The City in Seventy-Seven

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx Is BurningIf ever there was a perfect summer book for me, it’s Jonathan Mahler’s “Ladies and Gentleman, the Bronx Is Burning,” which I finished last week. It’s a completely absorbing tale of New York in 1977, when the city was besieged by fiscal crisis, arson, serial murders, blackouts and divisive politics, a time when New York seemed literally on the brink of a final, catastrophic end. Through meticulous research and a masterful feat of narrative contrivance, Mahler posits that year’s Yankees ballclub — itself stricken with internal strife between the erratic paranoia of manager Billy Martin and the outsized ego of new addition Reggie Jackson — as a metaphor for the city’s troubles, and uses the team’s progression over the course of the year to tell profound, fascinating stories about baseball and an iteration of New York that, in its very character, is almost unrecognizable from its twenty-first century self. New York, politics and baseball — what’s not to like?