Like the city it celebrates, Gotham is massive and endlessly fascinating. This narrative of well over 1,000 pages, written after more than two decades of collaborative research by history professors Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace, copiously chronicles New York City from the primeval days of the Lenape Indians to the era when, with Teddy Roosevelt as police commissioner, the great American city became regarded as "Capital of the World." The sheer bulk of the book may be off- putting, but the reader can use a typically New York approach: Those who don't settle in for the entire history can easily "commute" in and out to read individual chapters, which stand alone nicely and cover the major themes of particular eras very well.
While Gotham is fact-laden (with a critical apparatus that includes a bibliography and two indices--one for names, another for subjects), the prose admirably achieves both clarity and style. "What is our take, our angle, our schtick?" ask the authors, setting a distinctly New York tone in their introduction. No matter what it's called, their method of weaving together countless stories works wonderfully. The startlingly detailed research and lively writing bring innumerable characters (from Peter Minuit to Boss Tweed) to life, and even those who think they know the history of New York City will no doubt find surprises on nearly every page. Gotham is a rarity, reigning as both authoritative history and page-turning story. --Robert McNamara [via]