Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Rules of Civility” as Want to Read:
Rules of Civility
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Rules of Civility

3.97  ·  Rating Details  ·  68,466 Ratings  ·  7,722 Reviews
In a jazz bar on the last night of 1937, watching a quartet because she couldn't afford to see the whole ensemble, there were certain things Katey Kontent knew: the location of every old church in Manhattan how to sneak into the cinema how to type eighty words a minute, five thousand an hour, and nine million a year and that if you can still lose yourself in the first chap ...more
Kindle Edition, 349 pages
Published July 21st 2011 by Sceptre (first published 2011)
More Details... edit details

Win a Copy of This Book

  • Rules of Civility by Amor Towles
    Rules of Civility
    Release date: Jun 26, 2012
    Enter for your chance to win a paperback copy of RULES OF CIVILITY, by Amor Towles. While you're at it, you can pre-order a copy of Amor's new book ti ...more

    Giveaway ends in: a

    Availability: 25 copies available, 2942 people requesting

    Giveaway dates: Jul 20 - Aug 01, 2016

    Countries available: US

    Format: Print Book

  • Friend Reviews

    To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

    Reader Q&A

    To ask other readers questions about Rules of Civility, please sign up.

    Popular Answered Questions

    Sandy Bergeson
    This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
    This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

    Community Reviews

    (showing 1-30 of 3,000)
    filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
    Jeffrey Keeten
    Aug 24, 2015 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
    Jun 28, 2013 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
    Aug 20, 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
    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
    Dec 04, 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
    Dec 03, 2013 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
    Jul 07, 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
    Oct 05, 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
    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,
    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
    Sep 05, 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
    Nov 21, 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
    Oct 25, 2015 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 31, 2012 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
    May 06, 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
    Oct 11, 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.

    May 18, 2011 Aspho rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
    Shelves: favorites
    [Review also appeared on]

    I decided to read "The Rules of Civility" because the blurb on the Amazon page mentioned a jazz quartet in 1937 and stated that the protagonist, Katey Kontent, knew " how to type eighty words a minute, five thousand an hour, and nine million a year and that if you can still lose yourself in the first chapter of a Dickens novel then everything is probably going to be fine". With those two lines, I had already identified with Ms Kontent, despite the fact that
    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
    Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

    One of the most entertaining and enjoyable books I have ever read. I love the way this author writes.

    The story actually opens in 1966 at the Museum of Modern Art during the first exhibit of portraits taken by a famous photographer, Walker Evans. He waited 25 years to show these photos to the public, out of respect for the subjects' privacy. The photos were taken with a hidden camera in NYC subway cars. Unaware they were being photographed, the subjects let their
    As cool, sophisticated and elegant as its characters, Rules of Civility is an ice-cold gin & tonic of a novel. The protagonist is twenty-something secretary Katey Kontent (and one of the things that put me off reading this sooner is that I thought this name was so silly: it's to the book's credit that I forgot about that very quickly). The setting is the New York City of the late 1930s. Katey and her beautiful best friend, Eve, have a chance meeting with a debonair young banker - Theodore 'T ...more
    Hard for me to get too excited about this nostalgic tale. It is great on tone and atmosphere in the life it portrays for Manhattan social climbers in 1938. The story told by Katie in retrospect from middle-age strives strives to be wise about life’s choices and the power of friendship to guide such choices with true integrity. But the paradoxes of Katie’s character makes it hard for me to buy-in well on her plausibility.

    In her early 20’s, Katie moves from Brighton Beach to Manhattan, takes a job
    Jun 20, 2014 ☮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
    Mar 07, 2016 Jen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
    Shelves: 4-stars-or-more
    This was a terrific read. I love this era with women joining the workforce; friendships; dancing and fun. Great character development and just an overall feeling of reminiscing of the times. A feel good novel.
    Jan 08, 2016 Skip rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
    Shelves: historical, e-books
    A well-written period piece about NYC in the late 1930s through mid-1940s. Katey Kontent is a Brighton Beach-born working girl. She is ambitious and determined, seeking success in the working world, eventually rising to become assistant to a magazine editor. She works hard in the daytime and parties hard at night, working her way into the NY social scene for the elite along with her best friend, Eve Ross, a Midwest-born free spirit and glamour girls. As enterprising in work as she is in her soci ...more
    Jan 16, 2012 Becky rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
    It took me a long time to finish this book, way longer than I expected. Though I think the main character was smart, witty, snappy and fun, I felt that the story itself lacked a little focus. It wasn't until about two thirds of the way through that I realized what the arc was. Several times characters were reintroduced, and I had to seriously jog my memory to remember their first appearance or relevance. If it hadn't taken so long to read the first time, I'd probably read it again now that I "ge ...more
    Feb 15, 2016 Chris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
    I don’t know what it was about this book, but I just adored it. The story line harkened back to the time of “The Great Gatsby,” and although I looked for a slip up in terms of authenticity, I found none. The writing was superb and at times, I found myself giggling. “I poured myself a gin that was sized to make my apartment seem less depressing and sat in my father’s chair.”

    For a first-time novelist who makes his living working in a Manhattan investment firm(!), Towles crafted a story that was f
    Feb 22, 2013 Richard rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
    Recommended to Richard by: Tamra
    It is easy to say that this is an incredible book; what is difficult is figuring out how to say it in a way that is one tenth as elegant as the book is. The New York Times review, Romantic Mischief in 1930s Manhattan , is a pleasant homage but really never communicates how enticing the book is —how easy it is to drift along with Towles’ story like the good buzz of a well-set dinner party with plenty of good wine and clever friends. I know Oprah has the book pretty high on her list, but was she ...more
    « previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
    topics  posts  views  last activity   
    Play Book Tag: Rules of Civility / Amor Towles. 2 stars 38 36 Apr 18, 2016 03:25PM  
    Mom's Book Banter: March Discussion - Rules of Civility 1 7 Apr 01, 2016 03:29PM  
    Mom's Book Banter: Traveling book #3: Rule of Civility 17 20 Oct 13, 2015 01:55PM  
    Lillie M. Evan Li...: October 2014 - Rules of Civility 1 10 Sep 29, 2014 03:05PM  
    • The Privileges
    • Doc
    • 22 Britannia Road
    • The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb
    • A Good Hard Look
    • City of Promise
    • I Married You for Happiness
    • The Submission
    • Ten Thousand Saints
    • The Flight of Gemma Hardy
    • A Fierce Radiance
    • Girl in a Blue Dress
    • The Chaperone
    • Vaclav and Lena
    • To Be Sung Underwater
    • A Good American
    • The Absolutist
    • Fin & Lady
    Amor Towles was born and raised in the Boston area. He graduated from Yale University and received an MA in English from Stanford University. An investment professional for over twenty years, he now writes fiction full time in Manhattan, where he lives with his wife and two children.
    More about Amor Towles...

    Share This Book

    “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.” 228 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.” 203 likes
    More quotes…