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Twenty Minutes in Manhattan Hardcover – June 30, 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Reaktion Books (June 30, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1861894287
  • ISBN-13: 978-1861894281
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 6 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #539,108 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Architecture critic and CUNY professor Sorkin (Against the Wall: Israel's Barrier to Peace) sets out with the simple task of narrating the daily commute from his Greenwich Village apartment to his studio in Tribeca. The result, a book of essays that's both memoir and sociohistorical study, is anything but pedestrian. Sorkin covers a range of material, from the history of NYC tenement laws to the sociological ramifications of Disneyland to his own battle with an avaricious landlord. Taking the torch from late urban activist Jane Jacobs, Sorkin discusses the ideological function of the urban neighborhood and its citizens, particularly as an antidote to the commercializing, gentrifying, homoginizing effects of capitalism. Historical and architectural details are considered at length; the Washington Square arch, for example, was "erected to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of George Washington's inaugural," but later used by Marcel Duchamp and John Sloan "to declare the independence of the 'Republic of Greenwich Village.'" Sorkin also profiles current residents like his elderly neighbor Jane, "an active presence at the community garden" who once "propelled herself from her chair to thwart a mugging across the street." Delightful and informative, this romp will please anyone with affection for the big city.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

"This walk through the city shows Michael Sorkin at his witty and knowledgeable best. From the stairs of his small apartment house to the pyramids of Chichen Itza, from Local Law 45 to the motto of the Hanseatic League, Sorkin takes us on a journey through eras and worlds in the space of just 15 blocks. Better to spend 20 minutes with him than 24 hours with a standard tourist guide!"

(Sharon Zukin, author of Naked City)

"I am glad Sorkin doesn't take the subway: this is the most brilliant epitome of Manhattan ever written." – Mike Davis

(Mike Davis)

"Not since the great Jane Jacobs has there been a book this good about the day-to-day life of New York. Sorkin writes like an American Montaigne, riffing freely off his personal experience (sometimes happy, sometimes frustrating) to arrive at general insights about New York and about cities everywhere."

(Robert Campbell)

"Sorkin comes from a neighborhood of great urbanists—Lewis Mumford, Jane Jacobs, Grace Paley—and he belongs in their company. A short walk with him through the West Village turns into an adventure. He is one of the smartest and most original people writing about New York and about city life today."

(Marshall Berman, author of On The Town: One Hundred Years of Spectacle in Times)

"In his delightful book, Michael Sorkin writes about New York from a flaneur’s perspective. Focusing on a 20-minute walk from his apartment to his studio, the author – one of architecture’s most consistent and consistently interesting critical voices – meanders through architecture, urbanism, sociology, politics and history . . . Quirky, erudite and occasionally frustrating in its movement between the personal, the political and the physical, every city should have its Michael Sorkin."– Financial Times

(Financial Times)

"Architecture critic and CUNY professor Michael Sorkin sets out with the simple task of narrating the daily commute from his Greenwich Village apartment to his studio in Tribeca. The result, a book of essays that's both memoir and sociohistorical study, is anything but pedestrian. . . . Delightful and informative, this romp will please anyone with affection for the big city."
(Publishers Weekly)

"The trove of thumbnail sketches and obscure facts is augmented with fascinating ruminations about the socio-political ins and outs of the business of construction and urban renewal in New York City, the intricate socioeconomic consequences that result, and the ethical ramifications of these undertakings."– James Sclavunos, Times (UK)

(Times (UK))

"If you want an introduction to what has been said and thought about the city around the world, and also what has been built and unbuilt as a result of all this theorising, this is probably as good a guide as can be had. Follow Sorkin on his walk, and you will certainly be better informed and perhaps a bit wiser as well."– Joseph Rykwert, Architects’ Journal

(Architects' Journal)

"No one writes better about architecture and urbanism in the United States than Sorkin. He is a tireless campaigner against cliché . . . perhaps his most personal book to date."– Blueprint

(Blueprint)

"Michael Sorkin has long been the bad boy of architectural criticism."
(New York Observer)

"Michael Sorkin is fascinated by the myriad ways architectural details foster or inhibit community, neighborliness, safety, diversity, and intimacy. Sorkin has a light hand with history (he is never overbearing) and a worldly way with facts and anecdotes."
(Los Angeles Times)

"This book captures architect Sorkin wandering through lower Manhattan, where even the most banal-seeming sights send the author into casually fascinating digressions about urban planning, the history behind New York's grid, stoops, and parks. After looking at the city through this ambler's eyes, you'll never look at a tenement building--or a stairwell--the same way again."
(Time Out New York)

"His architecture criticism is best understood as a series of jazz solos. In each chapter, Sorkin takes a structure or a place and riffs on it, taking the theme to unanticipated places, his lifetime of experiences as architecture professor, practitioner, critic, and world traveler all informing his work."
(Daniel Brook Next American City)

"With this book Michael Sorkin secures his claim to succeed Jane Jacobs . . . . He brings to bear an eye every bit as acute, a pen nearly as trenchant, and a political understanding perhaps a little bit more sophisticated of the never-ending struggle over New York's neighborhoods."
(Times Literary Supplement)

"Sorkin's architectural criticism can be smugly iconoclastic, but this is a wry and illuminating provocation: New York seen from the perspective of the author's daily stroll from his Greenwich Village apartment through Washington Square to his office in Tribeca. Along the way enjoy reflections on the privatization of public space, the uses and abuses of preservation, the ambiguous legacy of modernism - ultimately, all the strands of urban life."--John King, San Francisco Chronicle

(San Francisco Chronicle)

"His observations about buildings, parks, urban design, and city planning should inspire anyone who cares about the future of cities."
(Philadelphia Inquirer)

"The architecture critic turns his walk from his apartment in Greenwich Village to his studio into an erudite but utterly engaging reverie on the nature of cities."—Paul Goldberger, New Yorker Bookbench Blog
(New Yorker)

"Originally intended as a 'low-keyed memoir of the everyday,' Twenty Minutes in Manhattan delivers a far from mundane cache of urban insights."
(Azure)

"Lively and throught=provoking. . . . Would anyone really trust the ruminations of a self-styled New York expert were he not obstinate, curmudgeonly, and opinionated?"
(Julia Galef Metropolis POV)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By John Young on October 9, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Michael Sorkin has written the best book on architecture and cities I have read in thirty years.

The groaning tables of books on architecture and its vulgar opposite, real estate, have been near collapse from useless piles of theories, career promotions, trashing old houses, freezing relics, flipping toxic properties, making tidy fortunes by deceiving yearning home buyers, and most of all boosting the pathetic dreams of new urbanists out to out-do Disneyesque fantasists.

Sorkin shows that cities are far better than they have been made out to be by defilers of the landscape who want to ruin them in order to sell new, improved cleansing soapsuds.

By walking daily from his home to studio along a small chunk of lower Manhattan, historicized Greenwich Village to tonified Tribeca, Sorkin has gestated thousands of eye-widening insights about what works in cities and what doesn't.

He gives little credit to aggressive professional planners in thrall to rich developers, instead he bestows awards on street entrepreneurs and neighborhood believers. He wonderfully and informatively describes details of large failures and small successes in New York City, the United States, Europe, Asia and elsewhere he has traveled to lecture and study -- many sure to start as headshaking before erupting as in belly-laughs.

Incivil discourse -- urban warfare -- gets special attention, the worst and the best, the enduring homicidal threat of infernal vehicles against pedestrians fighting for their lives.
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I ordered this as a gift for my husband and he loved it. We visit New York several times a year and he loves to walk the different neighborhoods. He really enjoyed the book.
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I'm an Australian who loves New York. This book took me through a series of architectural journeys not only around the precinct in which the author lives and works but with excursions into many other areas around the world. This provided a broad context as well as the detail. I also loved that he knew and admired Jane Jacobs.

Having excellent maps of New York and having walked much of this precinct, I was able to follow him in great detail. All in all, a very enjoyable book for one of my predelictions about both architecture and New York.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful By C. Walker on February 1, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Twenty Minutes in Manhattan is a must for anyone interested in the architecture and social fabric of life in New York. My son and I found it fascinating and although a bit dry n places - well worth the time. Can be read in small chunks as time allows.Twenty Minutes in Manhattan
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