Are you looking for the best books set in NYC? Look no further!
New York has inspired generations of writers and left an indelible mark on literature. As a native New Yorker, I have always loved reading books about what is (in my totally unbiased opinion) the greatest city in the world. New York can feel like a character itself in books.
If you are looking for the best books set in New York City that will transport you there without leaving home, I’ve got you covered with the following reading list.
I have put together a list of the best books set in NYC, spanning all different genres and time periods. There is something for every reader on this list. These are great books to read before a trip to New York, or when you are just dreaming of visiting the city.
Here are the top must-read books set in NYC…
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Best Books Set in NYC
The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
One of the most famous books set in New York is The Catcher in the Rye. This classic coming-of-age story follows Holden Caulfield, a sixteen-year-old native New Yorker who runs away from his prep school in Pennsylvania to spend three days going rogue in New York.
City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert
This is a historical fiction novel set in New York in the 1940s centering around Vivian, who is kicked out of Vassar College after her freshman year due to lackluster performance.
Her parents, unsure of what to do with her, send her to live with her aunt in Manhattan. There she is thrust into the wild, glamorous world of New York City theater in the 1940s.
You may recognize the beloved author from her best-seller Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India, and Indonesia. Why not load up your TBR list with more great reads for both Italy and India.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
Another New York City coming-of-age story, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a heartfelt story about a young girl named Francie living in Williamsburg, Brooklyn at the turn of the twentieth century.
Just Kids by Patti Smith
Poet and performer Patti Smith’s memoir chronicles her relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe from its beginning in the summer of 1969. It’s a love letter to New York in the late sixties and early seventies, replete with legendary people who left their mark on the city.
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg
One of the greatest children’s novels of all time, this delightful classic takes place in New York City and follows two siblings, Claudia and Jamie, who have run away from home. The pair decide to move into the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where they secretly live among the artifacts.
Park Avenue Summer by Renee Rosen
It’s 1965 and Cosmopolitan magazine is shaking up America’s sensibilities with its bold new female editor. Alice Weiss has just left her small Midwestern town and moved to New York City to pursue her dreams of becoming a photographer.
When she lands a job as assistant to the editor of Cosmopolitan, she quickly becomes part of a world she never could have dreamed of.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote
Best known for the movie adaptation starring Audrey Hepburn, the original novel Breakfast at Tiffany’s centers around the eccentric and witty young woman Holly Golightly.
The Godfather by Mario Puzo
Another famous movie that started out as a book, a classic crime story about the New York City mob. Following the Corleone crime family, it’s a must-read NYC novel.
My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh
This fiction novel follows an unnamed protagonist, who, despite being a wealthy, beautiful graduate of Columbia University with a dream job, feels empty and disenchanted by life.
She embarks on an experiment: she will spend one year staying asleep for as long as possible by taking a cocktail of drugs, to see if it can cure her malaise once and for all.
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
This sweeping Pulitzer Prize-winning tale centers around Theo Decker, who is thirteen when a bomb goes off in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, killing his mother and changing the trajectory of his life forever. It’s a masterful story about grief, obsession, and fate.
The Witches of New York by Ami McKay
Set in New York City in 1880 at the height of the Gilded Age, this fantastical historical fiction novel follows three women determined to thrive in a society that tries to keep them down.
How to Murder Your Life by Cat Marnell
Cat Marnell’s darkly humorous and self-deprecating memoir reveals the struggles she faced while she had a seemingly-perfect life as beauty editor for Lucky magazine. She writes frankly about addiction, eating disorders, and self-loathing against the backdrop of the NYC party scene.
Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler
Another page-turning memoir set in New York City, Sweetbitter follows the author’s life after she moves to the city at twenty-two to work in an elite downtown restaurant.
City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
In this young adult fantasy novel, teenage Clary Fray is out at a club in New York when she witnesses a murder… that only she can see. She is quickly pulled into a mysterious, shadowy underworld consisting of demon-hunters and the terrifying demons that threaten those she loves.
New York by Edward Rutherford
Readers looking for a historical account of New York City that doesn’t ready like a dry history text will love New York by Edward Rutherford. This novel traces the city’s history from beginning to now, following a rich cast of characters from New York’s many different eras.
The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger
Before it was a hit movie, it was a bestselling book. Andrea has just moved to New York and landed a dream job working for the editor of a high-profile fashion magazine. But her job becomes a nightmare as she struggles to meet her boss’s extreme demands without cracking under pressure.
Sex and the City by Candace Bushnell
Another hit adaptation that started as a book, Sex and the City is about the dating lives of New Yorkers. It’s part soap opera, gossip page, sociological study, and dating manual.
Humans of New York by Brandon Stanton
What started as a street photography and storytelling project by Brandon Stanton has grown into a Facebook page with more than 17 million followers. Brandon shares vulnerable, inspiring, and insightful stories from real New Yorkers, paired with beautiful, honest portraits.
Sleepless in Manhattan by Sarah Morgan
In this romance novel set in NYC, Paige is a calm and competent event planner launching her own business in New York. However, things don’t go according to plan when she runs into Jake, her brother’s best friend, New York’s most in-demand date, and her only heartbreak.
American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
By day he’s a young, handsome, and well-educated Wall Street trader. But by night, he’s a psycho. This controversial novel set in 1980s New York inspired the hit movie adaptation.
The Assistants by Camille Perri
After working as an executive assistant to a multi-millionaire CEO in New York, Tina is fed up with being underpaid and under-appreciated. So when a technical error gives her the opportunity to skim enough money from her boss to pay off her entire student loan debt, she takes it.
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
The Bell Jar is a classic novel about mental illness and societal pressure. Set in 1953 in New York, it follows a brilliant yet troubled young woman who lands a prestigious summer internship working for a magazine. But despite her talent and success, she spirals into a suicidal depression.
You by Caroline Kepnes
If you are looking for a thriller set in New York, be sure to pick this one up. Before it was a hit television show, You was a novel following Joe Goldberg, a bookstore employee in Manhattan who develops an obsession with a customer.
Turning from secret stalker to boyfriend, Joe will get rid of any obstacle that stands in the way of his love story… even if it means murder.
In Five Years by Rebecca Serle
In this moving, tragic romance set in New York, Dannie is a recently-engaged, high-powered career woman who thinks she has her life figured out. Until she falls asleep one night and has a vision of herself five years in the future, with a different life and a different ring on her finger.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Set in New York City and Long Island, The Great Gatsby is a stunning 1920s classic painting a vivid picture of the opulent excess of New York during the Jazz Age.
When No One Is Watching by Alyssa Cole
This is a psychological thriller centering around Sydney, a Brooklyn native living in a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood. But soon she discovers that the arrival of her new neighbors might lead back to something darker and more sinister than she could have ever imagined.
The Lions of Fifth Avenue by Fiona Davis
This historical fiction novel jumps between New York City in 1913 and 1993. Following two remarkable women, one the wife of the superintendent of the New York City Public Library, and her granddaughter, the library’s curate many years later, this is an empowering, gripping tale.
Plan your visit to New York
Once you’ve read some of the books on this list, you’ll be excited to visit New York. If so, you’ll want to check out the following blog resources and guidebooks on NYC.
Resources for New York:
Start planning with these blog posts on New York:
Eat Like a Local: New York by Bloomsbury
A food-focused travel guide with everything you need to eat, drink, shop, and cook your way through New York City.
New York City Walks by Moon Travel Guides
Experience the city that never sleeps like a local: on foot! Whether you’re strolling along tree-lined streets in the Village or hustling down Fifth Avenue, discover the best of the Big Apple with Moon New York City Walks.
New York City Like a Local by D.K. Publishing
If you’re a first-time visitor or familiar already, this guide will help you uncover an authentic local experience like no other. There’s so much more to NYC than the Met and Statue of Liberty – and who better to show you around than the locals?
What Are Your Favorite Books Set In New York?
Have you read any of these books set in New York? Do you have any favorite books set in NYC that I should add to this list? Let me know in the comments below!
Inspire your wanderlust with this list of 25 Brilliant Travel Memoirs by Women for the best travel books written by women! Or check out the following series of book lists set in other parts of the United States:
- 23 Atmospheric Books Set in the South
- 15 Bewitching Books Set in New Orleans
- 12 Best Books Set in Hawaii
- 15 Great Books Set in Alaska
- 17 Best Books Set in Maine
Know someone else who wants to read books set in NYC? Then please pin this post.