Peaceful Places: New York City: 129 Tranquil Sites in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island, by Evelyn Kanter
New York City is noted for its hustle and bustle, its hurly-burly, its crazy energy. But sometimes, be you tourist or resident, you need a break, and Kanter will help you find it, wherever you are in the city.
I love the way this book is organized. The basic organization is alphabetical, from the African Burial Ground National Monument to the Yeshiva University Museum, but there is also a listing by area (the bulk are in Manhattan, but the other boroughs are well-represented) and another by category (such as "Enchanting Walks", "Quiet Tables" and "Spiritual Enclaves"). Kanter provides a short description of each place, accompanied by information about directions and hours, admission cost (if any, most of these places are free, though, when it comes to the shops she suggests, they are free, "but of course you are also free to purchase"!), websites, etc. She rates them on a "peacefulness" scale, and notes for some that they are not always serene, but tells you the best times to go. The High Line, a new park built on an abandoned elevated rail line, is a good example. I visited it on a weekday afternoon, and it was relatively tranquil, but at other times it can get quite crowded.
Kanter's narratives tell you why she recommends each place, what she likes about them herself, but also often include very personal memories. Knowing that the textiles of the Metropolitan Museum's Asian galleries remind her of her milliner mother's "pride in her precise stitching" or reading how a visit to Green-Wood cemetery and the grave of Charles Ebbetts brings back memories of listening to baseball games from her grandparents' home, makes this more than an ordinary guidebook.
Anyone who has spent time in New York will doubtless have her own special "peaceful places". Had I written this book, I would have included the Gubbio Studiolo at the Metropolitan Museum and the lovely little garden outside the Japan Society's galleries.
But I also found myself nodding in agreement with many of Kanter's choices, and making mental notes to visit others when I am next in New York.
I wish I'd had this book before I went to New York earlier this year! I'll definitely bring it next time I go.