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

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  198,278 ratings  ·  19,315 reviews
This sophisticated and entertaining first novel presents the story of a young woman whose life is on the brink of transformation. On the last night of 1937, twenty-five-year-old Katey Kontent is in a second-rate Greenwich Village jazz bar when Tinker Grey, a handsome banker, happens to sit down at the neighboring table. This chance encounter and its startling consequences ...more
Audible Audio, 12 pages
Published July 26th 2011 by Penguin Audio
More Details... Edit Details
Featured Notes & Highlights

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
This question contains spoilers... (view spoiler)
Judy Lindow (view spoiler) It was the son of the man who gave the party she went to as
Wallace's friend. The father suggested he take the sports car - but he chos…more
(view spoiler) It was the son of the man who gave the party she went to as
Wallace's friend. The father suggested he take the sports car - but he chose the conservative car. We see some matchmaking and in the last pages when she looks at the pictures, she revisits the memory of her and Val hugging him at their wedding. Val's looks are a cross between an aviator and a judge. We have evidence that she's attracted to both the free spirit (Dicky, Tinker, Hank) and the judges (Wallace, Mason, Anne) IMO, the 2 she loves most have both aspects: Eve and Tinker. I think it's important that Val makes a quick entry and exit. I know I've crossed paths many times with some people. Plus, with the lack of interest at that time - it's apparent that the timing would not have been right. Sometimes we have to live through different things before we're ready. In the case of these two we see and learn that they are both career oriented and not prepared to make their commitments until they did some more living on their own.(less)
This question contains spoilers... (view spoiler)
Carolyn This didn't spoil anything. You know she married someone else after the first 2 pages.…moreThis didn't spoil anything. You know she married someone else after the first 2 pages.(less)
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.07  · 
Rating details
 ·  198,278 ratings  ·  19,315 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Rules of Civility
Anne (On semi-hiatus)
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 a NYC subway car and "captured a certain naked humanity." Katey, our protagonist, 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 o ...more
Jeffrey Keeten
Jul 07, 2013 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
Feb 24, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rules of Civility transported me to 1930s New York. It made me nostalgic for a city I've never been to and a time I've never lived in.

Looking back, it's hard to put my finger on exactly what made this story so special. On the surface, there isn't anything terribly arresting about the plot itself. We follow Katey, a working class girl starting her adult life and trying to make it in New York. A chance encounter propels her to friendships with Manhattan's wealthy and elite, providing her with opp
Rick Riordan
After reading A Gentleman in Moscow, I searched out this earlier work by Amor Towles, Rules of Civility, and found it every bit as entrancing and beautifully written. The story follows a young woman Katy Kontent over the course of one year -- 1938 -- going season by season as she makes friends, faces tragedies, finds and loses love, and makes her way through the breathless, ruthless, exhilarating world of Manhattan between the wars. This isn't a book that can be easily described by its plot. Wha ...more
Elyse Walters
Another $1.99 deal on this book today - A kindle download.
Am I the only one that gets excited every time they just see a book pop up of one we loved?
One of my favorite authors!!!

$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 N
Jun 26, 2013 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
Olive Fellows (abookolive)
2022 Reread: I continue to be astounded by how many new things I catch each time I read this and how a different element of it speaks to me each year. This year, it was the robust supporting characters and how much they each added something distinct and essential to Katey's life. Also, for some reason, the fact that this entire book is narrated by Katey as an older woman looking back at this year in her life was especially impactful this year - probably because I, too, am getting older. I love t ...more
Jul 31, 2012 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,
Jeanette (Ms. Feisty)
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
"The year 1938 had been one in which four people of great color and character had held welcome sway over my life."

Katey Kontent and Eve Ross are ready to ring in the new year of 1938 at The Hotspot in Greenwich Village when the devastatingly handsome and moneyed banker with a Central Park West address walks in the door. Tinker Grey: "He had that certain confidence in his bearing, that democratic interest in his surroundings, and that understated presumption of friendliness that are only found in
Jennifer Masterson
I’m late to the party so there isn’t much to say about this book that hasn’t already been said. What I will say is that I absolutely loved the writing, the characters, New York City in the late 1930’s, and the story!

I was having a hard time picking a book and felt I was going into another slump so I went in a totally different direction and picked an older book on my TBR. I’m so glad I did because I loved it! I need to keep reminding myself that the newest books aren’t necessarily the best ones
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
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
Mar 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 5-star
Rules of civility is a book by Amor Towles. He is an author whose best book is A Gentleman in Moscow. Armed with this endorsement I began reading. I realised then that this book will be unforgotten by me. Who knows, maybe when I'm in my deathbed I'll think of it and die.

I was thinking of giving the book only 4 stars. But how can that be, when I've read the book in two days flat? How can that be, when I didn't find one single page lacking in quality?

In the book, people are real. They make love, t
Peter (catching up)
Rule 1:
“Every Action in Company, ought to be with Some Sign of Respect, to those that are Present.”

On New Year’s Eve 1937, just as America puts the Great Depression in its rearview and Europe is dangerously moving towards war, Katey Kontent and Eve Ross decide to enjoy the New Year celebrations in a New York Jazz Club. With a few dollars and a tight schedule of drinks, their evening seems quite limited, that is until Theodore ‘Tinker’ Grey, a young city banker, enters the club, and th
Melinda Gates
Dec 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amor Towles is a master of the English language, and when you’re deep in one of his worlds, ours feels very far away. In one glittering sentence after another, he paints a portrait of a 1930s Manhattan filled with characters straight from the pages of a novel by Edith Wharton or F. Scott Fitzgerald. It’s beautiful, it’s poignant, and it’s very funny. An excellent choice if you’re looking to be whisked away.
Towles’ first novel is light and enjoyable, but it didn’t wow me as A Gentleman in Moscow did.

It’s the story of an extraordinary and transformative year in the life of 22-year old Katey Kontent in New York City in 1938.

“Many are called, but few are chosen”

This novel opens with the famous lines from Matthew 22:8-14 which Walker Evans used for the title of his book of covert photos of subway passengers, taken in 1938 and published in 1966, Many are Called.

Image: One of Walker Evans’ subway phot
Melissa (LifeFullyBooked)
This was my book club April selection. I am not the biggest fan of historical fiction, so I never would have chosen this book for myself despite the adoration that Towles gets from everyone. I really liked this book, so another win for the book club!

I started out reading a paper copy, but the book is written without quotation marks and that isn't the easiest thing to read. It's clunky and doesn't flow well. So I switched to the audiobook and that made all the difference. It truly made this book
Robert Davis
Aug 27, 2011 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 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mark (halfway through 4 weeks holiday - so a bit quiet) Porton
The essence of this book is nicely summarised in the following passage:

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
May 14, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a gorgeous, gorgeous book about New York City in the late 1930s. Elegant prose, one hell of a heroine, and a great story, all around.
Apr 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thank you, Amor Towles, for writing such a lovely and sophisticated novel. Your book was a soothing tonic for this bruised and battered reader.

Rules of Civility is the story of Katey Kontent in New York City. The novel opens at an art gallery in 1966, and then flashes back to 1937 after Katey sees a photo of her former lover, Tinker Grey. She thinks back to her single days and to the night she first met Tinker in '37. She remembers how getting to know him inadvertently set her on a path that cha
Kimber Silver
"I know that right choices by definition are the means by which life crystallizes loss."
― Amor Towles, Rules of Civility

Have you ever been immersed in something so enchanting that you have no idea how special it is until it’s over? This is the feeling I’m left with after reading Rules of Civility. Amor Towles’ dreamy lyrical prose is so beautiful that I was transported back in time to a glamorous life of martinis and manners. I could taste the bathtub gin on my tongue as the sultry jazz tw
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
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
$1.99 Kindle sale, August 2, 2019. I’ve wanted to read Amor Towles' first novel, Rules of Civility (named after George Washington's list of 110 social etiquette and proper behavior rules) since I fell in love with his whimsical A Gentleman in Moscow. I didn't like this one as well, but it's still worth reading.

Rules of Civility starts off slowly, the story of a young woman making her way in New York City in 1938, but with enough interesting details that I found it absorbing. The main character,
Glenn Sumi
Oct 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I hope Amor Towles has another novel coming out soon. Why? On the basis of just two books, he's become one of my favourite writers. I love his work. And like any lover involved in a heady new affair, I WANT MORE!

Last year, I read his second book, A Gentleman In Moscow, about a Russian count in the 1920s forced by his repressive government to live out his life in Moscow's Hotel Metropol because of his background. The historical novel was sublime: beautifully detailed, elegant, funny, with a deep
Jul 28, 2011 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
Apr 16, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-borrowed
Well, that debut novel was*ahem* interesting. A tale of three twentysomethings in New York in the 1930's managed to give this book a very "F.Scott Fitzgerald " vibe, but I just wasn't wooed enough to climb as high on the rating scale. If this was bookclub, I would probably be slinging bag G&T's like there was no tomorrow while all these 4 and 5 stars would be waxing on about this coming of age story with its beautiful prose. But the only things I walked away from this book is a reading list(some ...more
Em Lost In Books
Loved the first half, and then it went downhill for me. :|
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Velocity
  • The Atlantis Plague (The Origin Mystery, #2)
  • The Last Conversation
  • The Chaos Kind (John Rain, #11, Livia Lone, #5)
  • Randomize
  • Cloud Cuckoo Land
  • Lessons in Chemistry
  • Daylight (Atlee Pine, #3)
  • The Locked Door
  • The Maid
  • Horse
  • The Personal Librarian
  • The Diamond Eye
  • Oh William!
  • Sea of Tranquility
  • French Braid
  • Remarkably Bright Creatures
  • All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries, #1)
See similar books…
See top shelves…
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

Articles featuring this book

Need another excuse to treat yourself to a new book this week? We've got you covered with the buzziest new releases of the day. To create our...
41 likes · 11 comments
“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.” 455 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.” 348 likes
More quotes…