Top 10 Books Set in New York City

take a walk

Top Ten Tuesday is a fun weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is Top Ten Books With X Setting (top ten books set near the beach, top ten book set in boarding school, top ten books set in England, etc).  I selected for my ‘X Setting’ my favorite city in the whole world, NEW YORK CITY! Oh, the sights, the sounds, the diversity, the endless possibilities for entertainment and culture!  I don’t even have the words to convey how much I adore New York City, but if I were ever to win the lottery, one of the first things I would do is get myself an apartment in the Big Apple.

To tie my love of NYC to books, let me just say that I have been known to buy books that I know absolutely NOTHING about aside from the fact that they are set in New York.  That said, below is my current list of Top 10 Favorite Books Set in NYC, subject to change as I have several potentially amazing books in my TBR that are also set in New York.

My Top Ten Favorite Books Set in New York City


1. Jazz by Toni Morrison


Goodreads Synopsis:  In the winter of 1926, when everybody everywhere sees nothing but good things ahead, Joe Trace, middle-aged door-to-door salesman of Cleopatra beauty products, shoots his teenage lover to death. At the funeral, Joe’s wife, Violet, attacks the girl’s corpse. This passionate, profound story of love and obsession brings us back and forth in time, as a narrative is assembled from the emotions, hopes, fears, and deep realities of black urban life.

Jazz is the story of a triangle of passion, jealousy, murder, and redemption, of sex and spirituality, of slavery and liberation, of country and city, of being male and female, African American, and above all of being human. Like the music of its title, it is a dazzlingly lyric play on elemental themes, as soaring and daring as a Charlie Parker solo, as heartbreakingly powerful as the blues. It is Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Toni Morrison at her best.  (Read more…)

2. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison


Goodreads Synopsis:  Invisible Man is a milestone in American literature, a book that has continued to engage readers since its appearance in 1952.  A first novel by an unknown writer, it remained on the bestseller list for sixteen weeks, won the National Book Award for fiction, and established Ralph Ellison as one of the key writers of the century.  The nameless narrator of the novel describes growing up in a black community in the South, attending a Negro college from which he is expelled, moving to New York and becoming the chief spokesman of the Harlem branch of “the Brotherhood”, and retreating amid violence and confusion to the basement lair of the Invisible Man he imagines himself to be.  The book is a passionate and witty tour de force of style, strongly influenced by T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, Joyce, and Dostoevsky.  (Read more…)


3. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith


Goodreads Synopsis:  A profoundly moving novel, and an honest and true one. It cuts right to the heart of life … If you miss A Tree Grows in Brooklyn you will deny yourself a rich experience … It is a poignant and deeply understanding story of childhood and family relationships. The Nolans lived in the Williamsburg slums of Brooklyn from 1902 until 1919 … Their daughter Francie and their son Neely knew more than their fair share of the privations and sufferings that are the lot of a great city’s poor. Primarily this is Francie’s book. She is a superb feat of characterization, an imaginative, alert, resourceful child. And Francie’s growing up and beginnings of wisdom are the substance of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.  (Read more…)


4. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald


Goodreads Synopsis:  The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s third book, stands as the supreme achievement of his career. This exemplary novel of the Jazz Age has been acclaimed by generations of readers. The story of the fabulously wealthy Jay Gatsby and his love for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan, of lavish parties on Long Island at a time when The New York Times noted “gin was the national drink and sex the national obsession,” it is an exquisitely crafted tale of America in the 1920s.  The Great Gatsby is one of the great classics of twentieth-century literature.   (Read more…)


5. The Chosen by Chaim Potok


Goodreads Synopsis: It is the now-classic story of two fathers and two sons and the pressures on all of them to pursue the religion they share in the way that is best suited to each. And as the boys grow into young men, they discover in the other a lost spiritual brother, and a link to an unexplored world that neither had ever considered before. In effect, they exchange places, and find the peace that neither will ever retreat from again….  (Read more…)


6.  Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote


Goodreads Synopsis:  It’s New York in the 1940s, where the martinis flow from cocktail hour till breakfast at Tiffany’s. And nice girls don’t, except, of course, Holly Golightly. Pursued by Mafia gangsters and playboy millionaires, Holly is a fragile eyeful of tawny hair and turned-up nose, a heart-breaker, a perplexer, a traveller, a tease. She is irrepressibly ‘top banana in the shock department’, and one of the shining flowers of American fiction.  (Read more…)

7. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt


Goodreads Synopsis:  It begins with a boy. Theo Decker, a thirteen-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don’t know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by his unbearable longing for his mother, he clings to one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the underworld of art.  As an adult, Theo moves silkily between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty labyrinth of an antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love-and at the center of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle.

The Goldfinch combines vivid characters, mesmerizing language, and suspense, while plumbing with a philosopher’s calm the deepest mysteries of love, identity, and art. It is an old-fashioned story of loss and obsession, survival and self-invention, and the ruthless machinations of fate.  (Read more…)

8. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis


Goodreads Synopsis:  Patrick Bateman is twenty-six and he works on Wall Street, he is handsome, sophisticated, charming and intelligent. He is also a psychopath. Taking us to head-on collision with America’s greatest dream—and its worst nightmare—American Psycho is bleak, bitter, black comedy about a world we all recognize but do not wish to confront.  (Read more…)

9. A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan


Goodreads Synopsis:  Bennie is an aging former punk rocker and record executive. Sasha is the passionate, troubled young woman he employs. Here Jennifer Egan brilliantly reveals their pasts, along with the inner lives of a host of other characters whose paths intersect with theirs. With music pulsing on every page, A Visit from the Goon Squad is a startling, exhilarating novel of self-destruction and redemption.  (Read more…)

10. The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger


Goodreads Synopsis:  “…the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. In the first place, that stuff bores me, and in the second place, my parents would have about two hemorrhages apiece if I told anything pretty personal about them.”

Since his debut in 1951 as The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield has been synonymous with “cynical adolescent.” Holden narrates the story of a couple of days in his sixteen-year-old life, just after he’s been expelled from prep school, in a slang that sounds edgy even today and keeps this novel on banned book lists. His constant wry observations about what he encounters, from teachers to phonies (the two of course are not mutually exclusive) capture the essence of the eternal teenage experience of alienation.  (Read more…)

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Do you have any favorite books that are set in New York City?

 If so, I’d love to hear from you, especially since I’m always looking for new NYC-based reads 🙂

20 replies
  1. Bri @ Transported By Books
    Bri @ Transported By Books says:

    Oh this is great. I was obsessed with Breakfast at Tiffany’s as a kid which looking back was kind of weird nut whatever 🙂 American Psycho is still one I can reread and be shocked at the same parts! I recently read the The Ramblers which is contemporary but a look at a group of middle aged friends in the city who may have grown up but they still don’t feel like they belong.

    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      Toni Morrison is amazing. I definitely recommend pretty much any of her earlier works. I took a seminar class on her novels when I was in college and was really blown away by The Bluest Eye, Beloved, Song of Solomon, Sula, and Jazz.

    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      I really love Catcher in the Rye as well. I remember how much it got to me when I was a kid, so I really can’t wait until my son is old enough to read it.

  2. Lori
    Lori says:

    I love your topic! I always love when a book is set in NYC. I’ve had A Visit from the Goon Squad on my TBR for way too long. Maybe I’ll get to it soon!

  3. Liselle @ Lunch-Time Librarian
    Liselle @ Lunch-Time Librarian says:

    I’ve seen the Goldfinch around so ofter but didn’t know anything about it. Now I know it’s set in New York 🙂 which is a fantastic city though I’ve only been there once myself. And I need to get into reading more Toni Morison. Love the list!

    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      Yes, New York is so amazing. I haven’t been in a couple of years, but I’m dying to get there again soon. I want to visit The Strand bookstore 🙂

  4. Adalyn
    Adalyn says:

    I’ve wanted to go to NYC for sooo long now, but still haven’t had the chance. I haven’t read any of these either, or many books set in New York for that matter either.

    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      Oh, I hope you are able to make it to NYC sometime soon. It’s such a magical city. If you do go there, make sure you check out The Strand Bookstore. It’s bookworm heaven 🙂

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