What book might people be surprised to find on your shelves?
Hilary Mantel’s “Wolf Hall” trilogy. The story of Henry VIII and his chief minister Thomas Cromwell; The breakup of the country from the papacy, and the creation of the Church of England. talk about difficult books; She almost spoke a different language. I had to read it in hardcover because, with its long title and many old English phrases, I had to go back and check the names. Couldn’t do that easily on Kindle!
What is the best book you have ever received as a gift?
“Your Police” by George Zaffo was a non-fiction young adult book filled with color illustrations from the NYPD of the 1950s. As a boy, I didn’t know any cops – no cops in my family — but between “Dragonets” on TV and the many black and white movies of the 50s in theaters, policing was the only thing I really cared about. There were squad cars and motorcycles, as well as all the material each officer took with him on the streets of New York. I saw call boxes, helicopters, emergency vehicles – a full complement of real items to complete a fantasy. It said: “We must always remember that wherever you see a policeman, he is your friend. He is there to protect you. …he won’t hesitate to save your life at his cost.” I took that book out of the library regularly for years. Sometimes I’d just walk and visit him. A copy in a vintage shop to friends in 1991 Millie and without knowing my attachment to it, thought, “This would be a good book for Bill Bratton.” I hadn’t seen it since the 1960s. Brought me back immediately. After my swearing in as NYPD commissioner in 2014 After I used that copy, the author’s son came into my office and brought me some more original photos, which the illustrations were based on. I’m saving them for my grandson.
Who is your favorite fictional hero or heroine? Your favorite hero or villain?
Michael Connelly’s LAPD homicide detective Harry Bosch is my favorite hero. He is a flawed person, which makes him real. There is both a vitality and a gloomy quality to Harry; When he acts against his better judgment, you are still on his side. You want him to win because he really stands up for justice. I don’t have a favorite villain.
What kind of reader were you as a child?
I read out of curiosity, all the time. When I was a boy in Dorchester, in a beautiful red brick building on the corner of Arcadia Street, I had two passions: Boston Police District 11 and a branch of the Boston Public Library. I used to live in that library.
If you needed to read a book from the President, what would it be?
With all due respect, two of them: my books “Turnaround” and “The Profession,” both written with Peter Knobler. I think it is important for our Chief Executive to have a strong awareness of the history and character of policing and law enforcement in order to keep the country safe and moving in the right direction. There are a lot of misconceptions about the role and potential of our profession, and it would be nice for a president to have a clear vision ahead. I would also recommend Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “Team of Rivals” about Lincoln’s predicament to surround yourself with mentors from different perspectives. That’s how I build my leadership teams; I want those who disagree with either one to choose the best path forward for me.
You are hosting a literary dinner party. Which three writers do you invite, dead or alive?
Tom Wolfe, Nick Pileggi and Pete Hamill. All the major raconteurs who captured the guts of New York. I read “The Bonfire of the Vanities” just before I became chief of the Transit Police in 1990, and saw Wolfe accurately and devastatingly take over the city. His distinctive and highly distinctive voice brought his characters to life. As good a writer as Tom Wolfe was, he had the ability to sit at a table and immerse you so deeply in a story that talking to him was like reading a book. Always good for a street story, Nick Pileggi did something that New York is known for, the gangster world is known for. he gets the mafia; His book “Wisegue” was adapted into the film “Goodfellas”. I ate at Elaine and attended various events with Pete Hamill. He lived New York and got under your skin. I loved his book “Downtown,” in which he walked from the southern tip of Manhattan to 42nd Street. After meeting the men all of whom were talking, I would be glad to sit back at the table and listen to them. If I can invite a fourth, I’ll bring Jack Maple to grill them.
What are you planning to read next?
In my continuing love affair with New York, I am about to begin Robert Caro’s Robert Moses epic, “The Power Broker.” I look forward to reading what Stacy Abrams has to say about voter suppression, diverse empowerment, and the hardships of modern America in “Our Time Is Now.”