Thankfully, Campanella takes a practical approach: Instead of attempting a chronology that traces themes or communities through the decades and centuries, he treats each chapter as a self-contained deep dive into a particular part of the borough ... For the purposes of this illuminating and sometimes maddening book, the history of Brooklyn is a series of experiments with unpredictable and uneven results ... In what might be the book’s most fascinating and evocative chapter, Campanella explores the little-known history of Barren Island ... The story of Brooklyn in the late 20th and early 21st centuries is much better known than anything else in this book, and as such it gets relatively short shrift ... His final paragraphs urge readers to 'flee the twee' and follow him south, toward the 'Guyanese grills and Dominican bodegas' where 'life is still lived unposed and uncurated and close to the bone.' This conclusion deserves a closer look. If a quest for authenticity is the motor of gentrification, why on earth is Campanella encouraging his readers to follow him into the outwash plain? ... Campanella has a right to his Brooklyn, but the rest of us do too, whatever the highlights on our particular historical walking tours might be.
A lively biography of New York’s second borough ... Campanella delights in overturning received wisdom as he moves from place to place ... Of particular interest are Campanella’s concluding remarks on the nature of the gentrification now affecting so much of Brooklyn, which involves a stifling lust for authenticity ... Teeming with information, this is a must-read for fans of urban history.