Follow along in this post—which will be regularly updated. Maybe you’ll find a book you’d like to read out of my hodgepodge of an adventure.
10. Learning from Strangers: The art and method of qualitative interview studies
This endeavor began on Aug. 15, 2015. Also, a ★ denotes my favorites.
by Robert S. Weiss
9. Police in the Hallways: Discipline in an Urban High School★
by Kathleen Nolan
This book has been on my radar for a few months, and bought it half on a whim, half out of a possible need for it in my semester paper. My interest then also peaked when I found out that this book started as Nolan’s dissertation project while she was working on her Ph.D. at CUNY-Grad Center.
It’s funny how a small affiliation like that can get you motivated about something.
The book is focused on a single school in the Bronx and isn’t purely representative of all urban schools, especially in New York City, but it does offer important analysis on schooling, school climate, and the environment of education. More importantly it provides some insight in the way children of certain neighbors begin to perceive their schools in relation to the criminal justice system, and their relationships with law enforcement and authority figures.
8. The Anxiety Toolkit
by Alice Boyce
7. Feeding the Family: The Social Organization of Caring as Gendered Work
by Marjorie L. DeVault
6. The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life
by Erving Goffman
5. The City ★
by Robert Park, Ernest W. Burgess & Roderick D. McKenzie
I only had to read the first two chapters for class, but ended up reading the whole thing. And for the better.
I particularly enjoyed this book. I suspect that the book is slightly outdated, but the concepts themselves I find still hold true. Especially the chapter on ecology. Even if we have a better ecological understanding of the city, and the intricate networks and relations within it, taking an ecological approach to understanding and studying the city is important and not a frame that should only be applied to the bio-sciences.
If you’re looking for an overview in the study of the city, this a pretty good place to start. It covers a wide-range of topics found in urban environments from the newspapers, juvenile delinquency, neighborhoods, and religion to name a few.
4. Between the World and Me
by Ta-Nehisi Coates
My first e-book, I read this for my Fundamentals of Urban Sociology class. It’s a smooth read, one that can easily be done in a day.
The information regarding racism and the statistics Coates offers isn’t really new, especially if you regularly follow the issue, and if you’re familiar with the DMV and Baltimore areas. What I did enjoy about this book was the format in which he chose to write it.
Instead of a book in which the author appears to speak at the reader, he speaks to us through his son in the form of a letter.
This is likely a crude example, but if you remember those exercises you did in primary or middle school, where you write a letter to your future self (or past self if you did the exercise in your twenties), the book is a bit like that.
It’s insightful but more importantly it gives a humanizing element; an articulation of an experience that many people can relate to, while (some) others may empathize with. It’s revealing of a certain anguish and struggle of one person’s journey through a particular space, and a call for vigilance on the part of his offspring to live and embrace who he is but recognize where he is.
3. You Can’t Say You Can’t Play
by Vivian Gussin Paley
This book was recommended to me by a colleague of mine at university, after sharing a project idea for one our classes. It’s a light read.
It’s also not overly complicated, but Paley’s story reveals the complex nature of children’s play and the way they view their worlds. They know rejection is “wrong” (possibly because they’re told it’s wrong), and readily admit that they do the rejecting, but then find “loopholes” to justify when it’s okay to say “you can’t play.”
2. The Comanche Empire
by Pekka Hämäläinen (2008) ★
If you enjoy history, especially “alternative” history, this is one that should be read.
I like reading history that wasn’t covered in the high school texts because they’re more informative, but also get you thinking about how things intersect (and their resulting impacts from that intersection).
When we learn about westward American expansion and Native Americans, we’re often given the narrative of American exceptionalism and that the natives were terrible savages hellbent on killing white folk (or some white is good, native is bad story).
This work challenges the assumptions we were taught in middle and high school by showing that Native Americans throughout North and Central America—specifically the Comanches, since they are the focus of this book—were a well-organized polity with distinct cultural practices and economic needs.
So while the expanding white settlers may have perceived the Comanches to be greedy, unsatisfying savages, knowing only brutality and bloodshed, this book provides context into understanding the nature of the times, and the relationships between and the needs of both Comanches, Spanish- British- and French immigrants of the time.
On a technical note: this book is not rigidly bound by chronology of events. And this is refreshing. It maintains some timely order for ease of understanding how key events unfolded, but it’s not a “in 1829, this happened, and this happened, and this and this and this. Next chapter, in 1833, this…” etc., etc.
It’s a long read, but well worth if for those of you who have a little history nerd in you.
1. Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York
Edited by Sari Botton (2013)
I have a confession to make about this particular book. I started it in October 2014, and it’s taken me a year to actually finish it.
Ashamed? Not quite, considering the nature of the book. It’s not your average novel, and more like an anthology of the love-hate relationships writers have had with the Big Apple. The book starts almost like a series of love notes to the city. But over the course of the book, you begin to feel the confusion, frustration, and the love-hate relationships that are borne out of living here.
Not all the stories are spectacular, but they all offer an intriguing insight into what the city may or may not do for the
poor soul who chooses to move here.
My picking up the book also coincides with when I first moved to New York City to start grad school. That in itself reveals a lot about the infatuated feelings I had for the city. Gotham has much to offer, and I’ll unashamedly be looking out for more novels and stories that are about- and take place in the city.