I am unabashedly fond of New York City. I was born in Manhattan, to parents from the Bronx, where ¾ of my grandparents were from as well and where I lived as a child. Since I grew up in the suburbs in New York State and moved back at 18 (other than a year-and-a-half stint at an Irish grad school I’ve been in NYC ever since), I wouldn’t quite go as far as to call myself a New Yorker, but I love the place. It has its flaws, but there’s nowhere else I’d want to live for more than the short term. Conveniently, it’s also the center of the industry I’m planning to work in for the rest of my career and within driving distance (not that I know how to drive) of nearly everyone in the world I love. You can tell me that it’s not the center of the universe or that there are far better places out there, and I will pretend to believe that is a perfectly reasonable opinion, but I’m not going to mean it.
So of course I was a sucker for Charlotte Jones’s blog post over at the Guardian on New York in books. New York plus books? Who could ask for anything more? I haven’t read all of her selections, but am eager to pick them up. Readers followed up with their own picks, which also helps add to my list. From these, The Great Gatsby, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, and Let the Great World Spin are not just among my favorite New York books, they’re some of my favorite books period. I’ve never quite realized that their New Yorkness might be part of the reason why.
I’m actually currently reading Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings, which I’m really loving for how much it reflects my own adolescent feelings about New York (for better or worse). And my splurge on last weekend’s sleepover at the American Museum of Natural History was partially informed by my childhood adoration of E.L. Konigsburg’s From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (about a different NY institution, of course, but my childhood love was reserved for the big blue whale and the brontosaurus more than anything you can find in the Met*).
I loved Rebecca Stead’s gorgeous When You Reach Me for its loving, complex depiction of city childhood. Not to mention Patti Smith’s Just Kids, Siri Hustvedt’s What I Loved, Louise Fitzhugh’s Harriet the Spy, so many things by Judy Blume, Nicole Krauss’s The History of Love, and probably countless others I’m not thinking of. And it’s at least part of what drew me into my client Wayne Gladstone’s Notes from the Internet Apocalypse and Jane’s client Michael Callahan’s forthcoming Searching for Grace Kelly.
Don’t get me wrong, I love reading about other places, too, but when someone captures NYC just right, it fills my heart with joy and fond feeling. What are your favorite NYC books? I mean, my reading piles haven’t actually toppled over to kill me yet, so clearly there’s room for them to grow. We like to build things up high here in New York City.
*Except for the Temple of Dendur, because of this other glorious locked-in-the-Met story from my childhood.