Edward Rutherfurd in his novel “New York: The Novel” said, “You can do what you like, sir, but I’ll tell you this. New York is the true capital of America. Every New Yorker knows it, and by God, we always shall.” Whether you agree with this statement or not, there have been some amazing books that have been based in the city of New York. There are the classics such as “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald or also, more recent additions such as “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” by Jonathan Safran Foer. Non-fiction writers too have used New York as a setting for some fantastic works such as the hilarious “NYC Basic Tips and Etiquette” by Nathan W. Pyle. Read on to discover some of the best books based in New York.
“New York: The Novel”
“New York: The Novel,” by Edward Rutherfurd, is a fantastic piece of work that follows several families through the transformation of New Amsterdam to the New York City of the present-day. Each generation is relatable, developed and interesting, a feat that few writers of multigenerational historical works have been able to do. Each character fits into his or her respected time period so neatly in place that it is like a piece of a puzzle taken out of the whole for a quick viewing. For example, take Dirk vanDyke, the Dutch trader who opens the story desperately trying to balance a family in New Amsterdam between his Indian daughter up river. Or take Rose vanDyke Master, a gilded age lady tightly wound between society, wealth and fashion. Each story, like New York’s hesitancy to stand behind Lincoln during the Civil War, The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, Ellis Island, is told as only a New Yorker can. “New York: The Novel” is well worth the effort, brilliantly researched and executed by a talented author.
“The Great Gatsby”
There’s a reason why most people are asked to read “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald in school at some point. His story about the destructive excess of New York during the Jazz Age is a timeless one and successfully captures that time in history. The story follows wealthy Jay Gatsby and his love for Daisy Buchanan through the crazy and exciting times of 1920s New York. The story is narrated by Nick Carraway and tells a classic tale of the American Dream gone wrong.
“The Catcher in the Rye”
“The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger is another classic based in New York. The story focuses on 16-year-old Holden Caulfield. He’s a native New Yorker and returns home after being kicked out his Pennsylvania boarding school. Afraid to admit his expulsion to his parents, Holden wanders around New York and learns about himself, the world and his place in it. “The Catcher in the Rye” is a wonderful novel about teenage alienation and loss.
“The Wolf of Wall Street”
You’ve probably seen the Oscar-nominated movie directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio. But even if you have, still check out the New York Times bestselling memoir by Jordan Belfort about his days on the New York stock market during the 1990s. In “The Wolf of Wall Street,” much like “The Great Gatsby,” a world of excess will come alive. This well-written depiction of New York captured in time is well worth a read.
Sarah Honenberger manages to find something fresh in a somewhat overdone topic. Daniel’s parents are leftover hippies from the 60s and refuse medical intervention for their 16-year-old son when he is diagnosed with cancer. As the novel progresses, Daniel uses “Catcher in the Rye,” the dream of going to New York, and Holden Caulfield as a guide through his life. He continues Holden’s story, what you hope he did once he went back to his parents, and admitted that he had been kicked out of school again and that he was tired of the “phonies.” If you loved “The Catcher in the Rye” and its interpretation of New York City and all that it has to offer, you’ll love this. Make sure you add this book to your to-read list.
Related: 5 Best Places to Curl Up with a Book
Tracy lives in the downstate area of New York. Some might call her an avid graduation affectionate (MA, Fordham University & MLS, SUNY Buffalo). She’d say she’s just waiting for the right degree to come along with a promise and a ring someday. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.