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New York Society Library Announces 2015 New York City Book Award Winners

Contact: Erika Bleiberg, public relations consultant


Sole Literary Award that Focuses on Books Featuring New York City

New York, New York— April 11, 2016: The New York Society Library announces the winners of its New York City Book Awards. The only literary award to focus specifically on books in which New York City plays a prominent role marks its twentieth anniversary this year. The 2015 winners will be honored in a ceremony at the Library (53 East 79th Street) on May 3, 2016.

This year, five winning books, which span 200 years and multiple genres, were selected by a panel of 12 jurors from a pool of approximately 120 titles.

Established in 1996, the annual awards recognize books of literary quality that evoke the spirit or enhance appreciation of New York City. Winning selections notably feature the city itself in a role that goes beyond being the setting or backdrop. As New York’s oldest cultural institution, the New York Society Library has a unique perspective on the city and a long-standing commitment to the literary vitality of its residents.

“Over the past 262 years, the New York Society Library has built an impressive collection of books featuring the history and spirit of this great city,” said Carolyn Waters, Head Librarian. “Our annual book awards are a way to recognize the city that has been our home for centuries and the gifted writers who inspire us to think more deeply about ourselves as New Yorkers.”

The noted authors of the 2015 New York City Book Awards include a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, eminent New Yorkers, and academics. Their books represent a variety of publishing categories, including culture, history, biography, and urban planning. They cover topics such as the fascinating history of the city’s grid plan, Coney Island, a groundbreaking biography of Wall Street’s first African-American millionaire, and the little-known life story of the first Black officer in the New York Police Department.

According to longtime New York City Book Awards juror and current jury chair Lucienne S. Bloch, book submissions and winners represent the richness and diversity of the city itself.

“It’s really all about the writing,” said Ms. Bloch. “We look for books that capture the magnetism and complexity of New York City – written in a way that enhances the reader’s viewpoint. As jurors, we want to be surprised by a new or unusual perspective on the city.”  

This year’s New York City Book Awards winners:

- Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland 1861-2008
Robin Jaffee Frank (Chief Curator at Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art), The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art/Yale University Press This illustrated 304-page catalog includes the first sustained visual analysis of great works of art about Coney Island, with essays by distinguished cultural historians including Charles Denson, Executive Director of the Coney Island History Project and winner of a 2002 New York City Book Award.

- Prince of Darkness: The Untold Story of Jeremiah G. Hamilton, Wall Street’s First Black Millionaire
Shane White, St. Martin’s Press A groundbreaking biography of Wall Street’s first African-American financier, Jeremiah Hamilton, who in the 19th century competed with icons such as Cornelius Vanderbilt and became the nation’s first Black millionaire.

- City on a Grid: How New York Became New York
Gerard Koeppel, (CBS News producer), Da Capo Press Conceived and begun in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, this book casts new light on the development of New York City's iconic street grid, with a colorful cast of characters and lively anecdotes.

- One Righteous Man: Samuel Battle and the Shattering of the Color Line in New York
Arthur Browne (Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, New York Daily News Editorial Page Editor), Beacon Press Documents the history of African Americans in New York City from the 1910s to 1960 through the life story of Samuel Battle, the first Black officer in the New York Police Department.

The Hornblower Award:
The annual Hornblower Award, established in 2011, honors a debut book about New York City. This year’s recipient is Tom Glynn for his vivid history Reading Publics: New York City’s Public Libraries, 1754-1911 (Empire State Editions/Fordham University Press). The book examines New York City’s public libraries over more than a century and a half and explains how the public and private functions of reading have changed over time.

Special Citations:
The jury occasionally awards special citations for a body of work that it believes deserves recognition. This year, citations will be awarded to two iconic New York City writers who both published books in 2015: Roger Angell, an American essayist, sports writer and regular contributor to The New Yorker whose latest book is This Old Man: All in Pieces (Doubleday) and Vivian Gornick, an American critic, journalist, essayist, and memoirist whose most recent book is The Odd Woman and the City: A Memoir (Farrar, Straus and Giroux).

A Retrospective of Winners
Each year, the New York Society Library’s team of jurors embarks on the quest to discover new books about New York City. These books, each with its own story and focus, help readers to see New York through a different prism – as a living, breathing character. While the books may have other primary subjects, New York City is undoubtedly also a protagonist. An example, according to longtime juror Lucienne S. Bloch, is J.D. Salinger’s novel Catcher in the Rye.

“Catcher in the Rye is the quintessential New York book, and the city is as much a part of the coming-of-age story as Holden Caulfield himself,” explained Ms. Bloch. “But it was published in 1951, decades before the Library launched the New York City Book Awards. Were it a newly published book, it most certainly would win.”

For a complete list of New York City Book Awards winners, go to the New York Society Library’s website.

The New York Society Library will display this year’s winning books with a selection of past honorees in the Library’s public Reference Room through the end of May 2016. The Reference Room is open during the Library’s open hours. The 2015-2016 New York City Book Awards are generously underwritten by Ellen M. Iseman.


About The New York Society Library
The New York Society Library was founded in 1754 and is the city’s oldest library. The Library is open to all for reading, reference, and many events, with circulation and other services by subscription. The beautiful landmark building dates from 1917 and includes reading rooms, spaces for study, stacks, and the Assunta, Ignazio, Ada and Romano Peluso Exhibition Gallery. The Library has approximately 300,000 volumes and hosts a variety of events for adults and children. General information about the Library can be found at www.nysoclib.org.