10 Books for People Who Love New York


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.

  1. The New York Trilogy, Paul Auster—”Genre-rebelling detective fiction” in the streets of contemporary New York.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.”
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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?



  1. I don’t know if it should have made your list but Mark Helprin’s Winter’s Tale is a love story to NY, for me. After 9/11 it was all I wanted to read because it’s magical and quintessentially NYC.

  2. Oh! History of Love is one of my top favorite books ever! I have Kavalier and Clay around here somewhere.
    May I add Just Kids by Patti Smith for a true New York City book.

  3. I love your list. I’ve read a few and got a few of the others. Even the Mixed-up Files. I just bought it a few weeks ago and I’m looking forward to it.

  4. God, I’d love to read so, so many of these! Thanks for introducing me to a few new books to add to my “to investigate” list. 🙂

    Invisible Man is on my TBR Pile Challenge for the year—I got 1/3 of the way through it once but put it down. I’m determined to read the whole thing this time around.

    • It’s not an easy book to read, but it’s worth the effort it takes. I hope you’ll get to read a few others of these; they are some of my favorites. The list of books to read just never shrinks, does it?!

  5. I love this list and some of the suggestions made above, especially since I will be going to New York soon and the city has been on my mind. I had no idea The Golem and Jinni was set in New York and The Mixed-Up Files is one of my childhood favourites.

  6. I haven’t read any of these, but Let The Great World Spin is on my TBR shelf! Visible City by Tova Mirvis, The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer, and The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt also have great NYC vibes.

  7. Great choices. The Paul Auster trilogy would be on my list too. I read Truman Capote’s Complete stories earlier this year and the city-based ones were some of my favourites. I must get around to Breakfast at Tiffany’s at some stage.

    I second chowmeyow’s recommendation of The Rules of Civility. It’s stylish and charming, a real joy to read. I think you’d like it very much.

    I hope you enjoyed The History of Love – looking forward to reading your review.

  8. Great list! I would add Mark Helprin’s Winter’s Tale (fiction), Helene Hanff’s Underfoot in Show Business (nonfiction), and Harriet the Spy (children’s).

    • I’ve been wanting to read Mark Helprin for a long time. I have to make a note of Winter’s Tale and Underfoot in Show Business. And I didn’t even think of Harriet the Spy… Thanks for your suggestions.

  9. Oh, the Mixed Up Files – such a great book. Think I read that one to my daughter when she was younger. And I had totally forgotten about THE ALIENIST. I meant to read that years ago. You also mentioned A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN. What a fabulous book! You picked some great ones.

    I’m a mystery/crime novel girl and my list reflects that. 😉

  10. I’m glad to hear you liked The History of Love! I have been trying to get my kids to read The Mixed Up Files for years, and none of them have wanted to. I’m starting to give up hope. How can it not appeal to them? Oh well, the mysteries of children, even your own. 🙂
    This is a great list. The Golem and the Jinni and Let the Great World Spin have been in my TBR pile for ages. There are a couple on here that are new to me.

    • There’s always the hope that the kids read The Mixed-Up Files when they are older, and if they are old enough, they’ll admit that they should have read it when you suggested it, and then you can say “I told you so!” (Or you can at least think it….)

  11. Great list! I love love love From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler – one of my favorite children’s books of all time. I used to check the audiobook out from the library and just lay in my bedroom and listen to it.

    Rules of Civility by Amor Towles is my favorite contemporary fiction book set in NYC. I highly recommend it – not only is the city practically a character, it’s also one of my favorite novels I’ve read in the past 5 years.

  12. I always love reading books set in places I know really well. Of course, I wouldn’t pick New York as my favourite!!!!! (though I agree it IS a great city] But I applaud your sentiment.

      • I have to pick London! But really, there are so many wonderful cities in the world: Kyoto, Christchurch (NZ), Edinburgh, Austin (Texas), Rome and OF COURSE New York, not necessarily in that order.

  13. Fantastic list! A lot of these are on my TBR. I love that Mixed-Up Files made it on here! And A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, of course. Invisible Man is a great answer, too. Nice list!

  14. What a fantastic list! I love New York even though I’ve only been there once. Chaim Potok’s “The Chosen” has always been one of my favorite New York stories.

    • I don’t know that book, but I’ve looked it up and it sounds like something I would like. I can see how the story fits well into a New York setting. Thanks for your suggestion!

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