Soul Of New York By Tarajia Morrell: Book Review And Interview

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How do you sum up a city in just 30 experiences? And is it even possible with one of the most complex, ever-changing, cities in the world? Tarajia Morrell has attempted this challenging task with Soul of New York, a new title from Jonglez Publishing. I spoke to the author about the book and how she tackled the writing of it.

Writing Soul Of New York

Black and white picture of a woman sitting in a kitchen surrounded by pots and pans

Tarajia Morrell is a lifelong New Yorker who describes herself as “a freelance food and travel journalist who is always hungry”. She told me she tried to approach the city as if she were a first time visitor. No mean task: “New York City is a particularly tricky place to plan a visit to, because it’s perpetually reinventing itself, with new restaurants, museums, parks and shops popping up all the time”.

Tarajia said she tried to include a mixture of “forever favorites” and new places that encapsulate the spirit of the city. The result is a patchwork of everything that New York has to offer, a mosaic of brunch and cocktails, of walks in the park and carousel rides. As the introduction says, it is as much about the journey as the destination. The reader is invited to “pick and choose and leave wanting more”.

A City With Many Faces

There is so much to choose from in New York. A tiny hotel room with a maritime history, and a tennis court in an iconic railway station. The pseudo-Roman baths where you can soak in salt water… or in red wine. And a bar with walls painted by a children’s book illustrator.

You can stay in a former sailors’ resting place (photo copyright The Jane Hotel)

Lots of the entries feature food and drink, but it is as much about the ambience and the socialising as the food itself. We have American classics like burgers and pizza, and a massive array of choices from different cuisines (I was very tempted by the “retro-quirky Thai American diner”). Then there is some discussion about how and why to approach food – “how to eat a slice [of pizza]”  or “what is the purpose of brunch”?

Not everything is obscure or hidden away. We see Central Park through the eyes of the locals, a place to picnic, walk with friends, or skate on the ice… There are interviews with people whose lives are bound up with the city: restaurant owners, a food critic, a baker. And the book is full of colour photographs and line drawings.

Some Added Extras

Actually you can’t really sum up New York in just 30 experiences, so the author manages to sneak in some extras! And some entries are complete areas, so that we have a “morning in Harlem”, or “how to conquer Queens”. An added bonus is the tips for tourists: not the standard guide book offerings, but the time-saving, life-enhancing hacks that New Yorkers use every day.

Large spa bath in a darkened room
A luxury bathing experience (photo copyright Aire Ancient Baths)

I asked Tarajia what was her favourite of all the experiences in the book. This proved to be a difficult question to answer – “I love them all,” she said. However she eventually chose the very first entry, an “extremely fancy and expensive martini in one of the most architecturally important rooms in the city”, immediately followed by a cheap but delicious burger in “a hidden hole in the wall”. This contrast, she said, was emblematic of her approach to the city and to the book.

Quick Fire Questions

Cover of Soul of New York, showing a woman crossing a street towards a tall building

Can you sum up for my readers what Soul of New York is about?

Soul of New York is about celebrating the sometimes infuriating, but always compelling, intensity and rhythm of the city and all that it offers. 

What advice would you give to a first time visitor to New York?

Walk, walk, walk. Make every meal count. Talk to strangers. Don’t go the wrong way in the bike lane. Smile. 

Finally, how would you describe New York in 5 words?

Impossible, brave, incendiary, delicious, unstoppable. 

This is a book to inspire and to inform. The final word goes to Tarajia: “Let New York exhaust you. It will be worth it”.

Soul of New York, Tarajia Morrell, Jonglez Publishing, 2021, 9782361953911

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Karen Warren

WorldWideWriter is owned and managed by Karen Warren.

I have been writing and travelling for many years (almost 70 countries at the last count), and I’ve visited every continent except Antarctica. This website is my attempt to inform and inspire other travellers, and to share some of the things I’ve discovered along the way. Read more…

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