Every New Year’s Eve, thousands of people descend on New York City’s Times Square to welcome in the new year and watch the famous ball drop. For the city that never sleeps, staying up until midnight is no big deal, but there is something special about this world-famous event. If you can’t make it to the Big Apple, check out these colorful and exciting novels that take place in New York City. From Brooklyn to Harlem and from Park Avenue to Hell’s Kitchen, these novels will transport you across the city and through time, sending you on literary trips you won’t soon forget.
11 NYC-Set Novels That Exude the Same Vibrant Energy
When a Texas family uproots to Manhattan, they discover that they might have bitten off more than they can chew. But when the mother accidentally crosses paths with a Broadway-bound pop star, her life further changes beyond her imagination. A love letter to Broadway, New York City, and frazzled motherhood, LIMELIGHT is a charming and witty feel-good read.
In a smart and funny novel by the author of the critically acclaimed “big-hearted, charming” (The Washington Post) Small Admissions, a family’s move to New York City brings surprises and humor.
Allison Brinkley—wife, mother, and former unflappable optimist—discovers that her decision to pack up and move her family from suburban Dallas to the glittery chaos of Manhattan may have been more complicated than she and her husband initially thought. New York is more unruly and bewildering than she expected, defying the notions she developed from romantic movies and a memorable childhood visit. After a humiliating call from the principal’s office and the loss of the job she was counting on, Allison begins to accept that New York may not suit her after all.
When she has a fender-bender, witnessed by a flock of mothers at her son’s new school, she is led to the penthouse apartment of a luxurious Central Park West building and encounters a spoiled, hungover, unsupervised teenager who looks familiar. It doesn’t take long to recognize him as Carter Reid—a famous pop star who has been cast in a new Broadway musical. Through this brush with stardom, Allison embraces a unique and unexpected opportunity that helps her find her way in the heart of Manhattan.
“A tribute to Broadway, teen celebrity life, and a mother who has now seen it all, this work is tough love at its finest and a great read for those wanting a ride on the wild side” (Booklist, starred review).
A remarkable collection of interconnected stories from a fresh new voice, STORIES FROM THE TENANTS DOWNSTAIRS follows the residents of Harlem’s Banneker Terrace as they deal with everyday pressures such as rent collection, friendships, rivalries, and gentrification. Clear-eyed, genuine, and vivid, these stories will stay with you long after you turn the final page.
Set in a Harlem high rise, a stunning debut about a tight-knit cast of characters grappling with their own personal challenges while the forces of gentrification threaten to upend life as they know it.
Like Gloria Naylor’s The Women of Brewster Place and Lin Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights, Sidik Fofana’s electrifying collection of eight interconnected stories showcases the strengths, struggles, and hopes of one residential community in a powerful storytelling experience.
Each short story follows a tenant in the Banneker Homes, a low-income high rise in Harlem where gentrification weighs on everyone’s mind. There is Swan in apartment 6B, whose excitement about his friend’s release from prison jeopardizes the life he’s been trying to lead. Mimi, in apartment 14D, who hustles to raise the child she had with Swan, waitressing at Roscoe’s and doing hair on the side. And Quanneisha B. Miles, a former gymnast with a good education who wishes she could leave Banneker for good, but can’t seem to escape the building’s gravitational pull. We root for these characters and more as they weave in and out of each other’s lives, endeavoring to escape from their pasts and blaze new paths forward for themselves and the people they love.
Stories from the Tenants Downstairs brilliantly captures the joy and pain of the human experience and heralds the arrival of a uniquely talented writer.
Lonely and desperate Ruby Jones is struggling to find herself in New York City when she stumbles across a woman’s body by the Hudson River. The Jane Doe seems to haunt her, and Ruby can’t help but feel determined to not only solve the case but give her the closure the Jane Doe deserves in this heartrending murder mystery.
Winner of Crime Debut and Readers’ Choice Awards—Sisters in Crime
“A brave and timely novel.” —Clare Mackintosh, internationally bestselling author of Hostage
This is not just another novel about a dead girl. Two women—one alive, one dead—are brought together in the dark underbelly of New York City to solve a tragic murder.
When she arrived in New York on her eighteenth birthday carrying nothing but $600 cash and a stolen camera, Alice Lee was looking for a fresh start. Now, just one month later, she is the city’s latest Jane Doe. She may be dead but that doesn’t mean her story is over.
Meanwhile, Ruby Jones is also trying to reinvent herself. After travelling halfway around the world, she’s lonelier than ever in the Big Apple. Until she stumbles upon a woman’s body by the Hudson River, and suddenly finds herself unbreakably tied to the unknown dead woman.
Alice is sure Ruby is the key to solving the mystery of her short life and tragic death. Ruby just wants to forget what she saw…but she can’t seem to stop thinking about the young woman she found. If she keeps looking, can she give this unidentified Jane Doe the ending and closure she deserves?
A “heartbreaking, beautiful, and hugely important novel” (Rosie Walsh, New York Times bestselling author), Before You Knew My Name doesn’t just wonder whodunnit—it also asks who was she? And what did she leave behind?
A story of the American Dream and sisterhood, THE SISTERS MALLONE follows three Italian sisters living in the Irish neighborhood of Hell’s Kitchen in the 1920s. Using all their grit and tenacity, they will do whatever it takes to rise beyond their means no matter the cost in this unputdownable black comedy.
The Mallone sisters look Irish, but don’t let their blue eyes fool you.
“It’s all in how you say it,” their grandma Anona proudly says. “Ma-llone is Irish. Mal-lon-e is Italian.”
Growing up Italian in the 1920s, in Hell’s Kitchen, an Irish enclave, requires toughness, thrift, and a calculating mind―even for the three beautiful Mallone sisters. And when their baby sister Gracie is swept off her feet by no-good Frankie Merelli, Helen and Mary will do anything to make sure Grace gets the life she deserves, even if that means going after her husband…
The Sisters Mallone is a black comedy about the power of sisterhood and the importance of family―and family connections. Through irrepressible characters, and infectious and suspenseful writing, The Sisters Mallone reveals the American immigrant’s dream―with a twist.
One of New York City’s most beautiful museums is the setting of this atmospheric novel about a curatorial assistant falling into her colleagues’ obsession with divination. When she stumbles upon a mysterious deck of tarot cards that seem to have magical powers, the obsession turns dangerous. A page-turning mystery that sinks its teeth in you and doesn’t let go.
The Secret History meets Ninth House in this sinister, atmospheric novel following a circle of researchers as they uncover a mysterious deck of tarot cards and shocking secrets in New York’s famed Met Cloisters.
When Ann Stilwell arrives in New York City, she expects to spend her summer working as a curatorial associate at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Instead, she finds herself assigned to The Cloisters, a gothic museum and garden renowned for its medieval art collection and its group of enigmatic researchers studying the history of divination.
Desperate to escape her painful past, Ann is happy to indulge the researchers’ more outlandish theories about the history of fortune telling. But what begins as academic curiosity quickly turns into obsession when Ann discovers a hidden 15th-century deck of tarot cards that might hold the key to predicting the future. When the dangerous game of power, seduction, and ambition at The Cloisters turns deadly, Ann becomes locked in a race for answers as the line between the arcane and the modern blurs.
A haunting and magical blend of genres, The Cloisters is a gripping debut that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
Nadir is young, trans, and third-generation Syrian American, stuck in an apartment in New York’s Little Syria caring for his grandmother. He struggles with being closeted and living with grief after his mother’s suspicious death years earlier, but when he finds an old journal, he learns more about his mother and his community than he could’ve imagined. Moving, lyrical, and evocative, THE THIRTY NAMES OF NIGHT is a timely masterpiece.
Winner of the Lambda Literary Award for Transgender Fiction
Winner of the ALA Stonewall Book Award—Barbara Gittings Literature Award
Named Best Book of the Year by Bustle
Named Most Anticipated Book of the Year by The Millions, Electric Literature, and HuffPost
From the award-winning author of The Map of Salt and Stars, a new novel about three generations of Syrian Americans haunted by a mysterious species of bird and the truths they carry close to their hearts—a “vivid exploration of loss, art, queer and trans communities, and the persistence of history. Often tender, always engrossing, The Thirty Names of Night is a feat” (R.O. Kwon, author of The Incendiaries).
Five years after a suspicious fire killed his ornithologist mother, a closeted Syrian American trans boy sheds his birth name and searches for a new one. As his grandmother’s sole caretaker, he spends his days cooped up in their apartment, avoiding his neighborhood masjid, his estranged sister, and even his best friend (who also happens to be his longtime crush). The only time he feels truly free is when he slips out at night to paint murals on buildings in the once-thriving Manhattan neighborhood known as Little Syria, but he’s been struggling ever since his mother’s ghost began visiting him each evening.
One night, he enters the abandoned community house and finds the tattered journal of a Syrian American artist named Laila Z, who dedicated her career to painting birds. She mysteriously disappeared more than sixty years before, but her journal contains proof that both his mother and Laila Z encountered the same rare bird before their deaths. In fact, Laila Z’s past is intimately tied to his mother’s in ways he never could have expected. Even more surprising, Laila Z’s story reveals the histories of queer and transgender people within his own community that he never knew. Realizing that he isn’t and has never been alone, he has the courage to claim a new name: Nadir, an Arabic name meaning rare.
As unprecedented numbers of birds are mysteriously drawn to the New York City skies, Nadir enlists the help of his family and friends to unravel what happened to Laila Z and the rare bird his mother died trying to save. Following his mother’s ghost, he uncovers the silences kept in the name of survival by his own community, his own family, and within himself, and discovers the family that was there all along.
Featuring Zeyn Joukhadar’s signature “folkloric, lyrical, and emotionally intense...gorgeous and alive” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) storytelling, The Thirty Names of Night is a “stunning…vivid, visceral, and urgent” (Booklist, starred review) exploration of loss, memory, migration, and identity.
Get transported to nineteenth-century New York City as it faces tremendous upheaval—political, religious, and much more. This epic follows four colorful characters as they live and love in a city in the middle of multiple revolutions, such as the groundbreaking use of antisepsis; the shocking corruption of New York City’s politicians; the increasing gap between the wealthy on Fifth Avenue and the dangerous gangs in the Five Points; and the rising tensions as more and more immigrants arrive. CITY OF GOD shows us a historical New York City that is also surprisingly familiar.
City of God, the latest installment in Beverly Swerling's gripping saga of old New York, takes readers to Manhattan's clamorous streets as the nation struggles to find a compromise between slave and free, but hears the drums of war. This is New York when one synagogue is no longer adequate for thousands of Jewish immigrants, when New Evangelicals rouse complacent Protestants with the promise of born-again salvation, and when it first sees Catholic nuns and calls them whores of Satan. It is New York when ships bring the fabulous wealth of nations to its wharves and auction houses, while a short distance away rival gangs fight to the death with broken bottles and teeth filed to points.
Into this churning cauldron comes young Dr. Nicholas Turner. Nick knows that the discoveries of antisepsis and anesthesia promise medical miracles beyond the dreams of ages. He learns that to make such progress reality he must battle the city's corrupt politics and survive the snake pit that is Bellevue Hospital, all while resisting his love for the beautiful Carolina Devrey, his cousin's wife. Sam Devrey, head of the shipping company that bears his name and a visionary who believes the future will be ushered in by mighty clipper ships spreading acres of sail, battles demons of his own. The life he lives with Carolina in the elegant brownstone on newly fashionable Fifth Avenue is a charade meant to disguise his heart's true home, the secret downtown apartment of the exquisite Mei-hua, his Chinese child-bride. The worlds of all four are imperiled when Sam must rely on Nick's skills to save the woman he loves, and only Nick's honor guards Sam's secret. On a night when promises of hellfire seem to become reality and the city nearly burns to the ground, Carolina and Mei-hua confront the truth of their duplicitous marriages. Rage and revenge join love and passion as driving forces in a story played out against the background of the glittering New York that rises from the ashes, where Delmonico's and the Astor House host bejeweled women and top-hatted men, both with the din of commerce in their ears and the glint of gold in their eyes.
As always, Swerling has conjured a dazzling cast of characters to people her city. Among those seeking born-again salvation are Addie Bellingham, befriended by the widow Manon Turner but willing to betray her, and Lilac Langton, who confesses her sins but avoids mentioning that she's a skilled abortionist in a city that has recently made abortion a crime. Ben Klein, a brilliant young physician, must balance devotion to his mentor and dedication to research with duty to the Jewish community. Wilbur Randolf, Carolina's father, indulges her in everything but fails her when she needs him most. Jenny Worthington, Wilbur's longtime mistress, is driven by avarice to make common cause with Fearless Flannagan, a member of a New York police force as corrupt as the city it serves. Ah Chee, Mei-hua's devoted servant, struggles through Manhattan's streets on bound feet and burns incense to the kitchen god in this place of foreign devils. They are all here, heroines and saints, villains and victims, and a vanished New York made to live again in an intricate tale of old debts and new rivalries.
One of the biggest literary hits of the 1980s, BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY follows a young man working, living, grieving, and partying in yuppie-era Manhattan. Trying to be a writer and missing his wife, he dives headfirst into the cocaine-fueled fast lane, searching for answers and feeling even as he numbs himself with partying. A seductive, influential, and thoughtful modern classic.
Perhaps the quintessential ’80s novel, BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY follows a young man as he weaves his way through the party scene, publishing offices, and pretty people of Manhattan. With nothing but illicit substances to sustain him, it’s a troubling but remarkable portrait of youth and New York life in this decade.
The classic debut from Sister Souljah follows Winter Santiaga, the daughter of a drug-dealing family in Brooklyn who has the world at her fingertips. Everything changes, however, when her father is arrested. A coming-of-age story unlike any other, this raw and vivid novel follows Winter doing whatever it takes to keep her glittery lifestyle afloat.
A native New Yorker and the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize in Literature, Edith Wharton drew on her insider knowledge of Manhattan’s aristocracy to craft her unforgettable classics. In this collection of four novellas, Wharton brings her keen eye and sharp wit to tell tales of marriage, infidelity, classism, and much more amid the backdrop of Gilded Age New York.
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.
It’s 1965, and New York City is a colorful and vibrant wonderland where a small-town girl can achieve her wildest dreams. At least, that’s what Alice thinks when she arrives to work for the radical editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan, the scandalous Helen Gurley Brown. But Alice soon finds herself overwhelmed by the dizzyingly glamourous world of celebrity and the internal pressure to sabotage her infamous boss. With an engaging and whip-smart heroine, PARK AVENUE SUMMER is a celebration of female friendship and the city that never sleeps.
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