There’s nothing like sinking into a good book. So we made a list of the 10 best books about NYC. It’s impossible to objectively rank great works of literature, so these are listed in no particular order. Put all of them on your reading list:
1. Harriet the Spy
Maybe you forgot about this novel from your youth. It’s worth going back to it. The stubbornly independent and wickedly smart young girl detective owns the city. Every New Yorker loves a rebel.
2. The Bell Jar
This novel by Sylvia Plath is a semi-autobiographical tale of a young woman’s sadness and depression. The protagonist struggles working as a magazine intern in the city, and plenty of us know how rough that is.
3. A Tree Grows In Brooklyn
Williamsburg was a very different place in 1943, when this novel is set. The protagonist, Francie Nolan, grows up in a difficult neighborhood where the school system is corrupt, and later struggles through the working world.
4. Invisible Man
This novel paints a vivid picture of Harlem in the 1930s—a world that is suffering through political, racial and economic turmoil. The unidentified black narrator who grows up in the south and moves to the city creates a powerful, symbolic statement.
5. The Age Of Innocence
On the opposite end of the city’s economic spectrum, this novel chronicles the lives of woebegone rich folk in the late 19th century, trapped in a restrictive social hierarchy. Fun fact: The author of this novel, Edith Wharton, won a Pulitzer for this book, and she was the first woman to do so.
6. Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Yes, this one was a book first. And it’s a pretty poignant character study on cafe-life socialites, something you find frequently in NYC. Even if you’ve seen the movie, it’s worth trying the book. You can still picture Audrey Hepburn while you’re reading it.
7. American Psycho
Yes, this one was a book first, also. A commentary on narcissism and materialism in New York. Again, even if you’ve seen the movie already, it’s worth the read.
8. The Fountainhead
Ayn Rand is one of those people whom nobody feels ambivalent about, but even if you despise her, you have to admit she’s important to the canon. This book conveys an interesting viewpoint on extreme individualism. What better setting for that than NYC?
9. The Great Gatsby
Some people consider this the greatest American novel. Jay Gatsby certainly captures the essence (and the hopelessness) of the American dream. Don’t try to take a shortcut with this one and see the Baz Luhrmann movie instead, because it sucked.
10. The Catcher In The Rye
No matter how you feel about Holden Caulfield, you have to include The Catcher In The Rye on the list of great novels about New York City. It’s more philosophy than plot, with Holden contemplating whether all the fucked up shit in this world is worth suffering through, on his journey through the city.
Cover photo credit: Jens Schott Knudsen/Flickr