6 Great Books Explore the Wormy Heart of the Big Apple

April 10 2014

There are so many ways to slice a list about New York focused books. These are the best about the time the city was becoming itself – from a peek into the top of the social order that Edith Wharton’s stories offer to a trip to the bottom of the cesspool of the notorious Five Points neighborhood.  Every  one of these books offers a fantastic visit to the world that made New York.

The Alienist
by Caleb Carr

Fast-paced and gripping, infused with a historian's exactitude, The Alienist conjures up the Gilded Age and its untarnished underside: verminous tenements and opulent mansions, corrupt cops and flamboyant gangsters, shining opera houses and seamy gin mills. Here is a New York during an age when questioning society's belief that all killers are born, not made, could have unexpected and mortal consequences.

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo
The Alienist
Caleb Carr

Fast-paced and gripping, infused with a historian's exactitude, The Alienist conjures up the Gilded Age and its untarnished underside: verminous tenements and opulent mansions, corrupt cops and flamboyant gangsters, shining opera houses and seamy gin mills. Here is a New York during an age when questioning society's belief that all killers are born, not made, could have unexpected and mortal consequences.

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo

MENTIONED IN:

How I Read 100+ Books a Year

By Courtney Smith | January 22, 2021

5 World War II-Era Novels Featuring Brave Women Who Persevere

By Abby Zidle | January 21, 2021

10 Books about Iconic Women We’re Reading to Celebrate the First Female VP

By Maddie Ehrenreich | January 20, 2021

Readers’ Choice: Your Favorite Reads of 2020 (and What to Read Next)

By Off the Shelf Staff | January 19, 2021

Book Club Favorites: 6 Books We Can’t Wait to Talk about This Year

By Holly Claytor | January 18, 2021

Renew Your Sense of Purpose with This No-Nonsense Advice Book

By Elizabeth Breeden | January 15, 2021

Close
Low Life
by Luc Sante

Luc Sante's Low Life is one of the best books written about .New York This is not the familiar saga of mansions, avenues, and robber barons, but the messy, turbulent, often murderous story of the city's slums; the teeming streets--scene of innumerable cons and crimes whose cramped and overcrowded housing is still a prominent feature of the cityscape. Low Life provides an arresting and entertaining view of what New York was actually like in its salad days. But it's more than simply a book about New York. It's one of the most provocative books about urban life ever written--an evocation of the mythology of the quintessential modern metropolis, which has much to say not only about New York's past but about the present and future of all cities.

Amazon logo Barnes & Noble logo Indiebound logo
Low Life
Luc Sante

Luc Sante's Low Life is one of the best books written about .New York This is not the familiar saga of mansions, avenues, and robber barons, but the messy, turbulent, often murderous story of the city's slums; the teeming streets--scene of innumerable cons and crimes whose cramped and overcrowded housing is still a prominent feature of the cityscape. Low Life provides an arresting and entertaining view of what New York was actually like in its salad days. But it's more than simply a book about New York. It's one of the most provocative books about urban life ever written--an evocation of the mythology of the quintessential modern metropolis, which has much to say not only about New York's past but about the present and future of all cities.

Amazon logo Barnes & Noble logo Indiebound logo

MENTIONED IN:

How I Read 100+ Books a Year

By Courtney Smith | January 22, 2021

5 World War II-Era Novels Featuring Brave Women Who Persevere

By Abby Zidle | January 21, 2021

10 Books about Iconic Women We’re Reading to Celebrate the First Female VP

By Maddie Ehrenreich | January 20, 2021

Readers’ Choice: Your Favorite Reads of 2020 (and What to Read Next)

By Off the Shelf Staff | January 19, 2021

Book Club Favorites: 6 Books We Can’t Wait to Talk about This Year

By Holly Claytor | January 18, 2021

Renew Your Sense of Purpose with This No-Nonsense Advice Book

By Elizabeth Breeden | January 15, 2021

Close
Five Points
by Tyler Anbinder

The Five Points in lower Manhattan was for years the most notorious slum in the world. The subject of Jacob Riis' famous photos, Five Points could not be matched in the western world for sheer population density, disease, infant and child mortality, unemployment, prostitution, and violent crime. However, it could also be considered the original American melting pot where many of America’s poorest African Americans, and waves of Irish, Jewish, German, and Italian immigrants lived side by side and their cultures blended and influenced each other. Its meeting halls and political clubs helped Catholics gain a hold in politics and aided the creation of the machine politicians who would come to dominate not just the city but an entire era in American politics.

Amazon logo Barnes & Noble logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo Bookshop logo
Five Points
Tyler Anbinder

The Five Points in lower Manhattan was for years the most notorious slum in the world. The subject of Jacob Riis' famous photos, Five Points could not be matched in the western world for sheer population density, disease, infant and child mortality, unemployment, prostitution, and violent crime. However, it could also be considered the original American melting pot where many of America’s poorest African Americans, and waves of Irish, Jewish, German, and Italian immigrants lived side by side and their cultures blended and influenced each other. Its meeting halls and political clubs helped Catholics gain a hold in politics and aided the creation of the machine politicians who would come to dominate not just the city but an entire era in American politics.

Amazon logo Barnes & Noble logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo Bookshop logo

MENTIONED IN:

How I Read 100+ Books a Year

By Courtney Smith | January 22, 2021

5 World War II-Era Novels Featuring Brave Women Who Persevere

By Abby Zidle | January 21, 2021

10 Books about Iconic Women We’re Reading to Celebrate the First Female VP

By Maddie Ehrenreich | January 20, 2021

Readers’ Choice: Your Favorite Reads of 2020 (and What to Read Next)

By Off the Shelf Staff | January 19, 2021

Book Club Favorites: 6 Books We Can’t Wait to Talk about This Year

By Holly Claytor | January 18, 2021

Renew Your Sense of Purpose with This No-Nonsense Advice Book

By Elizabeth Breeden | January 15, 2021

Close
Old New York
by Edith Wharton

You might have chosen Age of Innocence or House of Mirth but these four short novels, which are set in the 1840's, '50s, '60s, and '70s reveal the increasingly rigid codes and customs that ruled New York Society and are essential Edith Wharton. The stories run the gamut of issues -- infidelity, illegitimacy, jealousy, the class system, and the condition of women in society -- and in the fictional accounts of these men and women you come to understand how the real world they represent created New York City.

Amazon logo Barnes & Noble logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo Bookshop logo
Old New York
Edith Wharton

You might have chosen Age of Innocence or House of Mirth but these four short novels, which are set in the 1840's, '50s, '60s, and '70s reveal the increasingly rigid codes and customs that ruled New York Society and are essential Edith Wharton. The stories run the gamut of issues -- infidelity, illegitimacy, jealousy, the class system, and the condition of women in society -- and in the fictional accounts of these men and women you come to understand how the real world they represent created New York City.

Amazon logo Barnes & Noble logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo Bookshop logo

MENTIONED IN:

How I Read 100+ Books a Year

By Courtney Smith | January 22, 2021

5 World War II-Era Novels Featuring Brave Women Who Persevere

By Abby Zidle | January 21, 2021

10 Books about Iconic Women We’re Reading to Celebrate the First Female VP

By Maddie Ehrenreich | January 20, 2021

Readers’ Choice: Your Favorite Reads of 2020 (and What to Read Next)

By Off the Shelf Staff | January 19, 2021

Book Club Favorites: 6 Books We Can’t Wait to Talk about This Year

By Holly Claytor | January 18, 2021

Renew Your Sense of Purpose with This No-Nonsense Advice Book

By Elizabeth Breeden | January 15, 2021

Close
The Gangs of New York
by Herbert Asbury

If you liked Scorsese's film, you have to read this. First published in 1928, Herbert Asbury's whirlwind tour through the low-life of nineteenth-century New York has become an indispensible classic of urban history. Focusing on the saloon halls, gambling dens, and winding alleys of the Bowery and the notorious Five Points district it dramatically evokes the destitution and shocking violence of a turbulent era, when colorfully named criminals like Dandy John Dolan, Bill the Butcher, and Hell-Cat Maggie lurked in the shadows, and infamous gangs like the Plug Uglies, the Dead Rabbits, and the Bowery Boys ruled the streets.

Amazon logo Barnes & Noble logo Indiebound logo
The Gangs of New York
Herbert Asbury

If you liked Scorsese's film, you have to read this. First published in 1928, Herbert Asbury's whirlwind tour through the low-life of nineteenth-century New York has become an indispensible classic of urban history. Focusing on the saloon halls, gambling dens, and winding alleys of the Bowery and the notorious Five Points district it dramatically evokes the destitution and shocking violence of a turbulent era, when colorfully named criminals like Dandy John Dolan, Bill the Butcher, and Hell-Cat Maggie lurked in the shadows, and infamous gangs like the Plug Uglies, the Dead Rabbits, and the Bowery Boys ruled the streets.

Amazon logo Barnes & Noble logo Indiebound logo

MENTIONED IN:

How I Read 100+ Books a Year

By Courtney Smith | January 22, 2021

5 World War II-Era Novels Featuring Brave Women Who Persevere

By Abby Zidle | January 21, 2021

10 Books about Iconic Women We’re Reading to Celebrate the First Female VP

By Maddie Ehrenreich | January 20, 2021

Readers’ Choice: Your Favorite Reads of 2020 (and What to Read Next)

By Off the Shelf Staff | January 19, 2021

Book Club Favorites: 6 Books We Can’t Wait to Talk about This Year

By Holly Claytor | January 18, 2021

Renew Your Sense of Purpose with This No-Nonsense Advice Book

By Elizabeth Breeden | January 15, 2021

Close
The Great Bridge
by David McCullough

Once called The 8th Wonder of the World, for years the Brooklyn Bridge was viewed as the greatest engineering feat of mankind. This is the fantastically told and beautifully detailed story of the Roeblings--father, John, his son, Washington, and Washington's wife, Emily who toiled for decades, fighting competitors, corrupt politicians, and the laws of nature to build the iconic bridge that over 100 years later is one of the landmarks of New York City.

Amazon logo Barnes & Noble logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo Bookshop logo
The Great Bridge
David McCullough

The Brooklyn Bridge is a staggering feat of architecture and a symbol of achievement in the face of adversity. McCullough’s dignified prose illuminates the sweeping drama surrounding the creation of the only stone-towered, steel-cabled bridge on earth.

Amazon logo Barnes & Noble logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo Bookshop logo

MENTIONED IN:

How I Read 100+ Books a Year

By Courtney Smith | January 22, 2021

5 World War II-Era Novels Featuring Brave Women Who Persevere

By Abby Zidle | January 21, 2021

10 Books about Iconic Women We’re Reading to Celebrate the First Female VP

By Maddie Ehrenreich | January 20, 2021

Readers’ Choice: Your Favorite Reads of 2020 (and What to Read Next)

By Off the Shelf Staff | January 19, 2021

Book Club Favorites: 6 Books We Can’t Wait to Talk about This Year

By Holly Claytor | January 18, 2021

Renew Your Sense of Purpose with This No-Nonsense Advice Book

By Elizabeth Breeden | January 15, 2021

Close

You must be logged in to add books to your shelf.

Please log in or sign up now.