Later this month I'm taking a trip to New York City. And since it's my first time there, I put together a list of New York City reads to get me up to speed. I've never done a themed vacation reading list, but New York City is the perfect subject. The sheer number of literary options is astounding, and narrowing my list proved a bit challenging. But here are the final four:
New York Diaries: 1609 to 2009 edited by Teresa Carpenter
-I am completely in love with this book.
New York is a city like no other. Through the centuries, she’s been embraced and reviled, worshiped and feared, praised and battered—all the while standing at the crossroads of American politics, business, society, and culture. Pulitzer Prize winner Teresa Carpenter, a lifelong diary enthusiast, scoured the archives of libraries, historical societies, and private estates to assemble here an almost holographic view of this iconic metropolis. Starting on January 1 and continuing day by day through the year, these journal entries are selected from four centuries of writing—revealing vivid and compelling snapshots of life in the Capital of the World.
“Today I arrived by train in New York City . . . and instantly fell in love with it. Silently, inside myself, I yelled: I should have been born here!”—Edward Robb Ellis, May 22, 1947
New York Stories, Everyman's Pocket Classics edited by Diana Secker Tesdell
-This series is perfect, and this volume is no different. Perfect story selection, perfect size, and so perfectly lovely all lined up together on a bookshelf.
An irresistible anthology of classic tales of New York in the tradition of Christmas Stories, Love Stories, and Stories of the Sea.
Writers have always been enthralled and inspired by New York City, and their vibrant and varied stories provide a kaleidoscopic vision of the city’s high life, low life, nightlife, and everything in between. From the wisecracking Broadway guys and dolls of Damon Runyon to the glittering ballrooms of Edith Wharton, from the jazz- soaked nightspots of Jack Kerouac and James Baldwin to the starry- eyed tourists in John Cheever and Shirley Jackson to the ambitious immigrants conjured by Edwidge Danticat and Junot Diaz- this is New York in all its grittiness and glamour. Here is the hectic, dazzling chaos of Times Square and the elegant calm of galleries in the Met; we meet Yiddish matchmakers in the Bronx, Haitian nannies in Central Park, starving artists, and hedonistic yuppies—a host of vivid characters nursing their dreams in the tiny apartments, the lonely cafés, and the bustling streets of the city that never sleeps.
The New York Stories of Elizabeth Hardwick selected by Darryl Pinckney
-I have yet to be disappointed with NYRB. Expecting to be equally pleased with this one.
Elizabeth Hardwick was one of America’s great postwar women of letters, celebrated as a novelist and as an essayist. Until now, however, her slim but remarkable achievement as a writer of short stories has remained largely hidden, with her work tucked away in the pages of the periodicals—such as Partisan Review, The New Yorker, and The New York Review of Books—in which it originally appeared. This first collection of Hardwick’s short fiction reveals her brilliance as a stylist and as an observer of contemporary life. A young woman returns from New York to her childhood Kentucky home and discovers the world of difference within her. A girl’s boyfriend is not quite good enough, his “silvery eyes, light and cool, revealing nothing except pure possibility, like a coin in hand.” A magazine editor’s life falls strangely to pieces after she loses both her husband and her job. Individual lives and the life of New York, the setting or backdrop for most of these stories, are strikingly and memorably depicted in Hardwick’s beautiful and razor-sharp prose.
The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster
-Finally, the perfect time to tackle this classic.
The New York Trilogy is the series that made New York Times-bestselling author Paul Auster a renowned writer of metafiction and genre-rebelling detective fiction. The New York Review of Books has called his work “one of the most distinctive niches in contemporary literature.” Moving at the breathless pace of a thriller, these uniquely stylized detective novels include City of Glass in which Quinn, a mystery writer, receives an ominous phone call in the middle of the night. He’s drawn into the streets of New York, onto an elusive case that’s more puzzling and more deeply-layered than anything he might have written himself. In Ghosts, Blue, a mentee of Brown, is hired by White to spy on Black from a window on Orange Street. Once Blue starts stalking Black, he finds his subject on a similar mission, as well. In The Locked Room, Fanshawe has disappeared, leaving behind his wife and baby and nothing but a cache of novels, plays, and poems.
Where are you going this summer, and what will you be reading?