Book Review: Humans of New York Stories
The strangest thing consistently happens when I meet my blog readers. The conversation usually starts with nice things about what I post followed by a quick, but never mean, comment about what they don't read.
"I don't cook, so I skip your recipes." "We don't live in Atlanta, so I never read your restaurant guides." or "I don't read, so I pass on the book reviews."
I understand all of these statements, but the last one sincerely doesn't apply to today's post because Humans of New York Stories is the ultimate pick-up-and-read-any-page kind of book.
In fact, most pages have fewer words than the average Facebook post.
And they are all so great.
This is the set up from the book review:
"In the summer of 2010, photographer Brandon Stanton began an ambitious project —to single-handedly create a photographic census of New York City. The photos he took and the accompanying interviews became the blog Humans of New York. In the first three years, his audience steadily grew from a few hundred to over one million. In 2013, his book, Humans of New York, based on that blog, was published and immediately catapulted to the top of the NY Times Bestseller List. It has appeared on that list for over twenty-five weeks to date. The appeal of HONY has been so great that in the course of the next year Brandon's following increased tenfold to, now, over 12 million followers on Facebook.
... Ever since Brandon began interviewing people on the streets of NY, the dialogue he's had with them has increasingly become as in-depth, intriguing and moving as the photos themselves. Humans of New York: Stories presents a whole new group of humans, complete with stories that delve deeper and surprise with greater candor."
Candor is indeed the hallmark of what you'll read.
There's the guy standing in Grand Central Station looking across the hall, "I told her that if she wanted to start over, to meet where we first kissed. She was supposed to be here fifteen minutes ago."
There's the woman resting her chin in her hands who said, "He always says I'm just like my mother. He hates my mother."
Stanton takes artistic photographs which take your breath away in both the image and the language. My favorite might be the shot of an older man's hand resting on a book written in braille, "I hated God for a long time."
Time and again the short quotes say everything you need to know. For instance, there's this pretty young girl on a bench who says, "I'm trying to be more confident, I guess...yeah."
You also should know New Yorkers have salty language.
There's the old guy who says, "It takes a hell of a lot of pills to keep me going." and the woman sitting on a stoop who says, "Do you know how much it *@#$ing sucks to ask your mom for money when you're forty-three?"
Lots and lots of f-bombs, but that only lends to the credibility of the interviews.
As you make your way through the book you can't help but be touched by the human experience. New Yorkers are a diverse crowd and Stanton clearly interviews a wide cross-section of people. There's business executives in thousand-dollar suits talking about raising a child with autism; there are cross-dressers and drug-dealers and children; there are babyboomers, gen-x, millennials; even the pre-school set are well represented.
People are funny, poignant, and amazing. This book lets you people-watch AND understand a bit of the story at the same time.
I love it.