You've heard of gateway drugs? Marijuana leading to heroin? Well, let me introduce you to one of my most dangerous gateway books…
Dreamland by Kevin Baker - This was my first experience with 'historical fiction'; the very term used to make me cringe. Cracking this book open, I walked into a time machine and found myself washed up on the shores of early 1900's Coney Island; host to Dreamland and Luna Park. Baker mixes in gangsters, Triangle Factory workers, midgets, Freud and Jung, Tammany Hall bosses, opium dens and Bowery bars with a glossary to the colorful terms used by the Irish, Jewish and other characters populating the book. I became obsessed with turn of the century
Five Points by Tyler Anbinder - I believe this to be the definitive book on the neighborhood. Ponder how many people were crammed into each square foot. Relive the stench and the sounds and the sights. That might sound depressing; it's anything but. A classic in urban studies.
When you think about how one of the roughest neighborhoods ever produced so much culture (music, dancing, writing), it's truly astounding. This is where the freed slaves met the freed Irish, which disgusted Charles Dickens enough to write home to
Hopefully this has inspired you to think about the dangerous path books can lead you down.