Friday, December 6, 2019

Nonfiction Mini-Reviews: The New York, New York Edition

The Plaza: The Secret Life of America's Most Famous Hotel by Julie Satow (2019)

Journalist Julie Satow details the history of the Plaza Hotel in New York City in this engaging and well-written nonfiction book.

I was drawn to this book because I love learning about iconic NYC locations, and it did not disappoint.   From its 1907 opening day to its current iteration as combination hotel and condominium building, Satow hits upon all the highs and lows the Plaza has seen during its over 100 years of existence.  Everyone from Truman Capote to F. Scott Fitzgerald to the Beatles have graced its halls.  At one point it was owned by Donald Trump, who has the unique distinction of being the only owner to bankrupt the historic hotel.  The book is very well-researched, but the writing never feels dry; Satow is able to inject a lot of heart and warmth into all the stories she relays. I also appreciated the way Satow placed the Plaza into a larger historical context, detailing the ways the hotel adapted and reacted to various major events of the 20th century, so the book becomes not just a history of the hotel, but also an intriguing view of New York City's history.  4.5 stars

The Most Spectacular Restaurant in the World by Tom Roston (2019)

In 1976, Windows on the World restaurant opened inside the North Tower of the World Trade Center.  Just 25 short years later, the restaurant would be destroyed in the September 11th attacks, but author Tom Roston has put together a history of and tribute to the famous restaurant in his new nonfiction book.

This book was a unique look inside how a restaurant is born - but not just any restaurant, one of the most well-known, beloved, and successful restaurants in the world.  Opening during a time of intense strife in NYC, Windows on the World helped transform the image of the World Trade Center.  It shared ups and downs with the city, including closing for a long period of time after the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, to reopen refreshed and to massive acclaim.  It was so interesting to learn how the consultants and owners put together this space that was literally a quarter mile in the sky - could they even run gas lines that high?  Roston also included great information about the many people involved, although he could get a little snarky at times.  Keep a tissue handy for the last 30 pages or so, as Roston details what happened at Windows on 9/11.   4 stars

24 comments:

  1. The Plaza sounds fascinating! I'm glad both of these were good reads for you.

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  2. Gosh, I would love to read both of these, Angela! Great share!

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  3. Oh wow, The Plaza sounds really good! Thanks for sharing!

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  4. Both of these sounds great, especially The Plaza. I will have to add that one to my TBR!

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  5. Those both sound really interesting. I think the first time I ever heard about Windows on the World was when 9/11 happened so those two things will be forever be linked in my mind.

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    1. I read the book about Windows on the World and then read The Only Plane in the Sky, which of course had memories about the restaurant, and it really just reinforced the tragedy.

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  6. That's a nice pairing of books, given that both focus on iconic New York institutions. I love this kind of microhistory!

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  7. I became fascinated by the Plaza, because of Eloise. I feel like I already know so much about it.

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    1. I had never heard of Eloise before, but it was a fun story!

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  8. The New York locations do sound fun!

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  9. I had drinks at Windows of the World once. Like everything about 9/11 it's very sad. The book about the Plaza sounds very good.

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    1. I'd never actually been to Windows on the World, so I'm glad I could learn more about it.

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  10. Both of these sound so atmospheric and good! Glad you loved them :)

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  11. The Plaza is one I added to my to-read list during Nonfiction November, I think after you mentioned, so I'm glad to hear from your review that it was good :) Good historical context and well-researched but not dry is my kind of book.

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    1. That's awesome to hear! I hope you love it!

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I'm so glad you stopped by, and I would love to hear your thoughts! Comments are always greatly appreciated!