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All statues are raised, but relatively few are razed; when they are, somebody is always upset. In recent years, statues have been vandalized, pulled down by crowds and plucked from public plinths and placed in secret warehouses in the dead of night—to both applause and outcry. Whenever a statue is removed, the same questions arise: Are we erasing history? Wasn't he just a man of his time? Is this the beginning of a slippery slope?

In Fallen Idols: Twelve Statues That Made History, historian Alex von Tunzelmann addresses these questions by examining 12 different case histories of statues from around the world that fell (literally) out of favor. Tunzelmann makes the argument that statues are not history but rather representations of history. Josef Stalin's statues were propaganda to justify his grip on the Soviet Union, for example, not depictions of historical fact. The statue of Robert E. Lee in New Orleans was erected as part of a deliberate campaign to rewrite the history of the Civil War by self-avowed white supremacists.

It's clear from Fallen Idols that there are many reasons to tear down a statue. Removing Stalin's statue in Budapest was the start of a revolution. Pulling down Saddam Hussein's statue was a symbolic end to the Iraq War—a symbol that turned out to be disastrously wrong. Taking down a statue can also be an act of truth telling. Leopold II of Belgium was not a benevolent ruler of the Congo, for example, even though that's how monuments depict him. Even during his lifetime, he was widely condemned for his bloodthirsty exploitation and colonization of the Congolese. In cases like these, Tunzelmann finds that, far from erasing history, the eradication of a statue can actually illuminate it.

In discussing these and other statues, Tunzelmann invites us to consider all public monuments. What are these statues commemorating? What are they hiding? Are there other, better ways to depict history in public spaces without resorting to images of great men (or women)? Fallen Idols is an illuminating guide to a much-needed discussion about history and how it is represented.

Historian Alex von Tunzelmann examines 12 different case histories of statues from around the world that fell (literally) out of favor.

"Part of loving New York is just mourning the hell out of it." With lines like that, you can't help but listen to the treasure trove of rich stories compiled in Craig Taylor's New Yorkers: A City and Its People in Our Time (14 hours). 

The author of a similar compendium of stories of life across the big pond, Londoners, Taylor spent six years interviewing 180 New Yorkers, some briefly, some over the course of several years, filling 71 notebooks and more than 400 hours of recordings. Steering clear of publicists and government officials to avoid familiar talking points, Taylor sought out New Yorkers from every walk of life to tell their stories and to share their place in the city, ranging from mothers and nurses to window washers. 

The audiobook brings this "profusion of voice in New York" even further into the realm of oral history, with a cast that includes such New Yorkers as Catherine Ho, Luis Moreno and more. "This city barged into conversations," Taylor says. With that kind of attitude, you'll have no choice but to listen in.

Read our review of the print version of New Yorkers.

“This city barged into conversations,” Craig Taylor says about New Yorkers. With that kind of attitude, you’ll have no choice but to listen in.

In January 2014, Canadian writer Craig Taylor relocated to New York City with a mission: He would interview New Yorkers about themselves and their city, similar to the task he undertook to create his 2012 book, Londoners. Over six years, Taylor interviewed more than 180 people and recorded 400 hours of conversations. The final product is New Yorkers: A City and Its People in Our Time, which contains 75 oral histories about America’s most populous metropolis.

Taylor groups the book by themes, such as wealth, stress and “hustle.” An array of only-in-New-York careers are represented, such as a security guard at the Statue of Liberty and an electrician for the Empire State Building. Nearly all the isolated stories are interesting; there are only a few duds.


ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: The audiobook for New Yorkers brings this “profusion of voice in New York” even further into the realm of oral history.


The emotional heart of New Yorkers can be found in the testimonies of people who directly experienced the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Hurricane Sandy and the COVID-19 pandemic. Reading firsthand accounts of these extraordinary events is poignant and resonant. Likewise, the New Yorkers who share their experiences with homelessness and racism reveal as much about these societal scourges as the best reportage could.

All of that said, New York City is home to roughly 8.5 million people, so readers will inevitably emerge with the feeling that plenty of stories were left out. For example, even with the number of women included in the book, the overall collection leans toward traditionally masculine occupations. Why not include a manicurist, an OB-GYN, a burlesque dancer or a personal shopper from Bergdorf Goodman? And how could a book about New York City include no public school teachers or librarians?

To this end, New Yorkers is more of a collection of Taylor’s own experiences in New York City than a comprehensive representation. Nevertheless, it’s a delightful book for anyone with an interest in New York—and a reminder that everyone has a story, if we’re willing to listen.

In January 2014, Canadian writer Craig Taylor relocated to New York City with a mission: He would interview New Yorkers about themselves and their city.

As the holidays approach, it may seem harder and harder for some of us to find the sense of easy joy we associate with this time of year. The discourse within our country feels more fraught than it's ever been, traveling for the holidays is out of the question for many families, and sometimes in our most frustrated moments, it can seem like there's little worth celebrating.

America the Beautiful: A Story in Photographs reminds us of the incredible landscapes and rich heritage that are more than worth holding on to. Photographs spanning decades have been pulled from National Geographic's vast archives to honor each American state and region, while beloved citizens as diverse as Maya Rudolph, Mitt Romney, Jewel and Nick Saban share statements and stories of how their home states have shaped them. Thick, glossy spreads showcase the mountains of Colorado and the white sands of New Mexico. On other pages, the lens closes in tight on a vineyard worker gathering grapes in Oregon, Tejano elementary school students smiling brightly into the camera in Texas and a pineapple harvester in Hawaii ending her day with a cigar.

This beautiful hardcover book feels like a loving reminder of the best our nation has to offer.

This beautiful hardcover book feels like a loving reminder of the best our nation has to offer.

For the spookiest month of the year, reading groups will love this quartet of slightly unsettling titles.

Sorcery abounds in Pam Grossman's Waking the Witch: Reflections on Women, Magic, and Power. Grossman goes deep into the subject of witchery, digging into imagery, symbolism and—through evaluations of Salem, Massachusetts, and other storied locales—the significance of witches in history. She also looks at depictions of witches in books, movies and television shows. Grossman, a popular podcaster and active witch, writes with authority and wit, spinning a magical narrative that book clubs will find both instructive and playful. This book is a provocative study of an endlessly fascinating figure and a treat for mere mortals in search of a rewarding seasonal read.

The Life and Afterlife of Harry Houdini by Joe Posnanski unpacks America's fascination with the extraordinary escape artist and magician. Posnanski gives a captivating account of the elusive Houdini (1874–1926), whose real name was Ehrich Weiss and who grew up in an immigrant family in Wisconsin. There are many rich ideas at play in this book, including the power of the media and the ways pop culture icons come into being. A whimsical selection for reading groups, it's a captivating look at one of magic's greatest practitioners and how his influence still lingers today.

A strong stomach is not required for readers to enjoy Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History, zoologist Bill Schutt's intriguing study of a dark subject. Schutt traces cannibalism across species and eras, investigating myths and misconceptions while documenting cannibalism's place in the evolutionary process. His narrative is lively and well organized, and it brims with concepts that are ripe for discussion, such as cultural taboos, the survival instinct and genetics.

In Witches of America, Alex Mar travels across the country to investigate the world of modern covens, mys- tics and pagans. Mar is an admitted disbeliever, but as she meets with members of the occult in New England and the Midwest, she finds her perspective shifting. She gives readers inside access to these arcane groups and reveals how they find a foothold in contemporary society. Book clubs will appreciate Mar's evenhanded consideration of topics such as faith and the supernatural. Written with intelligence and an eye for eerie detail, her book is a can't-miss Halloween pick.

For the spookiest month of the year, reading groups will love this quartet of slightly unsettling titles. Sorcery abounds in Pam Grossman's Waking the Witch: Reflections on Women, Magic, and Power. Grossman goes deep into the subject of witchery, digging into imagery, symbolism and—through evaluations of Salem, Massachusetts, and other storied locales—the significance of witches […]

The nights are getting longer, the weather is getting colder, and Hanukkah is just around the corner.


Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, celebrates both an ancient military victory and the flame of a tiny oil lamp miraculously lasting for eight days. It’s a chance for families to light candles in a menorah, say blessings, exchange gifts . . . and read books! Two new offerings are perfect for Hanukkah gift-giving.

The Newish Jewish Encyclopedia by Stephanie Butnick, Liel Leibovitz & Mark Oppenheimer
The hosts of Tablet magazine’s “Unorthodox” podcast branch out into book format with The Newish Jewish Encyclopedia, a compendium of all things Jewish, covering everything from bagels to the Book of Life, Shabbat to “Seinfeld.” Alternately irreverent and profound—but always informative—entries range from single sentences (“chutzpah: What it takes to think you can write an encyclopedia of Jewish life”) to four-page spreads (check out the sections about Jewish gangsters and Jewish Hollywood). Photographs of Jewish people and places abound, and quick-reference sections about holidays answer such questions as “What do we do?” and “Anything good to eat?” 

The Newish Jewish Encyclopedia is a great gift for the Jewish maven in your life who’d relish quoting facts about the history of the garment industry or brushing up on their Yiddish curses.

The Jewish Cookbook by Leah Koenig
You can never have too many cookbooks, and The Jewish Cookbook by Leah Koenig is one you’ll pull off the shelf over and over again. Sections for standard cookbook fare, such as soups and stews, are joined by Jewish-specific chapters (“Dumplings, Noodles, and Kugels” is a go-to), and symbols indicate when a recipe is gluten-free, vegan or meets other criteria for ingredients or prep time. 

Dozens of photographs show Ashkenazi favorites like braided challah, fruit-drenched blintzes and crisp pickles alongside curried fish balls from South Africa, coconut rice from India and beloved Middle Eastern desserts like sweet egg meringue and sufganiyot (jelly donuts). You’ll find recipes from chefs at renowned restaurants and for food-specific holidays like Passover. Best of all, every recipe begins with a story: where the recipe comes from, what traditions surround it and how it can best be accompanied. 

Give The Jewish Cookbook to a Jewish cook who wants to combine the tastes of their childhood (wherever it may have been) with adventurous forays into Jewish cooking around the world.

The nights are getting longer, the weather is getting colder, and Hanukkah is just around the corner.

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