The Real Deal New York

What they’re reading now

Real estate pros share picks for books on NYC history, relationships and Louis Kahn
By Farah Halime | March 01, 2016 10:00AM

edward-rutherfurd-new-yorkPhil Watkins
Principal, Megalith Capital

What are you reading now or what did you recently finish?

I recently finished “New York: A Novel” by Edward Rutherfurd. The book tells the story of New York City’s evolution — from a small Native American fishing village to the booming metropolis of today — as seen through the eyes of a series of fictional families over several generations.

What spurred you to read that book?

As a non-native New Yorker, I’m always interested to learn more about the history of the city and how it developed into the one of the most important places in the world. As a real estate investor, it helps explain why land on a tiny island in New York Bay became so valuable even with the vast land availability and resources of the country.

Has anything in it stuck with you? Would you recommend it?

I think what stuck with me the most was the incredible spirit of the city and its residents to continually evolve and grow while overcoming what seemed like insurmountable obstacles. It highlights the fact that the strength of the city comes from the diversity and driven nature of its citizens and the city’s ability to provide a home and opportunities for all those who come. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about New York City’s history told in a way that’s more entertaining than picking up a textbook.

Michele de Milly
Co-founder and president, Geto & de Milly

What are you reading right now?

Currently on my nightstand is the mediation on love and marriage “Fates and Furies” by Lauren Groff. The protagonist is French, as am I.

What spurred you to read that book?

I came to Lauren Groff’s newest novel in a personal way — we met when she appeared at the Brooklyn Book Festival, which my firm helps to promote. Groff spoke quite eloquently on a panel about the pseudonymous author Elena Ferrante, whose recently completed Neapolitan series I still can’t bear to finish — I’m not ready to part with the characters yet. Groff made interesting connections between Ferrante’s perspective on women and her own, as expressed in “Fates and Furies.”

Has anything you read in it stuck with you? Would you recommend it to others?

Both Groff and Ferrante’s probing considerations of love and family relationships are very much worth checking out. I would recommend Groff’s book to those who are fans of contemporary relationship fiction.

Larry Korman
Co-CEO of Korman Communities and president of AKA

What are you reading now or what did you recently finish?

I’m reading a great book about the writings and conversations of architect Louis Kahn called “What Will Be Has Always Been.” It was written by one of his star pupils and a friend of mine, Richard Saul Wurman. I have every book ever written on Kahn.

What spurred you to read that book?

Richard found an extra copy of this rare book and sent it directly to me along with some architectural files from when Louis was working on my father’s house in 1972. My family and I now live in the house, which is in Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, the last residence built by Louis Kahn. I grew up there and my eldest son grew up in the same room I did.

Has anything in it stuck with you? Would you recommend it?

Yes, I would absolutely recommend this as a book to read a little each night before bed. Kahn’s excerpts often resonate with me. There was one mention of him loving the look of a green leaf against the weathered, silvered wood of his houses. After reading this, I have added protective varnish to the cypress at my house each spring and let it really turn silver in the way Kahn envisioned.