Humans of New York: Stories
St. Martin’s Press
Read for The 2016 YALSA Hub Reading Challenge
Alex Award winner
What started out as a jobless guy wandering the streets of New York City with a camera became an Internet sensation – Humans of New York. You’ve read the blog, followed the Facebook posts, and now you can own the book. The stories and photos in the book are taken directly from the blog, so there’s no special content that you couldn’t find online. It is curated and loosely organized by theme. There are no headings or chapter distinctions, but if you read it from cover to cover, you’ll notice that similar stories are grouped together. The layout is clean with only one or two stories per page. Bottom line, it’s a great coffee table book, but if you follow HONY closely online, you’ll probably have read most of these stories.
What I find more interesting about HONY is the similar online communities, websites, and Facebook accounts it has spawned in other cities around the world. I occasionally check out Humans of Jerusalem and have actually recognized people on the street who were profiled on it. There’s also some good parody accounts, my favorite being Pigeons of Boston, which sadly appears to have stopped being updated last fall.
Brandon Stanton has had a huge impact on online story-sharing landscape by compassionately promoting others’ humanity, celebrating diversity, and interacting face-to-face on behalf of an Internet community, all of which I think is awesome and is the recipe of his success. Here’s a short NPR interview where he explains the beginnings of HONY and what it takes to walk up to strangers in New York City.
Every year the Young Adult Library Services Association’s literature blog, The Hub, hosts a challenge to read at least 25 YA titles that were awarded or honored by the Youth Media Awards that year in a limited amount of time (this year the challenge runs January 25 through June 23). This is my first year doing it, and of course, I’ll be blogging all about the books I’m reading here. You can also find the books I plan to read on my Hub Challenge Goodreads shelf.
While there are 90-some-odd titles to choose from, my choices will be limited to whatever titles I can get in e-book from my libraries back in Boston, making it a little extra challenging. I’m living in Israel up until the last 3 weeks of the challenge and English books are expensive and difficult to find here. If I run out of options near the end, I may be forced to buy an e-book or two but I’m going to get as far as I can on library books.
Anyone can participate in the challenge, so please sign up! You can read more about the challenge – guidelines, a list of eligible books, prizes – and declare your participation at The Hub blog.
Rosalind went from having two moms to none at all due to a car accident involving a truck full of “foodstuffs” – turduckens, specifically. Now she has Sean, college friend of her moms and the sperm donor that made Rosalind possible. They have never met, and Sean, single and working as a lawyer who sues schools for a living, has no idea how to take care of a teenager, especially when Rosalind, in her grief, becomes a vegetarian and starts drinking, sneaking out in the middle of the night, starting fights as school, and other things one might expect of a grieving teen. Told entirely through computer journal entries, emails, recording transcripts, instant messenger conversations, and other documents (summed up in one of my favorite words – epistolary fiction), Rosalind and Sean’s relationship warms and grows at a believable pace and not without setbacks, and Rosalind’s movement through grief is heartbreaking at times but not overly heavy or angsty. The peripheral characters – Sean’s weed-smoking father, Rosalind’s “Aunt” Karen, Rosalind’s changing friends at school – add depth to Rosalind and Sean’s personal stories and provide welcome side plots and episodes that keep the entire book from being only about the loss of two parents.
I have to admit this isn’t a book I would have normally picked up. I didn’t like the cover much when I got it and I like it even less after having read the book. However, I met Brendan Halpin while I was staffing a library table at a farmer’s market here in Boston and later, after he volunteered to do some free programming at one of our branches, learned that he is a published YA author. So of course I had to check his stuff out, and I’m glad I did! He actually has quite a few books; How Ya Like Me Now? and Forever Changes are next on my list (and currently sitting on my desk at work). He has a blog, and as someone who is thinking of including his books in book talks on my outreach visits to underserved and typically diverse populations, I especially appreciate his post examining his own books for their diversity, or lack thereof. All authors would be well served to be so self-critical.
If you are anything like me, you have a love-hate relationship with series fiction. On the one hand, if I am really into the idea, the story line, the characters, or even just the author’s writing style, I rejoice that there will be plenty more to read. On the other hand, with the volume of books I read and just keeping up with life, I can have a pretty terrible memory. I can remember the general feeling of hating, liking, or loving the book, but the details, especially the details needed to appreciate or understand a sequel, usually elude me.
That’s why Recaptains is my new favorite website! I stumbled across it the other day and was wondering where it had been all my life. In each post, they give a general summary, a bulleted play-by-play of what happened, and a paragraph or two about how the book ended. Recaptains is pretty much spoiler central for those who haven’t read the book, but it’s like recreational reading Cliffs Notes for those who have already read the book (because I NEVER used Cliffs Notes for a book I hadn’t already read. Never.).They have an alphabetical list of the series they have “saved,” and series are also easy to find via the posts’ labels. Gone are the days of anxiety over starting a series on the day it comes out only to have to re-read the whole series every two years when the next one comes out. Thank you, Recaptains. You are my book heroes!