Top Best Books About New York City

By: ROS Team

Share the Post:

New York City has always inspired artists. Be it the Brooklyn Bridge or streets of NYC, painters and writers have always taken the cue from them and blended with their imagination to make something new, something sensational, something elegant. If we talk about the literature alone, we find hundreds of books written in the background of NYC.

Seeing the city through the naked eye is one thing, but dreaming about it from the writer’s perspective is something else, something more profound.

Some of the Best Books About NYC

  1. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  2. City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg
  3. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
  4. Open City by Teju Cole
  5. Sweet Bitter by Stephanie Danler
  6. Jazz by Toni Morrison
  7. City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert


1) Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

The novel was published in 1952 by Random House. The novel holds great popularity among critics as it touches on a wide range of subjects, both social and intellectual issues confronted by African Americans. It touched on taboos at the time such as black identity and racism.

In 1953, because of its greatness, the book went on to win the U.S. National Book Award for Fiction. It has been ranked 19th number in the 100 best English language novels of the 20th century by the Modern Library as well as included in 100 great books of English by Time.

The story revolves around a nameless character who witnesses and weathers the prejudice and anger out there in society for a black man. It is a case of looking for identity powered by heart-wrenching prose that you do not come out of its awe even after days you have completed the book.

2) City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg

A novel published in 2015 by Alfred A. Knopf, is a masterstroke of Garth Risk Hallberg. The novel is set in the background of 1970’s New York City.  The writer received a $2 million advance for his debut novel which is quite an achievement. It was named the best book of the year by many journals and magazines such as The Washington Post, Vogue, and The Wall Street Journal.

The story revolves around an investigation initiated due to a shooting incident in Central Park.  The story moves forward as the interviews are conducted from all walks of people such as rich men, teenagers, reports, etc. It reveals the connections of each character to the shooting incident as the story unfolds.

It keeps the readers fully consumed and what else a reader would want from a book?

3) A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara Published in 2015 is the best seller novel of the year. It took more than eighteen months to write this masterpiece but once you leaf through the book. You would be surprised how well the writer handled the delicate subjects of pain and ambitions.

It is a story of four friends who move to NYC after graduation to transfer their dreams into reality. It shows the struggles as the novel moves forward. One of them, Jude has serious spinal injuries and the pain and agony which come with this kind of injury are reflected in the story.

The novel is very sentimental and emotional. Words are so powerful that they make the reader cry when either character cries in the story.

4) Open City by Teju Cole

Open City is a famous novel by Teju Cole, a Nigerian-American writer. It tells the story of an immigrant who moved to New York City from Nigeria. A partial love story, the book won applause because of its beautiful prose and depiction of NYC. It was one of the best books published in 2011.

The characters wander the streets of NYC and meet strangers which makes the plot of the story. To an extent, the story reflects a personal experience of the writer which lends authenticity to the book.

5) Sweet Bitter by Stephanie Danler

A critically acclaimed novel by Stephanie Danler acquaints us with Tess, a 22-year girl who was struggling to find a job. Eventually, she is hired as a back-waiter by a renowned chain of restaurants. Here starts a love story as well as a depiction of a foodie’s paradise.

6) Jazz by Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison is a name that needs no introduction, a legend in her own right. She is a Pulitzer award-winning writer as well as a Nobel laureate.  Jazz is a famous historical novel by her. The story sits in the 1920s New York City in a place called Harlem. It is the second part of the Dantesque Trilogy that started with Beloved (1987) while the third was Paradise (1997).

It is a story of salesman Joe who works from door to door along with his wife. The plot takes a twist when he guns downs his teenage mistress. The books address the complexities of life to physicist precision.

7) City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

It is the latest novel in our list of some of the best books set in New York City. The book is among the top 10 bestseller books of the year according to Sunday Times. It is a unique love story that stages itself in the NYC theatre world. The plot is set in the 1940s and the character reflects on her life in retrospect which makes the story.  The novel as the plot suggests tells the inside story of the world along and female sexuality along with a love story.

The novel is less about pleasure and more about education. The reader would not reach the same at the other end of the book similar to the one he/she started as the book enlightens the reader to a good extent.

Final Words:

Start with these books and explore dozens of other great fiction works written about NYC to enrich your life with imagination.

Happy Reading…