© 2020 Brandon Stanton
451 pages

Published after the success of Humans of New York, here Brandon Stanton expand his range and deepens his connectivity with the people whose lives he shares in a single photo. In Humans of New York, readers were presented with an array of New Yorkers whose face or dress or energy caught Stanton’s eye. These were supplemented with a caption that combined with the photo to tell a story. In Humans, Stanton shifts into a more studied and intimate approach, asking people about their challenges and suffering and then incorporating that conversation along with the pictures to hit the reader with both barrels. Humans has an international scope, with many interviews coming from various parts of subsaharan Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia, and an outlier or two in Europe and Latin America. Oddly, all of his American interviews are still from New York. Because of Stanton’s starter question — suffering — this collection isn’t overflowing with the warm fuzzies. It’s not a depressing book, but it is a maturer one, demonstrating that joy and triumph are only possible through suffering and hardship. There’s a lot of pathos here — people surviving genocide and living after more intimate losses. Stanton frequently pairs photos and stories: one woman reflects on her abortion, another on how grateful she was that she didn’t pursue one. We meet people who find deepest meaning in their connections with their family and tradition, and others who had to forge their own path. One man leaves his job and falls into poverty, regretting his spontaneity — but another leaves and finds bliss. I enjoyed this, but readers who start it should know that it’s more emotionally demanding and challenging than the of New York original — but in that challenge we are treated to stories of resilience , redemption, and profound meaning.

Kindle Highlights

Honestly, anger is just very addictive. You want to feel angry when you’re suffering. It gives you adrenaline. It gets your endorphins going. It’s a release. It’s a substitute for what you’re missing.

I’m too young to start nuclear disposal because it’s dangerous and I don’t have the proper gloves. But I do recycle and keep plants on my balcony.

I just finished my first year of college. I expected it to be like a nineties movie where I’d sit under trees, read books, and meet a nice boy who’d show me his yacht. But I’m not a good protagonist. My life would be a terrible movie.

Some of my customers ask me: ‘Why don’t you expand your shop? Why don’t you turn it into a café, and start selling Coca-Cola?’ Because that means more staff. More wages. More taxes. More responsibility. I don’t want to weigh myself down. I want to be free. It’s a long time in the ground, my friend.

There’s a line from a Russian poem. It says: ‘We love just once in a lifetime. And spend the rest of our lives looking for something similar.’ I’ve had other girlfriends after Oksana. But I don’t remember their birthday. Oksana’s birthday was July 29.

I’ve fallen in love with literature. I try to read for one or two hours every day. I only have one life to live. But in books I can live one thousand lives.

The quickest way to find a person’s expertise is by learning their struggle. What they’ve battled. What they’ve carried with them the longest. Because it’s what they’ve thought about the most.

I used to be a corporate attorney for Coca-Cola. I worked eighty hours a week. Then one day I asked my boss for a single Friday off and he said no. So I left my dog with my brother and flew to Europe. That was ten years ago. It’s been super——– chill.

Truth feels heavy. It has gravity. It’s usually not floating on the surface.

Adults don’t have an actual life. You can’t go outside. You don’t get to hang out with friends very much. Maybe text a little, but that’s it. You just wake up, get ready for work, then work, then maybe watch a little TV, then go to bed. All of it seems depressing. But apparently everyone has to do it.

My brother shot himself last November. He always viewed himself as my superior. He’d never come to my door when he visited. He’d always wait in the car for me to come out. He had more money, more lovers, more everything. But he was always searching for more. He was never satisfied. My brother was a character. He was a successful character, but he was a character. And that character ended up eating him.

I think you have only one duty in life. You stand up and you go.

My ex-wife got the real estate. And I got my peace.

About smellincoffee

Citizen, librarian, reader with a boundless wonder for the world and a curiosity about all the beings inside it.
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2 Responses to Humans

  1. I found both Humans and Humans of New York to be surprising and insightful books.

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