Nonstop Metropolis, the latest book by author and activist Rebecca Solnit and geographer Joshua Jelly-Schapiro, dives into the history, culture, diversity, and framework of New York to see what the city is really made of. The book is part of a trilogy, including Infinite City (San Francisco) and Unfathomable City (New Orleans), and features maps and essays from the city’s best artists, thinkers, and writers.
Within its pages, you’ll find a map that identifies the wildlife in the city to a map that outlines the famous women residents of the city. In the introduction written by Solnit, she says that the book is an exploration of “what maps can do to describe the ingredients and systems that make up a city and what stories remain to be told after we think we know where we are.”
Many of the maps and essays in the book uncover the hidden system that keeps New York moving. In “Thirsts and Ghosts,” an essay written by Heather Smith, we learn where the city’s water comes from, one source being the 85-mile-long Delaware Aqueduct that was built some time in the early 1900s. Smith goes on to describe how run-down the aqueduct has become, spilling enough water every day to provide for 500,000 people, “watering a phantom metropolis north of the city.” The underground tunnel system is what actually brings the water into New York City while the electricity is supplied by a distant hydroelectric plant in a Canadian forest. The map alongside Smith’s essay charts the 19 reservoirs in upstate New York that provide water for the city, along with the city’s sources for electricity, gas, and more.
The book also features an essay written by Suketu Mehta, “Tower of Scrabble,” that describes the diverse languages that can be found throughout New York. The essay written by the book’s editor, Garnette Cadogan, offers a reflection on the humans of New York and the diverse immigrant population that the city is comprised of.
So much of New York City is explored in Nonstop Metropolis, ranging from the city’s social histories to its cultural makeup. With a place as diverse and fascinating as New York City, there’s plenty to explore and discover.