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Rules of Civility

3.98  ·  Rating Details ·  76,989 Ratings  ·  8,515 Reviews
Unabridged, 10 CDs, 11 1/2 hours A sophisticated and entertaining debut novel about an irresistible young woman with outsized dreams.
Audio CD, 10 pages
Published July 26th 2011 by Penguin Audio (first published 2011)
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This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Carolyn This didn't spoil anything. You know she married someone else after the first 2 pages.
Sandy Bergeson
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Jeffrey Keeten
Jul 07, 2013 Jeffrey Keeten rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
”She was indisputably a natural blonde. Her shoulder-length hair, which was sandy in summer, turned golden in the fall as if in sympathy with the wheat fields back home. She had fine features and blue eyes and pinpoint dimples so perfectly defined that it seemed like there must be a small steel cable fastened to the center of each inner cheek which grew taut when she smiled. True, she was only five foot five, but she knew how to dance in two-inch heels--and she knew how to kick them off as soon ...more
Jan 12, 2017 Elyse rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
$1.99 Kindle Download special today! -- GREAT DEAL!!! (I spent more!)


This review is filled 'mostly' with quotes --as these are quotes I want to remember....yet without the context of the story itself ... there are NO SPOILERS.
Special thanks Sara. We are buddy-reading this together ..having our own private book club discussion....adds much richness to a novel like this one.

Whatever setbacks Katey's father faced in life, he said, "
Aug 21, 2011 Anne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, fiction, nyc
The prologue to this novel takes place at an exhibition of photographs by Walker Evans in 1966. The author tells us that Evans had waited 25 years to show these photos to the public due to a concern for the subjects' privacy. The photos are taken with a hidden camera in the NYC subway car and "captured a certain naked humanity." Kate sees an old friend, Tinker Grey in two of these pictures. In one he's clean shaven, wearing a custom shirt and a cashmere coat. In a photo dated one year later he l ...more
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
This is just delightful fun. It's a love letter, a limerick, a lollipop, a literary longing. Grab your shaker of martinis and your cocktail onions and take a ride with Katey Kontent through the streets of 1938 Manhattan. She's just a working girl trying to make it on her own, but with the right (or wrong?) friends, she manages to borrow a little glamour...and a helping or two of trouble besides.

The book is not without its flaws. I was only going to rate it four stars. After I read the epilogue
switterbug (Betsey)
If a novel could win an award for best cinematography, this would take home the gold. Amor Towles's sophisticated retro-era novel of manners captures Manhattan 1938 with immaculate lucidity and a silvery focus on the gin and the jazz, the nightclubs and the streets, the pursuit of sensuality, and the arc of the self-made woman.

The novel's preface opens in 1966, with a happily married couple attending a Walker Evans photography exhibition. An unlikely chance encounter stuns the woman, Katey--a pi
Jul 15, 2013 Dolors rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Literary Sybarites
Recommended to Dolors by: Jeffrey Keeten
Shelves: read-in-2013
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”

The road not taken by Robert Frost.

Katey Kontent stands on her balcony overlooking Central Park in 1966 and reflects on the journey of her life and the road she chose to walk more than twenty years ago. Vulnerable and voluptuous like Billie Holiday’s voice in “Autumn in New York”, Katey remembers the one and only genuine love of her life, the irresistible banker Tinker Grey. “For many are c
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
Blargh, I'd been having such good luck with Goodreads Choice finalists.

I really should have put it down after page two, when the female, working-class narrator describes her roommate as follows:

"Eve was one of those surprising beauties from the American Midwest.
In New York it becomes so easy to assume that the city's most alluring women have flown in from Paris or Milan. But they're just a minority. A much larger covey hails from the stalwart states that begin with the letter I--like Iowa or Ind
Jul 28, 2011 Cynthia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Immigrants or Trust Funds?

“Rules of Civility” is a love story for a city. Specifically New York City during the last few years of the 1930’s. That’s not to say that Towles's characters aren’t fully realized. They are. In fact the dialog is outstanding. When a character opens their mouth you know immediately if they haunt the docks or Park Avenue. At one point the three principle protagonists are out larking and sneak into a Marx Brothers movie. Think of how exaggerated the accents and mannerisms
Aug 27, 2011 Robert rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, new-york
This is the rare example of a book that makes you appreciate the art of writing. It is indeed remarkable that this first time author has created a debut novel that succeeds in every way. Mr. Towles has crafted a true masterpiece. This stylish, elegant and deliberately anachronistic debut novel transports readers back to Manhattan in 1938, where authentic, human characters inhabit a playground that comes alive with the manners of a society on the verge of radical upheaval.

This book is art deco, j
New Year’s Eve 1937, Katey Kontent and Evelyn Ross meet handsome, well-heeled Tinker Grey at a bar and they see in 1938 together. They make resolutions for one another...and one of those resolutions is to get “out of your ruts.” Well, this chance meeting shakes up all their lives and not a rut is left when 1938 whistles itself into history. With New York City as a delicious backdrop, Katey navigates both the heights of society and the working class world, and along the way she learns a lot about ...more
Jun 26, 2013 Elaine rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
This book was strange for me, at points, it was a 5, at other points a 1. There were passages (usually not parts of the narrative, but Katy's aphorisms - presumably the product of her middle-aged mind looking back) that moved me nearly to tears. These little nuggets are Katy's own "Rules of Civility" and they made the book worth reading. (E.g., "Right choices are the means by which life crystallizes loss.").

But those little tidbits are not the bulk of this quite plotty pacey novel, which is a fa
Jul 31, 2012 Sarah rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: most-hated
I waffled between a one or two star rating, but I'm not feeling particularly generous today, so one star it is.

Basically: upper-class middle-aged man tries to write as/about working-class young woman. And fails. I think I enjoyed about the first twenty pages of this one, and the rest just fell utterly flat. First of all, the main character (with the terrible name of Katey Kontent) was completely unconvincing and not at all compelling. It's rare that men can write convincingly in a female voice,
Rating 3.5

There is a movie by Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris (awesome movie), that many say 'its a love letter to Paris'. A love letter to a particular time in history, the roaring 20s, where many literary and artistic people socialized. The Rules of Civility, I felt, was Towles love affair. His love affair with New York city, his love affair with the late 30s, and his love of literature.

The story follows Katey Kontent (really?) who is twenty five, living in New York's Greenwich Village, moving
Apr 18, 2012 Chrissie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In summary, I loved listening to this audiobook. Why? First of all, this book is a must for anyone who loves NYC. Secondly, almost every line refers to places and books and artists. There is a wonderful message. The author is a master of metaphor. Most every sentence implies more than the bare words. One example: Katey pronounces her surname Kon-TENT. Don't you see the difference between that and KON-tent? Think about it. The plot throws you a looper. The characters become real people .In the be ...more
So much has been said about this book here and elsewhere that I'm not sure what else to add. I did love this book for many reasons: The sense of time and place, the wonderful use of language (love the use of metaphor), sparkling dialog and internal narration, and wonderful descriptions of New York City itself that raise its presence to another character.

We have all lived through our twenties (or most of us through most of that decade). So much happens, so many decisions are made that impact our
Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh
Oct 23, 2012 Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: 1930's New York fan's
Recommended to Florence (Lefty) by: Shelli Bentley
Entertaining - light but not fluffy - what it does best is capture the high drama of being a New Yorker during the late 30’s. A city where the upper class live large and lavish, hang out in jazz bars, frequent hotels like The Plaza & Essex House and generally fritter their lives away drinking & smoking up a storm. Katey Kontent, a social climber extraordinaire and her flaky friend Eve hobnob with rich elitists with names like (seriously) Tinker, Dicky & Bitsy… Throw in a bitter strug ...more
Aug 25, 2011 Carol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of period pieces, books with settings that are like characters
Recommended to Carol by: Anne Reach & other friends on GoodReads
Shelves: fiction, debut
It's really hard to put my finger on what made me like Rules of Civility so much. I'm partial to debut novels and their authors so when 4 to 5 star reviews started pouring in on GoodReads for this book, I quickly added it to my list.

The setting of New York, the city would not normally make me clamor to read this book, but the 1938 New York that Rules of Civility depicts captured me right away. I can only believe this is due to Amor Towles ability as a writer. The story seems fairly simple. Two
Oct 15, 2014 BrokenTune rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
—Oh stop, Eve said. It’s dreadful. What is it?
—Virginia Woolf.
—Ugh. Tinker brought home all these novels by women as if that’s what I needed to get me back on my feet. He’s surrounded my bed with them. It’s as if he’s planning to brick me in. Isn’t there anything else?

Rules of Civility left me cold. I did not hate it, I did not like, I certainly did not love it as much as other people, including a lot of readers whose reviews I value, loved this book.

I don't even know whether it was the detache
Jan 30, 2015 Toni rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Rereading this wonderful book, just for fun and joy! Better the second time around. Just like watching a movie the second time, you get to see all those little details you missed the first time, and just wonder, how you didn't catch that! Read it again!
Jul 15, 2013 Algernon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Algernon by: Jeffrey Keeten
Shelves: favorites, 2013

What were you afraid of as a kid?
What did you always want that your parents never gave you?
If you could be anyone for a day, who would you be?
If you could relive one year in your life, which one would you be?

Strangers in the night, two girls and a young man, meet and try to discover each other through a little game of 'what if ...' Sounds like my GR friend Dan and his Ongoing Security Question Quiz, or like that running gag in The Way We Were when Robert Redford picks up the best of every
Jul 14, 2011 Alena rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I cannot possibly write a review that reflects the intelligence and sophistication of this book. Integrating art, photography and literature into his portrait of 1938 New York, Amor Towles also tells a great story about the choices made by one young woman -- Kate/Katey/Katherine Kontent, and her friends.

Kate is smart, funny, unpredictable and determined, all qualities that make a fine heroine. But she's also imperfect, which makes her infinitely more interesting. Likewise the characters that int
Doug Bradshaw
Jan 16, 2017 Doug Bradshaw rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Amor Towles has his own beautiful style of writing and describing life: people's emotions, their reactions to art, food, each other, the struggles, the random events in the lives of 20 somethings that can then lead them in certain directions that sometimes last the rest of their lives.

I sometimes wonder why authors decide to take on the role of the opposite sex, but Amor seems to do a great job of it with his girl Kate who comes to NYC from the midwest seeking her fortune. It's obvious that Amo
Diane S ☔
Aug 19, 2011 Diane S ☔ rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4 1/2 if I could. What a wonderful book, tones of Fitzgerald but so much better. The words are beautiful, the writing fantastic. Three people, Evie, Katy and Tinker have an profound influence on each other, their relationships and many many secrets. First book so I just have to wait patiently for his next. Such a great feel for the Jazz Age.
Nov 13, 2011 Suzy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I just finished listening to this book - the debut of the author. I liked the story, the writing and how evocative of an era it was. It's told in the voice of Katey Kontent, a young woman finding her way in life in late 1930's New York City. I think why I liked it so much is that she encounters and forms relationships with diverse types of people and learns about life from these relationships and situations in which she finds herself. As in real life, things aren't always what they seem. The exp ...more
May 01, 2012 Teresa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Teresa by: Cynthia
As my friend Sue said in her review, so much has already been said about this novel (at least among my group of GR friends) that I'm not sure I have anything new to add. I can't think of an aspect of this book that isn't well-done.

My friend Cynthia mentions in her review three of the characters viewing a Marx Brothers movie to point out that this story is not one of stereotypes. It is also at this point that I hoped the novel wouldn't be just a series of madcap adventures by three smart, kooky t
Well, it started out as a four-star, drifted down to three, and eventually thudded at two. Clearly I missed something, because beautiful sentences notwithstanding, this book just didn't do it for me.

Katey Kontent, who really needed a subtler last name, is a 1930s single woman on her own working in a secretarial pool and living in a women's boardinghouse. On New Year's Eve, drinking with her roommate Eve, she meets the debonair Tinker Grey and becomes part of first one, then another, love triangl
Jun 04, 2012 DeB MaRtEnS rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Jill Field
I was actually hesitant about reading this book, and a chapter into it, I wasn't sure if I would continue. Checked some reviews and decided to slog on. So glad I did. Beautiful, beautiful writing; poetic and profound at times in its sentiment. The story takes place in 1938, and centres on the lives of three individuals: Katey, Tinker and Eve. Kate and Eve are room mates and in a chance meeting, they are introduced to Tinker Grey who in turn changes all of their lives. This is a tale of the elite ...more
Sep 22, 2011 ☮Karen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I've developed a habit in my book reading of skimming through certain long descriptions, boring conversations, etc. in order to move ahead to more interesting parts. I would say this happens in nearly 100% of my books to one extent or another. But this book was the exception; there was no need for skimming whatsoever. I read every single, perfectly-placed word, and savored them all.

I love a New York setting, love this time period (1930s), and I love Katey Kontent. She could do no wrong in my boo
Rule #111: Speak no ill of a book that many have praised, though judge not its merits by how many have praised it.

Okay, I made that rule up, so I'm free to break it. There are only 110 Rules of Civility which I'll include a link for at the end of this review. In the meantime, here's what I have to say about this book.

It starts with two photos displayed amongst others in an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, in the year 1966. The photos, on opposite sides of the room, show the
Aug 18, 2011 Deborah rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
While the writing was crisp and fit well with the era and the characters, I was disappointed with the story. It was character-driven, which is usually fine with me, but the characters weren't interesting enough. I couldn't overcome what I felt was a shallow-ness to both the story and the characters. And the story felt too derivative: from Edith Wharton (House of Mirth) to Truman Capote (Breakfast at Tiffany's)and in the end, it left me feeling melancholy with no purpose.

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Born and raised in the Boston area, Amor Towles graduated from Yale College and received an MA in English from Stanford University. Having worked as an investment professional in Manhattan for over twenty years, he now devotes himself fulltime to writing. His first novel, Rules of Civility, published in 2011, was a New York Times bestseller in both hardcover and paperback and was ranked by the Wal ...more
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“In our twenties, when there is still so much time ahead of us, time that seems ample for a hundred indecisions, for a hundred visions and revisions—we draw a card, and we must decide right then and there whether to keep that card and discard the next, or discard the first card and keep the second. And before we know it, the deck has been played out and the decisions we have just made will shape our lives for decades to come.” 264 likes
“It is a lovely oddity of human nature that a person is more inclined to interrupt two people in conversation than one person alone with a book.” 218 likes
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