130 recommended reads for those traveling to New York City

130 recommended reads for those traveling to New York City

New York City has inspired thousands upon thousands upon thousands of books, movies, and TV shows. It’s no wonder we get so many requests from people wondering what to read before they go to NYC! The possibilities are overwhelming. Where do you even start?

We shared one such NYC-bound bibliophile’s request on our What Should I Read Next Instagram account as a WSIRNReaderRecs request, like we’ve been doing for several years now. The book recommendations flooded in!

We’ve gone through and curated this reader-generated book list. I haven’t read every book on here and you’d better believe my TBR grew as a result. This is by no means an exhaustive list but 130 titles isn’t shabby either. To make this list more user-friendly, we’ve grouped the books by genre.

I’m looking forward to my own next trip to NYC, which is just around the corner. I’ll be at Strand Book Store on March 6 for a live podcast recording of “Don’t Overthink Your Reading Life.” Tickets are $15 and include a copy of Don’t Overthink It. Tickets and more information are available on their website. (While I’m up that way: I’ll also be in Madison CT to visit R.J. Julia on March 4. Hope to see you in the Northeast, and soon!)

I just realized I forgot to include an under-the-radar series I enjoyed: the Morningside Heights trilogy from Cheryl Mendelson. I’m sure I’ll keep thinking of titles all week!

We’d love to hear your favorite NYC books—both your favorites from this list and new additions to it—in the comments section.

Some links (including all Amazon links) are affiliate links. More details here.

130 books for those traveling to New York City, and for armchair travelers who want to

General Fiction:

Historical Fiction:

Classics:

Romance:

Mystery and Thriller:

Science Fiction:

Fantasy:

Young Adult:

Middle Grade:

Graphic Novel:

Nonfiction:

How have YOU prepared for your NYC travel adventures? What books here have you read and loved? What would you add to the list?

P.S. My bookstore tour of NYC, The satisficer’s guide to NYC, and Knowing myself, knowing my kids, and taking 4 kids to NYC without losing my mind. For literary tourists: check out these 65 recommended reads for those traveling to England (or who want to!).

130 recommended reads for those traveling to New York City

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  1. Kacie says:

    Middle Grade: From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.

    The Cricket in Times Square.

    General fiction: A Woman is No Man

    YA: Hope and Other Punchlines

  2. London Summerville says:

    Tell the Wolves I’m Home has a teen protagonist but is written for an adult audience. Could be considered “YA Crossover.” Good book!

  3. Megan says:

    For an upcoming release, IN FIVE YEARS by Rebecca Serle publishes in early March and was a quick, surprising read for me! It talks in detail about different NYC neighborhoods and eateries.

  4. This is an AMAZING and truly impressive list! Some of my faves from the list include Behold the Dreamers (a recent 5 star for me), The Light We Lost, Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk, Rules of Civility, Breakfast at Tiffany’s (adored the audio version) and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

  5. Rachel B says:

    A Kiss from Mr Fitzgerald and Her Mother’s Secret by Natasha Lester are well worth a read if you’d like more historical novels set in NYC

  6. Veronica says:

    I went to New York City last year and read lots of New Yorkish books ahead of time, but my two favourites were New York by Edward Rutherfurd, and The Godfather by Mario Puzo. I had never seen the Godfather movies or read the book and I absolutely loved it and that’s not a genre I regularly read! New York by Edward Rutherfurd is really good historical fiction that follows generations of the same families from Dutch New York right up the present day. A great way to learn the history of new York while also being a good read.

    • Mary Ann Fromtz says:

      I was also very impressed with Rutherford’s New York. Lots of history combined with interesting fiction. I also enjoyed the Godfather series. But I really appreciate this list.

  7. Patty H says:

    Life at the Dakota: New York’s Most Unusual Address by [Birmingham, Stephen]
    This book is currently on the Kindle Deals list. Great read.

  8. I thought I’ve read a lot of NYC set books but only 32 of those! Will definitely be checking out some more, since I’ll never be living in NYC, reading about those that do is the next best thing!

    Some other favorites of mine:
    Paris, My Sweet (I KNOW, but it does 50% take place in NYC), and Brooklyn in Love by Amy Thomas (memoirs, also point out A LOT of bakeries)
    The Life Intended by Kristin Harmel (fiction)
    Grace Grows by Shelle Sumners (fiction)
    The Late Lamented Molly Marx by Sally Koslow (fiction)
    Last Night at Chateau Marmont by Lauren Weisberger (fiction)
    Wooing Cadie McCaffrey by Bethany Turner(fiction)
    A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan (fiction)
    A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams (historical fiction – one of my top 5 favorites, maybe)
    The Pink Suit by Nicole Mary Kelby (historical fiction)

    NYC set books might be my among my most read, it’s easier than convincing my husband we need to make another visit (although, we do!)

    • Lee Ann says:

      Growing up in a really small town, I loved the All-of-a-Kind Family books for the glimpses they gave me into big city immigrant life. We went to the Tenement Museum in New York partly because these books were so special to me as a girl.

  9. Beverly Smith says:

    I’m heading to NYC tomorrow, and I just finished reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn for the first time. Love, love, LOVED it! I truly felt transported to that time and place. I’m also reading E. B. White’s Here Is New York — I recommend this one too. Thank you for this timely list!

  10. Lisa Rigsby says:

    I really love the Victoria Thompson Gaslight series that is set in 19th century New York. They are great mysteries with characters that become friends.

  11. Nancy B. says:

    Another good book in the Science Fiction category is New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson. A dystopian love story to New York City!

    • BarbN says:

      Right, could probably do a whole other post of “gumshoe”/detective/crime novels about the darker side. I’m about a third of the way through Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem, and while it definitely isn’t a cozy read, it’s funny and really different, about a small-time mobster whose Tourette’s syndrome has made him a connoisseur of language. it’s practically a love letter to Brooklyn.

  12. Julie B says:

    I moved to NYC last year and decided to read books about NYC so this list is great! Some books I’d add are:
    Inside the Dream Palace: The Life and Times of New York’s Legendary Chelsea Hotel by Sherill TIppins. Bellevue: Three Centuries of Medicine and Mayhem at America’s Most Storied Hospital by David Oshinsky
    When the Astors Owned New York: Blue Bloods & Grand Hotels in a Gilded Age by Justin Kaplan
    Life at the Dakota: New York’s Most Unusual Address by Stephen Birmingham
    The Girl on the Velvet Swing: Sex, Murder, and Madness at the Dawn of the Twentieth Century by Simon Baatz

  13. Robin says:

    I so enjoyed The Rules of Civility, Garlic & Sapphires, and Save Me the Plums. And Breakfast at Tiffany’s is an all-time favorite. Lock Every Door is a wild ride & is a bit nerve-wracking to read at night, even in front of the fire with the dogs. (I loved it!)

  14. Katie Covey says:

    I am SO excited about this list. My husband just surprised us and has planned our first trip to NYC next month. I have read several titles on this list, but I now have more to get to prepare for our AMAZING getaway. I can’t wait!
    Thanks MMD for writing this “just for me!” It is a perfect list at the perfect time! 🙂

  15. Digna says:

    “Island at the Center of the World” by Russell Shorto is a non-fictional book about the very early days of Manhattan, when the Dutch were in charge. Much of the information is based on original documents which had been kept in Albany. It is a very readable and interesting book, and not too long!

  16. Nancy B. says:

    Another good, fun NYC adventure is Relic by Preston and Child. An adventure/suspenses story in the mayhem-in-the-natural-history-museum genre! It’s the first in a series involving the same characters, in case you really liked it.

  17. Katherine says:

    May I make a tangential suggestion? The Bowery Boys podcast is one of my favorites! They cover NYC history & current topics. One of my favorites is a walking tour of Dutch New Amsterdam. I pulled up google maps & followed their discussion through the streets of the top of Manhattan. Great stuff!

  18. Halley says:

    I have to tell you, my mom is a high school English teacher and I pass these lists on to her. I gave your UK list to her for kids going on the Model UN trip to London, and the choir trip this year is to NYC! If you feel like helping out the travelers of the Spanish or French clubs next, I’m sure she would appreciate it 🙂

  19. Lisa says:

    I see Forever by Pete Hamill on the Historical Fiction list. I loved his books North River and Snow in August even more! (Also both Historical Fiction)

  20. Susan Reagan says:

    I would definitely add “Time and Again” and its sequel, “From Time to Time: by the late Jack Finney. Stephen King called “Time and Again” “THE great time-travel story.” These books combine present and historic New York in a fabulously fun way.

  21. Rita says:

    cozy mystery series- Cleo Coyle
    contemporary mystery series- Katia Lief
    historical mystery series- Victoria Thompson
    crime procedural series- Carroll O’Connell
    crime procedural series- Stefanie Pintoff
    (she has a historical one and a contemporary one too)

  22. Dana says:

    I’d also recommend Rhys Bowen’s Molly Murphy series for a historical fiction set in New York in the early 1900s. Molly’s a young woman who immigrated from Ireland, and she decides to become a detective, an unusual career for a woman at the time. They’re cozies though, so not too bloody or gory

  23. Cheryl says:

    The Golden House by Salman Rushdie
    If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin
    Jackie’s Girl by Kathy McKeon (nonfiction about Jackie Kennedy in NYC)
    Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreelnad
    Molly Murphy series by Rhys Bowne
    Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

  24. At the risk of sounding immodest, Ashes, winner of the 2019 Next Generation Indie Book Award for historical fiction, and the 2019 New Apple Summer E-Book Solo Medalist Award, is an excellent read about life in the New York City tenements in the early 1900s, and the tragedy of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire.

  25. Marcia says:

    Non-Fiction: I’ll Drink to That a Life in Style by Halbreich. Saw a story about her on 60 minutes one year.
    Also, loved Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk.
    Have read a ton of books on you historical fiction list.

  26. Another GREAT list! I love coming here and finding even more books for my TBR!!
    Another YA Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson and Being Audrey Hepburn by Mitchell Kriegman. Middle Grade: The Saturdays & the other Melendy books by Elizabeth Enright. Fiction [almost classics] Marjorie Morningstar by Herman Wouk. The Group by Mary Martthy, Auntie Mame by Patrick Dennis, The Joyous Season by Patrick Dennis. The Chosen by Chaim Potok. Nonfiction: Underfoot in Show Business by Helene Hanff

  27. Patricia says:

    Native New Yorker here…great list! But I am adding two:
    1.) “Ninth Street Women” by Mary Gabriel (non-fiction, about the women artists during the years of abstract expressionism in 1950’s NYC)

    2.) St. Marks is Dead: The Many Lives of America’s Hippest Street (Ada Calhoun) Non-fiction. – great history of a very famous NYC street.

  28. Megan says:

    I love The Golem and the Jinni so much; one of my all time favorite books. I am so glad you’ve included it. Someday, Someday Maybe was very enjoyable as well. I was so frustrated with Eilis in Brooklyn, but the setting elements were wonderful.

    I recommend Saint Mazie by Jami Attenberg (historical fiction).

  29. Noell Broussard says:

    I am so thankful many others listed The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler! That is a cherished favorite in our house. I would also add to Mystery a series by Meg Cabot, the first one titled Size 12 isn’t Fat. I read those when I read Nanny Diaries and Devil Wears Prada. Fun books.

  30. Karen Floyd Shepherd says:

    An older mystery series set mostly in NYC are the Mr. and Mrs. North series by Richard and Frances Lockridge. Jerry and Pam North’s best friend is an NYC police detective and somehow they always end up involved in his cases, or cases come to them. The Lockridges began the series in the 1930’s and I think the last one was published in the early ’60’s. The city changes, but Pam, Jerry and Bill never seem to age. Maybe it’s the result of all those perfect martinis Jerry makes.

  31. Sherry Johnson says:

    I thought ‘Time After Time” was the best historical fiction I read last year. I would also recommend: “Grand Central : Original Stories of Postwar Love and Reunion”.

  32. Christine Baehr says:

    You have a great list, but I would have to add one of my favorite New York novels, Marjorie Morningstar, by Herman Wouk.

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