I recently read Nicole Krauss’ History of Love, a great book that takes place in New York City. Granted, there are plenty of cities in the world I don’t know, but I can’t imagine this book being set anywhere but the Big Apple. That got me thinking about other books with a New York setting. Here are my Top Ten.
- The New York Trilogy, Paul Auster—”Genre-rebelling detective fiction” in the streets of contemporary New York.
- The Golem and the Jinny, Helene Wecker—A chance meeting between mythical beings takes readers on a dazzling journey through cultures in turn-of-the-century New York.
- Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison—The narrator remains nameless and “invisible” as he describes growing up in a black community in the South, moving to New York, and becoming the chief spokesman of the Harlem branch of “the Brotherhood.”
- Let the Great World Spin, Colum McCann—A sweeping and radical social novel that captures the spirit of America in a time of transition, extraordinary promise, and heartbreaking innocence.
- The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Michael Chabon—An American epic of two boy geniuses who embark on an adventure that takes them deep into the heart of Manhattan.
- From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, E.L. Konigsburg—A story of discovery and self-discovery that takes place at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
- How the Other Half Lives, Jacob Riis—A fascinating look at how immigrants lived in the New York of the 1800s; the photographs in this book are heartbreaking.
- How the García Girls Lost Their Accents, Julia Alvarez—A brilliant and buoyant novel that sets the García girls free to tell their most intimate stories about how they came to be at home—and not at home—in America.
- What I Loved, Siri Hustvedt—Part family novel, part psychological thriller, this is a beautifully written exploration of love, loss, and betrayal in 1970s New York.
- The Alienist, Caleb Carr—Fast-paced and gripping, here is a New York during an age when questioning society’s belief that all killers are born, not made, could have unexpected and mortal consequences.
I know I left some obvious choices off the list. There are great classics like Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence (my review) and House of Mirth (Cathy’s review), F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (Leah’s review), Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Julianna’s review), and Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s (Ali’s review). We have wonderful non-fiction, like Deborah Blum’s The Poisoner’s Handbook (my review), Robert Sullivan’s Rats, and David Freeland’s Automats, Taxi Dances, and Vaudeville. Notice what I am doing here? It’s hard to stick to just 10 books when it comes to the greatest city on Earth.
Tell me, which other books about or set in New York really should have made my list?