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NYC books: Books every New Yorker should read

NYC is one of the most literary cities in the world.

Whether you started reading about New York as a child ("Lyle, Lyle Crocodile"), an adolescent ("A Tree Grows in Brooklyn") or an adult ("Bright Lights, Big City"), the city comes alive in so many modern and classic works of literature.

We've compiled a list of 21 books that all New Yorkers must read.

"Here Is New York"

E.B. White's love letter to New York describes
Photo Credit: Little Bookroom

E.B. White's love letter to New York describes himself as a "young worshipful beginner" in the city. "The city is like poetry: It compresses all life ... into a small island and adds music and the accompaniment of internal engines," he writes.

"Low Life"

In the modern gentrified Lower East Side, it's
Photo Credit: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

In the modern gentrified Lower East Side, it's easy to forget the neighborhood's history. Luc Sante gives a history of the underclass haven from 1840-1919, when the neighborhood was populated by immigrants, criminals, prostitutes and assorted lowlifes living amongst disease and general filth.

"Gotham"

The 1,000-page
Photo Credit: Oxford University Press

The 1,000-page "Gotham" looks at the history of the city starting with the Lenape Native Americans through to the creation of the modern metropolis in 1898.

"The Power Broker"

Ever wonder why there are major parkways in
Photo Credit: Vintage

Ever wonder why there are major parkways in the Bronx, but not Manhattan? Or how Jones Beach came to be? Or why there are tolls on certain bridges but not the older ones? The answers all point to Robert Moses, one of the most powerful men in the history of New York City -- and one who never held elected office. Robert Caro's masterful 1975 biography of Moses dissects the man's role in shaping the city that we now inhabit.

"The Age of Innocence"

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1920, Edith
Photo Credit: Dover Publications

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1920, Edith Warton captured the lives of upper class New Yorkers at the turn of the century. Her rendering of a rigid high society in the Gilded Age still resonates today.

"A Tree Grows in Brooklyn"

The coming-of-age tale about a young girl in
Photo Credit: Harper Perennial Modern Classics

The coming-of-age tale about a young girl in early 20th century Williamsburg is one of the classic books about NYC. Although readers all over the country identified with protagonist Francie Nolan, the story belongs to New York.

"Bonfire of the Vanities"

Tom Wolfe's 1987 bestselling satire coined the phrase
Photo Credit: Picador

Tom Wolfe's 1987 bestselling satire coined the phrase "Master of the Universe," but its tale of the race and class divisions in New York City cannot be ignored.

"Bright Lights, Big City"

Jay McInerney's tale of a cocaine-addled young man
Photo Credit: Vintage

Jay McInerney's tale of a cocaine-addled young man who owns NYC was called the "Manhattan novel" for a generation by The New York Times.

"Breakfast at Tiffany's"

Truman Capote captured NYC's free-spirited Holly Golightly, an
Photo Credit: Vintage

Truman Capote captured NYC's free-spirited Holly Golightly, an "American geisha" who is eager to marry one of her rich paramours.

"The Catcher in the Rye"

J.D. Salinger created the quintessential brooding adolescent in
Photo Credit: Little, Brown and Company

J.D. Salinger created the quintessential brooding adolescent in Holden Caulfield, who escapes to New York City after being expelled from prep school. As much as it is Holden's book, it also belongs to NYC, which provides fodder for some of the most poignant commentary.

"The New York Trilogy"

Brooklyn resident Paul Auster is a must-read for
Photo Credit: Penguin Classics

Brooklyn resident Paul Auster is a must-read for any lover of NYC. His memoir, "The Invention of Solitude," and 2009's "The Brooklyn Follies" are strong contenders, but the three loosely connected detective stories in "The New York Trilogy" are our favorites.

"The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay"

Michael Chabon's sprawling, Pulitzer Prize-winning tale of comic
Photo Credit: Random House Trade Paperbacks

Michael Chabon's sprawling, Pulitzer Prize-winning tale of comic book writers in NYC brings the city to life in the days before World War II with a mix of fictional and real-life figures and places (offices in the Empire State Building, Salvador Dali makes an appearance at a party and so much more). Read it more than once if you can.

"A Visit from the Goon Squad"

Not a novel but rather connected short stories,
Photo Credit: Anchor

Not a novel but rather connected short stories, Jennifer Egan's Pulitzer Prize-winning "A Visit from the Goon Squad" is (mostly) based in NYC -- and examines how a place and a person can go from A to B.

"Gossip Girl"

Photo Credit: Poppy

"Welcome to New York City's Upper East Side, where my friends and I live, go to school, play and sleep -- sometimes with each other." Thus begins Nightingale Cecily von Ziegesar's series about the privileged few at a real-life Manhattan prep school, narrated by a mysterious blog called "Gossip Girl."

"From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler"

The 1967 Newbery Medal winner
Photo Credit: Atheneum Books for Young Readers

The 1967 Newbery Medal winner "From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler" is the tale of two young runaways who seek refuge in the Metropolitan Museum of Art -- and land right in the middle of a mystery. You will never be able to visit the Met again without thinking of this classic.

"Harriet the Spy"

A classic children's book, Harriet M. Welsch is
Photo Credit: Yearling

A classic children's book, Harriet M. Welsch is also a classic NYC girl. She lives on the Upper East Side, and she dutifully records everything she sees in her notebook--until her notebook is found by her classmates.

"Eloise"

Is there anyone who doesn't want to live
Photo Credit: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Is there anyone who doesn't want to live at the Plaza Hotel, especially after reading the Eloise stories?

"Lyle, Lyle Crocodile"

The tale of a crocodile who lives on
Photo Credit: HMH Books for Young Readers

The tale of a crocodile who lives on East 88th Street and East End Avenue shows that not much has changed since 1965: Who doesn't have a neighbor plotting against them?

"Humans of New York"

Based on the blog with the same name
Photo Credit: St. Martin's Press

Based on the blog with the same name by Brandon Stanton, 400 color photos and stories provide a window into life in NYC.

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