New York Diaries, edited by Teresa Carpenter

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If you plan to buy a book for anyone between the ages of 16 and 96, I have just the book for you. But plan to buy two copies. You’ll want to keep one. New York Diaries is the coolest book – what Teresa Carpenter has done is to tell the story of New York City through diary entries written since 1609. The entries begin on January 1 and continue through the year. They are written by famous people and visitors, but every peek into someone’s diary makes you think about the passage of time – and how fast it goes.

On July 11, 1804 “Gouverneur” Morris wrote: “General Hamilton was killed in a duel this morning by Colonel Burr.”  And then 182 years later in July 1986, Andy Warhol wrote “Arnold Schwarzenegger was having a party for the Statue of Liberty at Cafe Seiyoken and I wasn’t even invited. And I wasn’t invited to Caroline Kennedy’s wedding either.” Because Carpenter’s book is organized by day, rather than year, it is especially enlightening to see how things have changed – or not – over time. An entry I read this morning “…a panic prevails which will result in bankruptcies and ruin in many quarters…” could have been written last year or in the 1930s, but was actually written in 1833.

There are also entries from diaries written after the events of September 11, 2001. “The World Trade Center doesn’t exist anymore. This is very weird,” writes a blogger.

Carpenter’s book will not be shelved in our house. I’m leaving it out so that my husband, son and I can pick it up anytime we want a reminder of how much we share with those who came before us.


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