I suspect more books and films are set in New York City than any other city in the western world, so much so, that when I visited, I was afraid it wouldn’t live up to my expectations. Don’t worry, I was wrong about that. I got to ride on a drag queen’s back in a stage show for starters! Anyway, I digress. I recently read, and adored Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings, which is set mostly in New York City and it inspired me to put together this list of great books about/set in the city of cities.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote
This book really needs no introduction. Holly Golightly could never have had those adventures anywhere else.
New York by Lily Brett
Lily Brett is a Melbourne-born writer who moved to New York City in the 1990s. This is a funny and perceptive collection of her personal essays about her experiences in, and observations of the city she now calls home.
Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerny
A cocaine-fueled ride through the New York city of the 1980s.
What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt
This moving, surprising and rather dark story of the friendship between two families is also a wonderful insight into the New York art world. One of my great favourites.
Specimen Days by Michael Cunningham
An incredibly ambitious work, Specimen Days is not a novel but three linked novellas, all set in New York, one during the industrial revolution, the second, during the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, and the third, in the future in which New York has been turned into a sort of theme park, called ‘Old New York’.
Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates
This classic novel takes us back to the New York of the 1950s, where the working men had three-martini lunches before commuting home to their suburban homes for another pitcher. It is a raw and intimate look at marriage, conformity and the concept of ‘settling down’.
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
The sweet, poignant story of an 11 year old boy trying to make sense of his father’s death in the September 11 attacks.
Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart
A novel in documents, set in a near-future version of NYC, in which things go somewhat pear-shaped. A very funny and also slightly frightening vision of the future.
The History of Love by Nicole Kraus
The story of a Holocaust survivor and sometimes writer, living alone in New York, waiting to die, and his unexpected connection to a 14-year-old girl. A beautiful and deeply moving story about love in all its forms.
A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
Somehow this book manages to creep onto just about every top ten list I make, because I love it that much! Egan described it as her ‘post 911 book’ and it covers a lot of NYC territory from the punk scene at CBGBs in the 1970s to a beautiful vision of the future of Ground Zero.
Your turn: What is your favourite book set in New York?