3 books on New York City neighborhoods

Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 4, 2011; 1:08 PM

"I Love New York" is not only a popular ad campaign to promote tourism in the Empire State. It also sums up the affection felt by millions who call the Big Apple home. Three new titles explore the city's diverse neighborhoods, history and charm.

1 HEART OF THE CITY: Nine Stories of Love and Serendipity on the Streets of New York, by Ariel Sabar (Da Capo, $24). In the "I Heart New York" episode of the HBO series "Sex and the City," the main character, Carrie Bradshaw, says, "Sometimes in New York, life is what happens when you're waiting for a table." This observation goes to the heart of Ariel Sabar's new book, which was inspired by his parents' chance encounter in Washington Square Park and the romance that followed. That "serendipity" inspired Sabar to tell the true stories of couples who fell in love and married after an initial meeting in one of New York's myriad public spaces.

2 MY KOREAN DELI: Risking It All for a Convenience Store, by Ben Ryder Howe (Henry Holt, $25). The premise for this offbeat memoir is the decision by Ben Howe and his wife, Gab, to repay her mother, Kay, for all the sacrifices she has made by buying a market for her to manage (as she had once done in her native Korea). Their exhausting, frustrating search for the perfect market is the basis for an amusing take on familial relations and class distinctions.

3 HARLEM IS NOWHERE: A Journey to the Mecca of Black America, by Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts (Little, Brown, $24.99). Only 31, Rhodes-Pitts has already achieved considerable renown as an essayist. After moving to New York from Texas, she took an apartment on Lenox Avenue in Harlem and soon became one with the neighborhood. These essays feature her meanderings along its streets, gazing at old buildings, empty lots and the alarming tide of gentrification and trying to define what Harlem was and is.

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