Paris Versus New York: A Tally of Two Cities by Vahram Muratyan

I was looking for a book of Bach cello music when I unearthed this gem from one of the many piles of To-Be Reads squirreled away in my house. I’d gotten it as part of a subscription box devoted to French products and lifestyle, and put it away to enjoy at “another time”. Well, that other time was definitely this weekend, as I took a much-needed brain break between heavy crime novels.

And I’m actually pretty glad I waited, as my French has improved drastically this past year, eliminating the need for me to look up most of the captions on the Paris side of the book. This is actually a great way for learners to ease into French-language books, as Paris/French are on one page while New York and the American equivalent are on the facing (for the most part.) Haha, it’s almost like a board book for adults, deceptively simple while introducing sophisticated concepts to the reader. To be clear, this is not a book for kids, not because of any controversial content but because some of the references may go well over their heads unless they’ve been lucky enough to be raised in both cities.

But I’m being remiss in not properly describing the book itself. In bright colors and elegant linework, Vahram Muratyan, a Frenchman, compares and contrasts the features of two cities he adores. From geography to architecture to culture, he deftly draws out the similarities and differences with a wry sense of humor and a keen eye for detail. It’s a startlingly clever, beautiful book that can be paged through quickly but deserves to be savored.

The book actually grew from a blog project the author started while living in New York City. It became something of a phenomenon, hence the book. And I’m glad this collection came out in physical format, as the blog no longer exists. Websites tend to disappear over time, as platforms rise and ebb away, so having this book is a wonderful snapshot of these two major cities in the 2010s, and Mr Muratyan’s excellent work chronicling the two. You can, however, still follow the author on his website here.

Paris Versus New York: A Tally of Two Cities by Vahram Muratyan was published January 31 2012 by Penguin Books and is available from all good booksellers, including

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