Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “City of Glass (The New York Trilogy, #1)” as Want to Read:
City of Glass (The New York Trilogy, #1)
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

City of Glass

(New York Trilogy #1)

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  15,955 ratings  ·  1,032 reviews
Nominated for an Edgar award for best mystery of the year, City of Glass inaugurates an intriguing New York Trilogy of novels that The Washington Post Book World has classified as "post-existentialist private eye... It's as if Kafka has gotten hooked on the gumshoe game and penned his own ever-spiraling version." As a result of a strange phone call in the middle of the nig ...more
Paperback, 203 pages
Published April 7th 1987 by Penguin Books (first published 1985)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

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

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about City of Glass, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.79  · 
Rating details
 ·  15,955 ratings  ·  1,032 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of City of Glass (The New York Trilogy, #1)
Ahmad Sharabiani
(219 From 1001 Books) - The New York Trilogy: City of Glass (New York Trilogy #1), Paul Auster

City of Glass, features a detective-fiction writer become private investigator who descends into madness as he becomes embroiled in a case.

The first story, City of Glass, features a detective fiction writer-become-private investigator who descends into madness as he becomes embroiled in a case. It explores layers of identity and reality, from Paul Auster the writer of the novel to the unnamed "author"
Glenn Russell
Sep 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing

Paul Auster's City of Glass reads like Raymond Chandler on Derrida, that is, a hard-boiled detective novel seasoned with a healthy dose of postmodernist themes, a novel about main character Daniel Quinn as he walks the streets of uptown New York City.

I found the story and writing as compelling as Chandler's The Big Sleep or Hammett's The Maltese Falcon and as thought-provoking as reading an essay by Foucault or Barthes. By way of example, here are three quotes from the novel coupled with key co
Vit Babenco
Jan 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The novel is apparently written under the impression of Death and the Compass by Jorge Luis Borges and there are many allusions to the other tales by that wizard of modern literature. Both City of Glass and Death and the Compass are the most original postmodern mysteries I ever read.
Whatever he knew about these things, he had learned from books, films, and newspapers. He did not, however, consider this to be a handicap. What interested him about the stories he wrote was not their relation to the
Paul Bryant
Sep 30, 2007 rated it did not like it
Shelves: novels
Paul Auster, a guy who ushers you into the silky interior of his brand new Nissan Infiniti, makes sure you've got your seatbelt on, proffers bonbons, then drives you to distraction.

This book is in contravention of TWO of PB's commandments:

- Thou shalt not have a character in thy book with thy own name

- Thou shalt not portray the writing of a novel within thy novel such that the novel within the novel turns out to be the novel the reader is reading

May 13, 2008 rated it really liked it
A very intriguing exploration of the power of language to make (and unmake) the borders of our existence and the reality we experience.

The main character, Quinn, is a writer of detective stories. One day, he decides to take on a serious detective job. His decision to do so, prompted by a mere phone call, seemingly represents the enthralling power of suggestion.

Quinn's willing engagement with the caller, and the events that unfold from there, convey a heavily slanted view of language-experience
What a disaster. This is like a vastly inferior The Crying of Lot 49. People who like it presumably call it a brilliant subversion of traditional mystery-genre expectations. I call it bullshit.

Basically there's this writer, Quinn, who gets a mysterious call looking for a detective called Paul Auster (Auster, the author, is apparently the sort of author who includes himself as a character in his books...sigh). Quinn of course takes on both the case and Auster's identity. The only good parts of th
Bob Redmond
Jan 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In my review of Paul Karasik and David Mazuchelli's graphic novel version of CITY OF GLASS, I wrote: "The graphic artists give it so much dimension that the text-only version seems (in my memory) to be no more than a screenplay to this version's fully-realized presentation."

My memory was wrong. I re-read the original and found it as multi-dimensional as the graphic novel version. Or perhaps the two versions together compounded the book into something greater. Or perhaps they cancelled each other
Aug 23, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery
I find that I don't know what on earth to say about City of Glass. Perhaps that will resolve itself as I read the rest of this trilogy. I was intrigued by it, at times confused; I found it easy to read, but very quiet, muted. It doesn't spark off the page and leap about, at all. It sounds as if it's going to be very strange and dramatic, and yet it quietly slims down -- in the way the main character does -- to something else entirely. And what that thing is, I haven't figured out.

Like I said, pe
Tim Lepczyk
I picked City of Glass off the bookcase because I heard Paul Auster interviewed on Radiolab.  In the interview he described getting a phone call, after the novel was published, by a man asking for Quinn (the character in City of Glass who takes on the identity of Paul Auster).  It sounded like an intriguing novel, and I decided to give it a chance.

It's no secret that I'm not a Paul Auster fan.  At times, it seems like he is more interested in exploring identity, whether it is that of his charact
Jul 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Em*bedded-in-books* by: Akanksha Chattopadhyay
4.5 stars.

It started with a wrong number....
And this kept me hooked throughout.
It is very difficult to describe this novel as an ordinary reader without much knowledge of the factorums of literature. But I will try

It read like a nightmare - Not the scary kind, but the thrilling indecisive kind, where one loses name, identity, purpose and surrounding in the blink of an eye.

William Wilson is a defunct poet who has now assumes the persona of Daniel Quinn, the detective story writer, creator of a po
Apr 22, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of Don Quixote ?
Not a real review. Just some random selection from my notes. Hope I can clarify some things for myself 'cause the book stymied me. Stymied, I says!
May contain spoilers. Probably. I have no idea, man. Just to be safe, though, I don't think anyone oughta be reading this.

1. Our main character, Daniel Quinn, wrote a series of detective novels using the moniker William Wilson. The detective's name was Max Work. When Quinn went to see Peter Stillman, he said his name was Paul Auster.
(Just a vessel for
Jan 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Where do I even begin? Where could I even begin?! First off, this novel is a masterpiece, although it is definitely not for everyone for many, many, many reasons. The writing is very meta and postmodern (that is sort of what this book, and the trilogy it belongs to, is known for), some sections, while not exactly difficult or hard to follow, are intentionally obscure and offbeat in an inaccessible way, and, despite this technically being a mystery novel, there is no conclusion to anything reall ...more
Oct 02, 2013 rated it liked it
An interesting PoMo novella. Auster's first novel/second book/first of his 'New York Trilogy', 'City of Glass' is simultaneously a detective novel, an exploration of the author/narrative dynamic, and a treatise on language. I liked parts, loved parts, and finished the book thinking the author had written something perhaps more interesting than important.

My favorite parts were the chapters where Auster (actual author Auster) through the narrator Quinn acting as the detective Auster explored Stil
Judy Mann
Feb 22, 2014 rated it did not like it
This book is complete crap. It's one of those books where you read the critic's reviews and you think- what in God's name are they talking about?? Kafka? Post modern ? Are they crazy?? This book first of all- was boring.
I skipped 10 pages at a time.Second of all-it was boring. Third of all - you get it. BORING.
More than anything-this book lets you see the pretentiousness of New York critics. Why is that now? Because the critics are so pompous and so full of hot air- using all these high brow te
Stephen P(who no longer can participate due to illness)
Years ago, on a vacation I was without a book. At a nearby bookstore I picked out this one due to the cover attracting me. Up until then I read books of realism mostly plot driven. After the first few pages of City of Glass I threw it against the wall. My wife must have packed it. Our next stop was further out in the countryside with no bookstore in sight. I tried Auster's book again and after a few pages I fell in love with it. Thus began my ever growing interest in reading a different kind of ...more
May 12, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Just goes to show how good of a writer Paul Auster is. Writers like him and Cormac McCarthy get away with writing stories that I can't imagine writing, let alone understanding how to keep the momentum. The protagonist, Daniel Quinn (mistaken for Paul Auster), even in his most unbelievable moments, stays believable. The metafictional aspect of this book combined with the mystery novel nature was an intriguing cerebral mind fuck that kept me reading frantically. Not a book for plot cravers (not at ...more
Kiran Bhat
Feb 09, 2021 rated it really liked it
A unique and memorable entry to the metafiction genre, City of Glass tells the story of Daniel Quinn masquerading as Paul Auster as he tries to find Paul Auster... it's less confusing than it sounds, I promise. What at first is a detective story becomes an intellectual sojourn into the role of literature and the meaning it places in our lives. Auster also does an exceptional job in portraying the value of the flaneur in society and capturing the feelings of New York.

It's too short to lead to an
Kevin Kelsey
Jul 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2015
Terrific writing. I love his prose.
F.X. Altomare
I had mixed feelings going into this novel given Auster's ambiguous relationship with critics; but he pulls a rabbit out of a hat here, weaving a metaphysical "detective" novel that might be considered a primer for postmodernism. All the elements are here: the author appearing as a character, questions about what is real, works-within-the-work, etc. Auster asks the big questions and gives us a relentless work that never quite answers any of them. Auster writes a tough lean prose that reminds one ...more
A metafictional mystery about a crime writer named Daniel Quinn who turns private investigator when he gets a phone call asking for the Paul Auster Detective Agency. This is one of those books where what actually happens is a lot less important than the atmosphere it creates. So what feels essential to me here is the sense of a labyrinthine New York City and a confusion of languages and relationships. Quinn, who is helpfully untethered after the death of his wife and son, is hired to tail Peter ...more
Seth T.
Aug 25, 2010 rated it really liked it
City of Glass was not what I expected. Which is not a bad thing.

I expected a well-crafted, pulpy detective fiction, perhaps borrowing liberally from Hammett, Chandler, and maybe Leonard. And it was to be fraught with New York-ish details and ambiance. I expected it to more or less follow the expectable twists, turns, and general direction of the genre I believed it to take part in.

What I got was something different. Not entirely so, of course. But different enough for me to not quite realize wha
Sep 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely incredible book. To simply describe it as a NY detective story would be an epic understatement. Paul Auster has been one of the authors I've discovered this year and he continues to amaze me. The man is a natural storyteller and he weaves his stories with such cleverness and ease and warmth. His stories are interesting in the way that M.C. Escher's art is, particularly in this case it reminded me of the Drawing Hands, the way the author so cleverly wrote himself into the story, the mu ...more
Jul 24, 2017 rated it it was ok
One of the weirdest books I've read so far. Anyway I completed with a hope of enlightenment upto the last but Alas!!!

An author of mysteries is drawn into an investigation accidentally and the confusion it ends him up in (and me) is the story in a nutshell. There was a lot of wordplay and nameplay all of which were beyond me. Guess it takes a more intellectual mind than mine to decipher it...
Nov 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
City of Glass as the name suggest is more about a city, characters are belonged to city, to its streets,layers of big city's spirits.Timing,pursuing and being alone.

Daniel Quinn is a mystery writer who lost his wife and son and now spends an almost meaningless and boring life. Everything changes when he get a call from a scared man asking for a private detective named Paul Auster.

Maybe to run from his empty life Quinn pretend to be Paul Auster and starts to follow the man's father that he believ
May 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018, slipstream
I was torn between 3 and 5 stars and have settled on 4.

My 3 star review: This is solidly written. The prose is good but not breathtaking. The themes and premise are thought-provoking if slightly contrived, consciously self-conscious. I respect what Auster has done here. I can't say that the story resonated with me in a deeply personal way. There are parts I still don't quite understand.

My 5 star review: This library book had been calling me from the shelf for so long, I finally gave in and read
তানজীম Rahman)
Jun 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
It's pretty rare for a book that's essentially a philosophy/literature/history lecture to be this fun. Full of twists and turns the likes of which can only be found in the most engaging of thrillers; City of Glass kept me enthralled from the first page to the last. But it's not just an enjoyable read. This is a book that makes you think. It makes you think about the nature of stories, about the nature of people who write those stories and the nature of those who read them. This book has left a l ...more
Sep 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels, mystery, classics
City of Glass is the first installment of a 3 novel trilogy written by Paul Auster. Its basically a mystery à la hard-boiled noir fiction popular during the 50s. It tells the story of a detective fiction writer who embarks on a complicated case which involve a variety of odd characters. This adventure would release the protagonist of his daunting loneliness after the death of his wife and son, and would entail some passionate discussions about literature and theology.

This book was extremely enj
Graham P
Dec 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
A detective dime-store novel parading as an existential study about multiple identities. Paul Auster has written a strange, often times sad, short novel about a failed poet turned crime writer turned accidental private dick turned street-corner philosopher turned.... you get the idea. What's refreshing is that the novel is not concerned with solving a mystery, but actually making the mystery so thick and obtuse that the reader won't find an easy escape route. Auster throws in a whole array of re ...more
Trang Tran (Bookidote)
I just finished the first book in this trilogy and even if nothing really happens, I was drawn into this book and read it real fast.I think that's what makes it so beautiful, the details always facinated me when I strongly know if doesn't contribute much to the storyline. I loved every bit of litterature reference in this marvelous narration. You should read it for the love of litterature and books and not expecting a jaw dropping story!
May 23, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wowee. This is some story. I don't entirely know what my feelings about it are yet. I was totally enthralled with the first 75% book, and the rest of it was very interesting even if my attention wavered slightly. Oddly, this feels like a strange pastiche of several different books I've read over the last year. Having finished it, I'm very glad to know that it's a series and there's more to come. I'm also looking forward to reading other reviews of this book, and perhaps some analysis of the deta ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Myth of Wu Tao-Tzu
  • City of Glass
  • Squeeze Play
  • Autisterna
  • Natten är dagens mor
  • Yarden
  • Medealand och andra pjäser
  • Det mest förbjudna
  • El lugar donde mueren los pájaros
  • For Keeps: 30 Years at the Movies
  • Je ne veux pas mourir seul
  • The Book About Moomin, Mymble and Little My
  • Kvinnor och äppelträd
  • Los catorce cuadernos
  • Así que pasen cinco años
  • Keats: Poems
  • Cotton Comes to Harlem (Harlem Cycle, #7)
  • The Crying of Lot 49
See similar books…
Paul Auster is the bestselling author of Report from the Interior, Winter Journal, Sunset Park, Invisible, The Book of Illusions, and The New York Trilogy, among many other works. He has been awarded the Prince of Asturias Prize for Literature, the Prix Médicis Étranger, the Independent Spirit Award, and the Premio Napoli. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the American Ac ...more

Other books in the series

New York Trilogy (3 books)
  • Ghosts (The New York Trilogy, #2)
  • The Locked Room (The New York Trilogy, #3)

Related Articles

You might know comedian Colin Jost from his work as the co-anchor of Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update, or perhaps you know him as Scarlett...
130 likes · 47 comments
“Each time he took a walk, he felt as though he were leaving himself behind, and by giving himself up to the movement of the streets, by reducing himself to a seeing eye, he was able to escape the obligation to think, and this, more than anything else, brought him a measure of peace, a salutary emptiness within...By wandering aimlessly, all places became equal and it no longer mattered where he was. On his best walks he was able to feel that he was nowhere. And this, finally was all he ever asked of things: to be nowhere.” 140 likes
“They had come to the end of what they could talk about. Beyond that point there was nothing: the random thoughts of men who knew nothing.” 21 likes
More quotes…