What'll you have?
The infinite pleasures of the finite.

Substance over style.

You may know this already, but I am constitutionally unable to pass up any book about New York City without reading it, even when it turns out I'm not that crazy about it. I am addicted to books on the subject.

Roberts The latest book I picked up to feed my addiction was Sam Roberts's Only in New York: An Exploration of the World's Most Fascinating, Frustrating, and Irrepressible City. It's a compilation of podcasts, in written form, that Roberts (who is the Urban Affairs correspondent for The New York Times) originally published on that newspaper's website.

There's nothing wrong with Roberts's writing, and his observations and research about New York City seems comprehensively done. It's just that these pieces don't, for lack of a better term, sparkle. Although I read the whole thing, this was not my favorite book about the city. Consider a piece on Manhattan's cemeteries:

"It's tough enough to find a place to buy or rent if you want to live in Manhattan temporarily. It's even harder if you're planning to remain permanently. Sure, people are dying to live here. Not the other way around, though...

I was reminded of that history the other day when former mayer Ed Koch told me he wanted to be buried in Manhattan. After he dies...But Manhattan's burial grounds have run out of room." (p. 100.)

Now that's kind of interesting stuff. And the writing is fine. But yet...I'd still say there's tons of books about New York I'd offer instead of this one. Randy Kennedy's Subwayland. Helene Hanff's Letter from New York. Even Melissa Plaut's Hack: How I Stopped Worrying about What To Do With My Life and Started Driving a Yellow Cab gives a better sense of the city. Do consider this one if you too are addicted to tales of the city. Otherwise, give it a miss.