Top 10 Fiction Books Set in New York City

 

While a city is at first thought simply understood as a small part of a story, if you think about it, it plays a major role in how the story is weaved, how everything, the mystery, thrill, romance is described in it, for without knowing well about the city, a writer cannot possibly set a perfect romantic setting in the reader’s imagination, he cannot curate the perfect thrill in his mind. As such, writers often select great cities like New York or London or Paris to best suit their stories.

Oh and, talking of New York, as some may dub “The greatest city in the world!”  a lot of authors choose it as the setting to their stories.

 

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Published in 1943, this classic piece is set in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York. This book has inspired generations of readers and is rightly been tagged as a classic. The story is about the coming of age of a young Francie Nolan who, along with her family resides in Williamsburg. It is filled with tales about her life enshrining her idealistic, compassionate, sensitive characteristics forming part of her bittersweet life.

Read it For:
As mentioned above, this novel is a timeless classic and worth a read. The character development is inspirational as is the flow of the story.
Don't Read it For:
The story is slow paced and very long, this can cause lack of interest especially in the first chapter which can come across as boring.
What makes this book stand out?:
The vivid description of Francie’s life, the way her character develops over the years in her life during the difficult age of 11-17.

The Age of Innocence

Set in19th century, this story portrays the typical 1870’s upper-class New York Society which, more than anything else, is scared of scandals. It is a romantic fiction novel which revolves around the impending marriage of an upper-class couple Newland Archer and May Welland and the how May’s scandalous cousin Ellen’s presence causes Archer to fall in love with Ellen. The story is a 1921 Pulitzer Prize in fiction winner, making Wharton the first woman to win the prize.

Read it For:
The great details and accuracy with which Wharton describes 19th-century American upper class and the way she develops the tragic plot.
Don't Read it For:
There are no particular shortcomings about this book. However, it can go both ways; you can either connect to it completely or not at all. It portrays society at a time which may be illogical to a lot of people because of its deep yet shallow ideals.
What makes this book stand out?:
The description is vivid and portrays a very deep and precise understanding of human psyche.

The Gods of Gotham

Set in 1845 New York, this is a tale about a Timothy Wilde, who loses all his savings, employment and part of his face in a devastating fire that incinerates most of Manhatten; a post which he reluctantly joins the newly formed Police Department in the crime-ridden New York City. While the formation of a police department in NYC and Potato famine in Ireland seem excessively unrelated, the two events alter NYC’s history forever.

Read it For:
The amazing portrayal of characters. The theme is unique, a suspense thriller set up in 1845, while recently written, is unexpectedly precise about the 1845 condition of NYC.
Don't Read it For:
While the story is compelling and engaging, all it took was a confession from the “God of Gotham”, a vigilante/lunatic to solve the main question of the book.
What makes this book stand out?:
This book stands out for its amazing creation and the depth with which the story is weaved, it is like Faye has written about one of her own dreams in the great description.

Dreamland

Published in 1999, the story portrays the colourful underworld life at the turn of the century New York and is set up in Coney Islands and for the major part in an amusement park called Dreamland. The majority of the story follows the criminal trial methods popular at the time.

Read it For:
The story covers multiple themes including feminist movements, gangsters, politics, prostitution to name a few; so there is a lot to read about.
Don't Read it For:
There are numerous subplots in the story that may get creaky, and the novel keeps shifting from fantasy to realism
What makes this book stand out?:
It is an epic tale and work of imagination created by baker which weaves a grand plot of corruption, racism, crime and exploitation.
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Ragtime

Published in 1975, this piece of historical fiction covers the spirit of America from 1902 until 1912 with brief glances towards the end into1917 when America enters the World War.

Read it For:
This book is a collection of his liberal views rather than historical events which were uncommon at the time when this book was published. The author has woven historical as well as fictional characters.
Don't Read it For:
The mix of fiction and fact may cause confusion in the reader's mind. Also, the hero of the novel, Coalhouse Walker Jr, is not introduced until about halfway through the book which seems very strange.
What makes this book stand out?:
The novel effectively blends historical and fictional characters of importance to the story and the actual World War.

House of Mirth

This book has been described as an attack on an “irresponsible, and morally corrupt upper class”. It portrays the life of Lily Bart, a well-born New York’s high society woman who is running in her 29th year and is still unmarried and how her growing age reduces her prospects of marriage.

Read it For:
This book has been dubbed as a novel of remarkable power as it portrayed the society as it was.
Don't Read it For:
Satire, the story challenges the norms of society in a satirical manner. It depicts a tragedy of the downfall of Lily Bart from popularity in a satirical manner but focuses more on satirical tones rather than tragic.
What makes this book stand out?:
Satire, the story challenges the norms of society in a satirical manner. It depicts a tragedy of the downfall of Lily Bart from popularity in a satirical manner but focuses more on satirical tones rather than tragic.

Jazz

Set in 1920’s Harlem, this Pulitzer Prize and Nobel Prize-winning book tell the tale of the history of jazz music along with the scandals of jazz. The book jazz has references to jazz music. The way its characters are created and the story flows, its all a representation of the jazz age.

Read it For:
The excitement which the jazz age is associated with, multiple themes, crazy characters, lying, cheating, murders, guns, knives, illegitimate children and what not!
Don't Read it For:
NO such shortcomings in this novel, it is an amazing piece written by Toni Morrison.
What makes this book stand out?:
It is a novel combing the most heinous chapter of American history, the most beloved American music and the scandalous era of 20th century America.

Underworld

Published in 1997, this novel contains five decades of American history, multiple inter-related themes and is written in non-linear narrative. It opens with a prologue, set during the epic Giants-Dodgers game. The protagonist is a waste management executive whose wife is having an affair with his friend. The various characters respond to various historical events that take place during the span depicted in this novel including the Cuban Missile Crises.

Read it For:
this book was the best seller in 1997-98. The prologue is gloriously written by the author.
Don't Read it For:
The book is 827 pages long and may get boring as it contains a lot of historical events in great detail.
What makes this book stand out?:
Through its various themes and interlinked stories, DeLillo has woven a wonderful web of linked experiences and amazingly encompassed a whole five messy years of American history.

Washington Square

Published in 1880 and set in New York, this novel is a story about a young, wealthy woman and her deceitful suitor, who is willing to marry her only to gain the fortune that he would apparently inherit. In the book, James reminisces the NY that he knew 30 years back

Read it For:
James pays a great deal of attention to detail which presents the most wonderful portrayal of things and even characters.
Don't Read it For:
The characters do not seem real, and it is often difficult to connect with them while reading.
What makes this book stand out?:
In this novel, James has created a memorable representation of love, betrayal and loyalty that leads to despair.

The Catcher in the Rye

This is a story of a New York kid of 16 years old who disappears for 3 days as an act of rebellion. His encounters with a number of phonies make him want to make an effort to stay true to himself.

Read it For:
Set in post world war II era, this novel mirrors the post-war trauma that the Americans were pretending did not exist to the phoney characters created by Salinger.
Don't Read it For:
The protagonist is a 16-year-old boy who goes on to experience things like drugs, alcohol abuse, prostitution which may be depressing.
What makes this book stand out?:
Published in 1951, this book not only covers its major theme of “coming of age” and rebellion but also successfully gives a glimpse of American life post World War II

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