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5 New York City Novels You Should Read

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“New York was his town and it always would be…”  I’ve always wanted to read that fictional novel by Isac Davis (Manhattan, Woody Allen, 1979), because you know what I can’t get enough of?  Talking and thinking about New York City.  Now’s the season (when it’s not blindingly hot and muggy, that is) to go to your local library, grab a novel, park it in the park for the afternoon, and pat yourself on the back for living in one of if not THE best city in the U.S.

All of these are fairly obvious, but my intention is for this to be a total beginner’s least based on books that I’ve actually read:

1) American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

Truth be told, I did have to put this book down at least once and decide if I had the stomach to continue reading.  Long story short: definitely worth it.  Probably one of the most strangely engrossing (yet repuslive!) and clever satires ever.  Or at least I think it is….Ellis has GOT to be at least a little insane to write this, right?

2) Fortess of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem

Pretty fucking epic and totally essential if you ever or currently live in Brooklyn and/or enjoy the art of graffito.

3) The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

OK, so it’s depressing, but I have a total boner for the Gilded Age– both its highs and dark underbelly.


4) The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon

Yes, yes, this is the book that everyone and their mother says to read, especially if you’re in any way into comic books.  Though it’s now become a cliche novel type, when I first read it, I found it to be pretty original and thoroughly engaging from start to finish.

5) Washington Square by Henry James

Even if you’re kinda bored with this dame who’s caught up in her forbidden genital rubbing white girl problems, at the very least, it’s pretty cool and funny to read about the areas James calls out/name checks.


* Bonus non-novel: Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain
Truly one of the fastest and most pleasurable reads for being such a gigantic monster of a book.  It’s such an incredibly rich collection of primary sources, it will make your head fucking spin.  ESPECIALLY if you care about music or New York in any way.

Please Kill Me- The Uncensored Oral History of Punk

Also, guys, speaking of historical non-fiction-y stuff about NYC nightlife, I’ve been trying to find this book that I THINK is Alice Echols’ Disco and the Remaking of American Culture, but I’m not sure if that’s the one I want/am thinking of.  Anyone have any ideas or other recommendations?

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Anna G - Caliburg Contributor

Anna G - Caliburg Contributor

Anna G. is a Southern California native living in the Williamsburg area of Brooklyn since 2005. Anna is constantly trying to unite her love of CA sunshine and the excitement of the New York urban jungle, all the while trying to keep her unwieldy credit card debt under control, and look fabulous at brunch, no matter how un-showered and hungover.


  1. Pierce
    June 10, 2010 at 10:35 am

    I’m noticing distinct lack of “Bright Lights, Big City”.

  2. Anna G - Caliburg Contributor
    June 10, 2010 at 10:45 am

    I’ve never read that one! I’ve only seen the Michael J. Fox movie.

  3. June 10, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    Paul Auster’s New York trilogy
    The Amazing Spider-Man

    Steroid Nation (for the Yankees)

  4. Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap
    June 10, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    Good list. I LOVED Fortress of Solitude, and I never saw that version of the cover. Cool!

  5. June 13, 2010 at 7:10 am

    American Psycho is a great book, good call

  6. Lisa B
    May 28, 2013 at 12:08 pm

    Awesome book:
    The Alienist is a crime novel by Caleb Carr first published in 1994. It takes place in New York City in 1896….

  7. Lisa B
    May 28, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    Great read:
    The Alienist is a crime novel by Caleb Carr first published in 1994. It takes place in New York City in 1896…

  8. May 28, 2013 at 12:59 pm

    Motherless Brooklyn by Lethem is excellent as well.

    Also: Catcher in the Rye? Breakfast at Tiffany’s? (Okay, technically a novella, if you want to get into it.)

  9. […] SEE THEM ALL AT: 5 New York City Novels You Should Read | Broke-Ass Stuart’s Goddamn Website. […]

  10. Mayor of Candor
    July 18, 2013 at 3:12 pm

    it’s like this, cat. Emily Neville. 1964 Newbery Award. Coming of age in NYC.

  11. July 18, 2013 at 3:40 pm

    Last Exit to Brooklyn, by Hubert Selby Jr. A controversial gem, riding the wave of censorable works by the Beats. It would probably seem tame today, but in ’64…..