Adel Souto’s This Hidden City is described as “a tour of New York City’s esoteric side.” As someone who is into weird, non-touristy stuff when I travel, that sounds right up my alley. In addition, I lead walking tours around Boston for my job where I like to highlight such random odds and ends. So I went into reading this book with some high expectations.
Overall I wasn’t let down. The book is based off of a blog of the same name that Souto started in 2013. In the book he goes through each borough and covers the oddities that a lot of locals aren’t even aware of. With each site, he begins with directions of where to find the site. He also gives a history of the site or people connected to it. The info can be quite extensive—it’s clear Souto really did his research. (The academic in me would’ve liked to see some citations in case the reader wanted to do further reading.) There’s no rhyme or reason for choosing a site; they’re just places Souto heard about and found interesting. Throughout This Hidden City he’s included dozens of black and white photographs that are clean and clear. These very much add to the value of the book.
Most of the material is related to Manhattan although the other boroughs and a couple islands are included. There are old forts, abandoned spaces, parks, memorials, statues, and more. I appreciated that Souto included the 1920 bombing of Wall Street, a fascinating historical attack by anarchists. He also schooled me on some preconceived notions I had, including the final resting place (the Bronx, not Long Island) of colonial religious reformer, Anne Hutchinson. There is so much cool, random material here that it outweighs some of my concerns.
My primary issue is the lack of guidance within the content. There are no page numbers or a table of contents. There’s not an index, either. If you’re looking for a particular site or type of place to visit, you’ll have to scan the entire book. There is a small map of each borough with number locations for sites before each borough’s section, but it would’ve been more helpful to have a street map before each location showing the surrounding streets.
That all being said, this book is pretty badass and one that I will keep, in the hope that I can get to New York City and check out some of these amazing, unique sites. If you live in the city or are planning a visit, you owe it to yourself to pick up a copy of This Hidden City and get a different view of the Big Apple. –Kurt Morris (adelsouto.com)