I’m excited to present you with a curated list of 10 fascinating books set in New York. Are you ready to embark on a literary adventure through the iconic streets of the Big Apple? From timeless classics to hidden gems, these novels offer a captivating glimpse into the rich tapestry of life in the city that never sleeps.
Whether you’re a die-hard fan of romance, a thrill-seeker, or a history enthusiast, these books set in New York have something extraordinary to offer. So, grab your favourite reading spot and prepare to be transported to the vibrant and diverse world of New York City’s literary landscape!
Books Set in New York
City on Fire – Garth Risk Hallberg
Set in the gritty and turbulent 1970s among books set in New York, this ambitious novel weaves together the lives of various characters against the backdrop of a shooting in Central Park. With rich prose and an intricate narrative, the book captures the essence of the city during a transformative era.
Midnight, New Year’s Eve, 1976. Nine lives are about to be changed forever.
Regan and William Hamilton-Sweeney, heirs to one of New York’s greatest fortunes; Keith and Mercer, the men who, for better or worse, love them; Charlie and Samantha, two suburban teenagers seduced by the punk scene; an obsessive magazine reporter and his idealistic neighbour – and the detective trying to figure out what any of them have to do with a shooting in Central Park on New Year’s Eve.
Then, on July 13th, 1977, the lights go out.
The Alienist – Caleb Carr
Set in the late 19th century among books set in New York, this historical thriller follows psychologist Dr. Laszlo Kreizler and newspaper reporter John Schuyler Moore as they investigate a series of gruesome murders. With a backdrop of a rapidly changing New York City, this gripping novel delves into the early days of criminal psychology and forensic investigation.
Some things never change.
New York City, 1896. Hypocrisy in high places is rife, police corruption commonplace, and a brutal killer is terrorising young male prostitutes.
Unfortunately for Police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt, the psychological profiling of murderers is a practice still in its infancy, struggling to make headway against the prejudices of those who prefer the mentally ill – and the ‘alienists’ who treat them – to be out of sight as well as out of mind.
But as the body count rises, Roosevelt swallows his doubts and turns to the eminent alienist Dr Laszlo Kreizler to put a stop to the bloody murders – giving Kreizler a chance to take him further into the dark heart of criminality, and one step closer to death. Now a tv series among books set in New York.
The Changeling – Victor LaValle
A modern reimagining of classic fairy tales among books set in New York, this thrilling novel takes readers on a journey through contemporary New York City. It masterfully blends elements of horror and folklore to tell the story of a father’s desperate search for his abducted son.
When Apollo Kagwa was just a child, his father disappeared, leaving him with recurring nightmares and a box labelled ‘Improbabilia’. Now a successful book dealer, Kagwa has a family of his own after meeting and falling in love with Emma, a librarian. The two marry and have a baby: so far so happy-ever-after.
However, as the pair settle into their new lives as parents, exhaustion and anxiety start to take their toll. Emma’s behaviour becomes increasingly erratic, until one day she commits an unthinkable act, setting Apollo on a wild and fantastical quest through a suddenly otherworldly New York, in search of a wife and child he no longer recognises.
An epic novel for our anxiety-ridden times among books set in New York, The Changeling is a tale of parenthood, love – in its most raw and brutal form – and, ultimately, humanity.
Lush Life – Richard Price
In the Lower East Side of Manhattan, a single shooting sets off a chain of events that will forever alter the lives of those involved. This gritty crime novel, among books set in New York, examines the complexities of urban life, racial tensions, and the choices people make when faced with adversity.
‘So, what do you do?’ Whenever people asked him, Eric Cash used to have a dozen answers. Artist, actor, screenwriter But now he’s thirty-five years old and he’s still living on the Lower East Side, still in the restaurant business, still serving the people he wanted to be. What does Eric do? He manages.
Not like Ike Marcus. Ike was young, good-looking, people liked him. Ask him what he did, he wouldn’t say tending bar. He was going places – until two street kids stepped up to him and Eric one night and pulled a gun. At least, that’s Eric’s version. In Lush Life, Richard Price tears the shiny veneer off the ‘new’ New York to show us the hidden cracks, the underground networks of control and violence beneath the glamour. An interesting one among books set in New York.
The Age of Innocence – Edith Wharton
Travel back to Gilded Age New York with this Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, among books set in New York. Edith Wharton’s elegant prose paints a vivid picture of high society, forbidden love, and the conventions that bind its characters in an enthralling tale of passion and sacrifice.
Widely regarded as one of Edith Wharton’s greatest achievements, The Age of Innocence is not only subtly satirical, but also a sometimes dark and disturbing comedy of manners in its exploration of the ‘eternal triangle’ of love. Set against the backdrop of upper-class New York society during the 1870s, the author’s combination of powerful prose combined with a thoroughly researched and meticulous evocation of the manners and style of the period, has delighted readers since the novel’s first publication in 1920 among books set in New York.
The Gargoyle – Andrew Davidson
Combining historical fiction with a contemporary narrative among books set in New York, this unique and mesmerizing novel tells the story of a burned-out porn star who meets a mysterious sculptress with an extraordinary past. Their journey through time and love is set against the backdrop of both medieval and modern-day New York City.
A young man is fighting for his life.
Into his room walks a bewitching woman who believes she can save him.
Their journey will have you believing in the impossible.
The nameless and beautiful narrator of The Gargoyle is driving along a dark road when he is distracted by what seems to be a flight of arrows. He crashes into a ravine and wakes up in a burns ward, undergoing the tortures of the damned. His life is over – he is now a monster.
But in fact it is only just beginning. One day, Marianne Engel, a wild and compelling sculptress of gargoyles, enters his life and tells him that they were once lovers in medieval Germany. In her telling, he was a badly burned mercenary and she was a nun and a scribe who nursed him back to health in the famed monastery of Engelthal. As she spins her tale, Scheherazade fashion, and relates equally mesmerising stories of deathless love in Japan, Greenland, Italy and England, he finds himself drawn back to life – and, finally, to love. An interesting one among books set in New York.
Billy Bathgate – E.L. Doctorow
In this compelling coming-of-age novel among books set in New York, a young boy named Billy becomes a member of Dutch Schultz’s gang during the Prohibition era. The novel brilliantly captures the allure of the criminal underworld in 1930s New York.
‘I was living in even greater circles of gangsterdom than I had dreamed, latitudes and longitudes of gangsterdom’
It’s 1930’s New York and fifteen-year-old streetkid Billy, who can juggle, somersault and run like the wind, has been taken under the wing of notorious gangster Dutch Schultz. As Billy learns the ways of the mob, he becomes like a son to Schultz – his ‘good-luck kid’ – and is initiated into a world of glamour, death and danger that will consume him, in this vivid, soaring epic of crime and betrayal.
A New York Winter’s Tale – Mark Helprin
This magical realism novel, among books set in New York, is a love letter to New York City, blending fantasy and historical fiction. The story follows Peter Lake, a burglar, and Beverly Penn, a consumptive heiress, as their destinies intertwine in a city filled with wonder and enchantment.
One night in New York, a city under siege by snow, Peter Lake attempts to rob a fortress-like mansion on the Upper West Side. Though he thinks it is empty, the daughter of the house is home . . .
Thus begins the affair between this Irish burglar and Beverly Penn, a young girl dying of consumption. It is a love so powerful that Peter will be driven to stop time and bring back the dead; A New York Winter’s Tale is the story of that extraordinary journey among books set in New York.
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay – Michael Chabon
This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel among books set in New York follows the lives of two Jewish cousins who become influential figures in the comic book industry. The book spans continents and decades but is deeply rooted in the artistic world of New York City during the golden age of comics.
One night in 1939, Josef Kavalier shuffles into his cousin Sam Clay’s cramped New York bedroom, his nerve-racking escape from Prague finally achieved. Little does he realise that this is the beginning of an extraordinary friendship and even more fruitful business partnership. Together, they create a comic strip called ‘The Escapist’, its superhero a Nazi-busting saviour who liberates the oppressed around the world. ‘The Escapist’ makes their fortune, but Joe can think of only one thing: how can he effect a real-life escape, and free his family from the tyranny of Hitler? A popular one among books set in New York.
Rules of Civility – Amor Towles
Set in the late 1930s among books set in New York, this elegant novel tells the story of Katey Kontent as she navigates the world of privilege and ambition in New York City. With evocative prose and a touch of romance, the book immerses readers in the glitzy and sophisticated world of the city’s upper echelons.
In a New York City jazz bar on the last night of 1937, watching a quartet because she couldn’t afford to see the whole ensemble, there were certain things Katey Kontent knew:
· how to sneak into the cinema, and steal silk stockings from Bendel’s
· how to type eighty words a minute, five thousand an hour, and nine million a year
· that if you can still lose yourself in a Dickens novel then everything is going to be fine
By the end of the year she’ll have learned:
· how to live like a redhead and insist upon the very best
· that chance encounters can be fated, and the word ‘yes’ can be a poison
· that riches can turn to rags in the trip of a heartbeat . . .
These ten fascinating books set in New York offer an enchanting array of stories set in the heart of New York City. From historical fiction to thrilling crime dramas, each novel is a literary treasure that deserves to be discovered and cherished. So, if you’re looking to escape into the captivating streets of the Big Apple, these exceptional books set in New York are waiting to transport you to a world of literary wonder. Happy reading!
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Are there any books set in New York you’d like to add to this list? Would you please share in the comments section below?