Books I read in 2016

I read 34 books for pleasure in 2016, the most I’ve read in one year since 2009.

Bold = faves (doesn’t include rereads)
* = rereads

  • A Long Way Gone (Ishmael Beah)
  • All the Birds, Singing (Evie Wyld)
  • Bats of the Republic (Zachary Thomas Dodson)
  • Beowulf (Seamus Heaney trans.)*
  • Crazy Rich Asians (Kevin Kwan)
  • Dept. of Speculation (Jenny Offill)
  • Dublin Murder Squad series:
    • The Likeness (Tana French)
    • The Secret Place (Tana French)
    • The Trespasser (Tana French)
  • Edinburgh (Alexander Chee)
  • Harry Potter series:
    • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (J.K. Rowling)*
    • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (J.K. Rowling)*
    • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (J.K. Rowling)*
    • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (J.K. Rowling)*
    • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (J.K. Rowling)*
    • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, John Tiffany)
  • Kindred (Olivia Butler)
  • L’Arabe du Futur (Riad Sattouf)
  • Leaving the Atocha Station (Ben Lerner)
  • Neapolitan Novels:
    • My Brilliant Friend (Elena Ferrante)*
    • The Story of a New Name (Elena Ferrante)*
    • Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay (Elena Ferrante)*
    • The Story of the Lost Child (Elena Ferrante)*
  • Oryx and Crake (Margaret Atwood)
  • Queen of the Night (Alexander Chee)
  • Red doc> (Anne Carson)
  • The Fifth Season (N.K. Jemisin)
  • The Girl on the Train (Paula Hawkins)
  • The Girls (Emma Cline)
  • The Golden Compass (Phillip Pullman)
  • The Inimitable Jeeves (P.G. Wodehouse)
  • The Sellout (Paul Beatty)
  • The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl (Vol. 1) (Ryan North)
  • The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl (Vol. 2) (Ryan North)

Rereads: I finished my Linguistics MA in the spring, so summer was a joyous time of revisiting favorite series: rereading Harry Potter plus the new one, enjoying again the torment of the Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante, and finishing the rest of the Dublin Murder Squad novels by Tana French. Due to these, and continuing last year’s resolution, I read more novels by women than by men for (only) the second year in a row.

Best books I read this year: Edinburgh and Dept. of Speculation were both sparkling, crushing, funny, painful reads.

Disappointment: Bats of the Republic was beautifully designed, but overindulgent. I probably skipped 50 pages and felt fine about it.

No comment on: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

What took me so long: For a self-professed lover of witty British novels of the 20s, 30s, and 40s, I can’t believe I just read my first Wodehouse novel.

Formats: I read mostly bound books. But I finished my first ever audiobook (The Golden Compass), which was a lovely 10 hours with a full cast. I read The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl in the comiXology app on my iPad. I read all the Harry Potters in ebooks on my Kindle and iPhone. Nearly half of the books were library books. One was an ILL book (L’arabe du futur).

Best cookbook: I don’t count cookbooks in my read-for-pleasure lists, but dang, Small Victories by Julia Turshen is the best! It’s what finally convinced me to make my own chicken stock, which means I’ve read many of the above books over many a bowl of delicious soup.

Next up: The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen and The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin.

Previously: Books I read in 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009

The Municipal Archives’ tax photos collection, a.k.a. 1980s New York City “street view”

The New York City Municipal Archives (part of the Dept. of Records) digitized and uploaded thousands of photos of buildings in New York, taken in 1983-88. The photos were taken for tax documentation, but you can use the collection to explore New York City in the mid-80s. The interface is not the greatest for exploration, but here’s a guide…

Find 1980s tax photos by address

  1. Go to the New York City Municipal Archives Online Gallery
  2. On the left, choose DOF: [borough] 1980s Tax Photos
  3. On the left, choose Advanced Search
  4. Enter your search:
    • Ignore the first two fields for now, and in the 3rd field, choose Street Name (contains exactly) and enter desired street name
      • 10th Avenue is listed as “10 Avenue” here, and E 10th St is “East 10 Street.” It won’t autocorrect format for you.
    • Optionally, in the 2nd line, choose Building Number (contains) and enter the number — but know that not all building numbers were included in this collection, and the numbers change over time. You can try putting in just the first part of the building number (“83” will return 83, 830, 8300, etc.).
  5. Hit Search. Results are in alpha order by address, sort of. You’ll have to spend some time clicking through pages.

Find 1980s tax photos by block (better)

Do a Borough, Block, & Lot (BBL) search. Find Block & Lot by address here, then enter at least the Block into the Advanced Search. (Lots often change over time.) Or explore a Block & Lot map to nab the B&L.

A handful of photos from Manhattan I found interesting (plus one from Brooklyn)

My workplace in Manhattan, John Jay College of Criminal Justice — but back then it was slated to become Metropolis, an indoor mall that never got off the ground

My workplace in Manhattan, John Jay College of Criminal Justice — but back then it was slated to become Metropolis, an indoor mall that would have featured waterfalls, but never got off the ground

You knew I was going to include Times Square. But look closer... It's Howard the Duck!

You knew I was going to include Times Square. But look closer… It’s Howard the Duck! Also — looks when they started the project, the photographer held up a job stick with numbers stuck on, before they moved to hi-tech computerized numbers, as below.

This is actually around 235 Bleeker, around the corner from Carmine.

This is actually around 235 Bleeker, around the corner from Carmine. Beasty Feast is now (still?) a pet supply store.

Off Union Square. I *think* this is where that smoking incense building is, but so many buildings there are new, I can't tell.

Off Union Square. I *think* this is where that smoking incense building is, judging by the subway stairs, but so many buildings there are new, I can’t tell. (Link)

The square opposite the Flatiron Building, now a busy pedestrian area, then a desolate concrete rectangle (Link)

The square opposite the Flatiron Building, now a busy pedestrian area with tables and chairs, then a desolate concrete rectangle (Link)

The original street view: a guy with a camera! This is on 5th Avenue in Brooklyn, in Greenwood Heights

The original street view: a guy with a camera! This is on 5th Avenue in Brooklyn, in Greenwood Heights

East 8th St (St Mark's), between Ave C and D. After a fire?

East 8th St (St Mark’s), between Ave C and D. I think they were clearing out part of the block to build the NYPD Station that’s there now?

Street art from yesteryear on St. Mark's

Street art from yesteryear on St. Mark’s. Oh dang, I just found out you can share permalinks of photos! (Link)

Landscape, dammit! Landscape! (Link)

Landscape, dammit! Landscape! The Apollo Theater. (Link)

And right next door to the Apollo, an abandoned building that was demolished. A Banana Republic stands there today. (Link)

And right next door to the Apollo, an abandoned building that was demolished. A Banana Republic and Red Lobster stand there today in a very new-looking building. Wonder what was there between this photo and now. (Link)

Central Park Zoo under renovation (Link)

Central Park Zoo under renovation (Link)

Hester St., Chinatown (Link)

Hester St., Chinatown. Are those food trucks in the lower left? (Link)

The digitization process

…included laser disks!!!! The Municipal Archives gives some detail at the bottom of the collection info in the online gallery:

From 1983 to 1988, using 35mm cameras, they [Dept. of Finance staff] photographed every property in the five boroughs, including vacant lots and tax-exempt buildings. They used color film stock producing over 800,000 photographs in both print and negative formats. Taking advantage of then-new technology ca. 1989, they recorded each print as a single frame on Laser Video Disks (LVDs), using analog video capture. The Archives extracted low-resolution tiffs of each frame from the LVDs for viewing in the gallery.

That explains why the photos look like video stills. So each photo I posted here is a screenshot of a screenshot of a video of a photograph…?

Notes

FYI, the Share This button at the top of the collection page gives you a permalink for that item! I did not know this until halfway down this post.

There are dozens more collections that the Municipal Archives has shared!! We were only looking at the DOF (Dept. of Finance) collections, but there are many other departments and topics covered in this archive of a million photos.

Metadata observation: The datespan of the tax photos project is 5 years, without further detail for individual photos, sadly. The photo details contain the estimated year the building was built and the name of the building owner at the time.

Why do these photos look so barren? NYC was not a lifeless permawinter city like these photos suggest. Keep in mind that the purpose of the photos was documentation for building taxes. So the photos don’t explicitly show much in the way of community or human life. Many of the photos were taken during winter, perhaps so that foliage did not block building façades. The photos show enough to match buildings then and now, but you often can’t read signs or see any signs of life. So some photos look really bleak and moody.

You can see the 1940s tax photos collection, along with better quality 1980s photos (the ones online are very low-res), at the Municipal Archives.

My secret hope: Someone will undertake creating a 1980s street view-like app with these photos.

PS. I poked around for a rights statement but found none. These were created by the city for public purposes, so I’m assuming I can post these with abandon.

The flag of New York City

NYC flag, made of public domain images from NYPL

Click to enlarge; 4MB image

I recreated the New York City flag out of public domain images from New York Public Library’s Digital Collections.

The blue area on the left is a map of Inwood; the orange on the right is bookcloth; the middle white swath is a blank vellum page; all the bits and pieces that make up the seal are cut out of various prints. A handful of things came from NYPL’s extensive menu collection.

(I tried to find an illustration of a Native American from a tribe that came from the NYC area; I chose a Mohawk person, although of course who knows how accurate those old prints are, many times the illustrator just added a few things to a basic template, assuming no one would be the wiser.)

Books I read in 2015

I read 26 books for pleasure in 2015.

Bold = favorites
* = rereads

  • 10:04 (Ben Lerner)
  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll, illustrated by Anna Bond) *
  • All the Light We Cannot See (Anthony Doerr)
  • Autobiography of Red (Anne Carson)
  • Case Histories (Kate Atkinson)
  • Glory (Vladimir Nabokov)
  • Her Fearful Symmetry (Audrey Niffenegger)
  • Paper Towns (John Green)
  • Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie: A Tale of Love and Fallout (Lauren Redniss)
  • Speedboat (Renata Adler)
  • Survival in Auschwitz (Primo Levi)
  • The Days of Abandonment (Elena Ferrante)
  • The Enchanted April (Elizabeth von Armin)
  • The Fault in Our Stars (John Green)
  • The Good Lord Bird (James McBride)
  • The Lost Daughter (Elena Ferrante)
  • The Neapolitan Novels (Elena Ferrante)
    • My Brilliant Friend
    • The Story of a New Name
    • Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay
    • The Story of the Lost Child
  • The Secret History (Donna Tartt) *
  • The Story of My Teeth (Valeria Luiselli)
  • The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (Joan Aiken)
  • Troubling Love (Elena Ferrante)
  • Vacant Possession (Hilary Mantel)
  • Veronica (Mary Gaitskill)

 

The goal: This year is probably the first year in my life that I’ve read more books by women than by men (18:8; last year, it was 9:15). I don’t think I would have achieved this goal if I’d not been intentional about my reading. The plan is to continue this goal in 2016 as well.

Best books I read this year, by far: The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante. Holy smokes. They exceeded the hype and led me to read as many Ferrante books I could get my hands on, plus essays and interviews.

Best surprisingly great book: 10:04. I told myself I would refrain from reading books about white male writers in Brooklyn written by white male writers in Brooklyn, but I made an exception for this one, and I’m glad I did. It was extremely clever.

Books that made me uncomfortable: Veronica and Troubling Love were both so viscerally told. I loved Veronica, which was acidic and awkward and astonishing. Troubling Love, Ferrante’s first novel, is “a smelly book,” as described by a New York Times critic, and I’m not sure I’d re-read it.

Book that disappointed: I looove Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell books. But it was a chore to finish Vacant Possession. And I adored Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, but Case Histories was forgettable. Lastly, I rolled my eyes so many times at Paper Towns, but what was I doing reading YA anyway. I’m an old.

Book that made me stare out the window for a long time after finishing it: Autobiography of Red. It inhabits that perfect space of sad–funny, and some of her lines made me go “oh shit” out loud. I also got to see Antigone at BAM this year, adapting her translation, Antigonick, and it was just as incredible as I’d hoped. I’m late to the party on this one, but oof, have I got a giant literary crush on Anne Carson. You’ll see more of her on next year’s list.

Previously: Books I read in 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009

METROcon 2015 notes

I attended METROcon 2015 (Metropolitan New York Library Council’s Annual Conference) yesterday at Baruch College. This is the third year I’ve gone, and each year I return to my library feeling energized and excited about the cool projects presented and the great people I’ve met. There were many many tweets under the #metrocon15 hashtag.

I forgot my laptop, so I took notes by hand and had a little fun with it.

metrocon15 notes

You can read my notes as a PDF.

I took notes on these sessions:

  • Siva Vaidhyanathan‘s keynote, “The Operating System of Your Life”
    • “The Internet” is an outdated term — it’s no longer this other place, as we are now embedded 24/7 in the digital flow; in addition, it’s no longer the touted network of a global democratic society, because “the internet” is censored, surveilled, and controlled in too many countries.
    • It is the role of libraries & educators to lead the debate about how giant systems (e.g., Google) shape our lives, how we want tech to behave, how to protect privacy, and how to enable civic engagement in a democratic society.
  • The Empire State Digital Network, a service hub of the DPLA
    • Phase 1 almost complete: infrastructure, workflow, guidelines in place, with some contributing partners
    • Phase 2 about to begin: many other institutions to start contributing content
    • New ingest model, Heiðrun
  • Oral History Metadata Synchronizer (OHMS)
    • Offers simultaneous searching in an interview transcript and audio clips (example) — pretty amazing
  • Community Oral History at NYPL
    • Grassroots, volunteer-driven effort to collect hundreds of New York stories. Also amazing.
  • DHbox at CUNY GC
    • A virtual computer lab in the cloud, used in-browser, pre-loaded with DH-friendly software like iPython, NLTK, MALLET, Omeka, R Studio, and more to come, including Gephi
    • Benefits are huge: students don’t have to spend hours learning complex installation process; set up and go!