Last week I came across an article in the Guardian where author Craig Taylor chose his Top Ten books set in New York.
It got me thinking about how much I love books set in New York, despite never having been. There is just something about this iconic, bustling vibrant city that lends itself to literature – from the glamour of Fitzgerald’s 1920s Manhattan to the decadence of Wolfe’s Wall Street, the excitement of the art scene in the 1970s to the modern open streets of Teju Cole – New York is one of the leading literary cities.
This sent me to my bookshelves to see what New York-set books I have in the TBR and I was surprised to find that it was a lot!
Here are a few of the choices that I have.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote
Not only have I not yet read Breakfast At Tiffany’s, I haven’t even seen the film! In this 1958 novella, a contemporary writer recalls his early days in New York City, when he makes the acquaintance of his remarkable neighbor, Holly Golightly, one of Capote’s best-known creations.
Jazz by Toni Morrison
I read a lot of Morrison during my final year at University but never got round to reading Jazz, which is set in 1920s Harlem and forms the second part of Morrison’s Dantesque trilogy on African-American history, beginning with Beloved (1987) and ending with Paradise (1997)
The Big Clock by Kenneth Fearing
This noir classic from 1946 is set in the aftermath of the Great Depression and features a detective who is both investigator and quarry.
The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe
The Bonfire of the Vanities is the 1987 classic satire by Tom Wolfe focusing on the ambition, greed and politics of Wall Street in the 1980s.
If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin
If Beale Street Could Talk was the fifth novel by James Baldwin, published in 1974 and is a brutal love story set in Harlem in the early 1970s.
Doubt by John Patrick Shanley
Set in the offices of a Catholic school in the Bronx, Doubt is Shanely’s 2004 play that explores a nun who believes a priest has had an inappropriate relationship with a student. It was then turned into an award-winning movie with Philip Seymour Hoffman and Meryl Streep.
Red At the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson
Set in Brooklyn, Red At the Bone centres on the coming together of two very different families because of an unexpected teenage pregnancy and moves back and forward in time to explore their family histories.
The Emperor’s Children by Claire Messud
A sprawling novel by Claire Messud set in the publishing world of modern day New York? I’m in!
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Not necessarily a straightforward NY novel, as it takes place in other settings, but I’ve included it because I love a novel about the art world and having bought this just before I started my blog almost 8 years ago, I really need to read it!
I also have some more New York set books on my e-reader which I like the sound of…
Over the next few months I’m going to read some of these. Let me make it very clear, this is NOT another reading challenge, I have enough of those, but I just fancy steeping myself in some of that New York atmosphere for a while!
Are there any of these novels that you would recommend? If you have a favourite New York based novel, do let me know in the comments, or is there another city that you can’t resist in literature?
I am a 40 something book buying addict trying to reduce the backlog one book at a time!