” . . . .

I had gotten rid of some books to make room for others. In the spirit of expanding (or trying to expand) my admittedly Manhattan-centric view of Gotham, I went hunting new books. But this time books on the other boroughs. Brooklyn was a goldmine.

Queens is up next. One thing I’ve noticed – and which might be more a function of my searching rather than reality – there has been more ink spilled about Brooklyn while more cameras have been trained on Queens. Again, that might just be me and further searching may prove me wrong. And so without further delay, the Queens bookshelf:

Next up – well, obviously The Bronx or Staten Island. We shall see which I manage to turf up the most stuff for.

Borough Bookshelf: Brooklyn

I have a lot of books about New York. I have slightly fewer than I had last year as one of my New Year’s resolutions was to clear out at least some of them. As I sorted through the titles however, I noticed that the majority of these titles were essentially about Manhattan. I admit – I can be overly Manhattan-centric myself here on Greater Gotham but I am trying to be aware of that tendency and trying to overcome it.

Therefore, I went to browse the vast and virtual online shelves for new titles to enhance my geographically wider, all-embracing library. Here’s what I’ve found so far. I’ll have to pick and choose which to start with but I was so pleased to find so many choices that I had to share the bounty! Brooklyn this time around. Queens, Staten Island and The Bronx to follow.

Brooklyn: histories, photo collections, guidebooks, and maps.

Anyway – the list could go on and on and on. There were many more older titles as well that I could have listed. Possibly I will attempt a more complete borough bibliography one day. Though I suspect it could be a life time project to do something of that scope.  So let us call it a “work in progress” – and I shall add them to the Greater Gotham store as we go as well.