Good Minds Suggest—Alice Hoffman's Favorite Books Set in New York City

February, 2014
Alice Hoffman Novelist Alice Hoffman calls her latest book, The Museum of Extraordinary Things, a "love song" to New York City, her birthplace and "the greatest city in the world." Transporting the reader to the early 20th century, Hoffman spins an atmospheric tale about Coralie Sardie, who plays a mermaid in her father's Coney Island freak show, and the young photographer who steals her heart. Their fictional story is anchored by two devastating historic events, the Dreamland Amusement Park fire that transformed Coney Island and the deadly Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. Hoffman is the author of 24 novels, including The Dovekeepers and Practical Magic (also a film with Sandra Bullock), and eight young adult books as well as the nonfiction guide Survival Lessons, about her breast cancer diagnosis. She shares with Goodreads "some of the books I've loved in which New York City is a larger-than-life character."

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
"I found this novel on my mother's bookshelf when I was 14. After I read it, the world was never the same. This is the novel that had the greatest impact on me as a writer, and the stream of consciousness narration can break your heart. Holden Caulfield is the ultimate New Yorker, and The Catcher in the Rye is a guide to New York City and to life. I still wonder where the ducks go in winter in Central Park."


The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
"Perhaps the greatest New York City novel, set in the jazz age, a story replayed again and again in our great city: An outsider with nothing comes to New York with a desire to be somebody, and we watch his rise and fall. Spare, elegant, filled with beauty and sorrow, this is still, after all these years, the ultimate New York City cautionary tale."


Jazz by Toni Morrison
"Set in the '20s in Harlem and written by the greatest living writer, this is a novel of love and despair in which desire leads to murder. The voices of the characters create their own music, a song about race, struggle, passion, and a great city in which lives are braided together to form literary jazz."


Just Kids by Patti Smith
"The rock icon's beautiful memoir recounting her arrival in New York City and wild early days at the Chelsea Hotel, where she seemed to meet everyone who was interesting and innovative. This book brings New York to life—it's tender and tragic, and if you lived through the '60s and '70s, you'll be brought back to your own past as well."


Time and Again by Jack Finney
"A cult time-traveling favorite that could be used as a guidebook for both 1970s and 1882 New York. A love story and a mystery, much of which takes place in the grand Dakota apartment building and in and around Gramercy Park. Finney loved New York City, and it shows. This one is pure New York fun."



Vote for your own favorites on Listopia: Tales of New York City



Comments (showing 1-40 of 40) (40 new)

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message 1: by Mel (new)

Mel Ostrov For a recently published NYC novel, check "Mud Castles" by Mel Ostrov


message 2: by Alyson (new)

Alyson This is such a great list topic Alice! There are so many wonderful books where the city is more like a major character than a mere setting! Fiction loved recently: The Submission by Amy Waldman, Visitation Street by Ivy Pochoda and Black & White by Dani Shapiro. For Brooklyn? Everything by Jonathan Lethem. Non fiction: Eric Fischl's memoir Bad Boy. PS Like you loved Patti Smith's Just Kids! (Both of those take deep dives into the art world.) Can't wait to read others'.


message 3: by Lorna (new)

Lorna G. I love the books you have listed. Lonnie Bell


message 4: by Karen (new)

Karen Loved many of these, especially Just Kids, Patti Smith is an amazing writer!


message 5: by Pamfrommd (new)

Pamfrommd Just Kids was so enjoyable. After I finished I felt like I'd spent a week with her.

Other good New York City books: Fever by Mary Beth Keane, Heft by Liz Moore, and Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer by Steven Millhauser.


message 6: by Andi (new)

Andi I also loved the Patti Smith book. Another great NYC novel is Let the Great World Spin.


message 7: by Pamela (new)

Pamela Dreamland by Baker was wonderful!


message 8: by Joan (new)

Joan Fay I would add Winter's Tale by mark Helprin. On of my all time favorites.


message 9: by Rhana (new)

Rhana I've read them all and especially enjoyed Time and Again. I wish there was a series of this book.


message 10: by Lorna (new)

Lorna Cunningham-rushton There is! Look for From time to time and his short stories book About Time


message 11: by Patricia (new)

Patricia Houston A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is one of my very favorites. The original movie was good too.


message 12: by Sarah (new)

Sarah I second A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and add Rules of Civility by Amor Towles. So good.


message 13: by Beverly (new)

Beverly Gologorsky You should not miss a book published recently by beverly gologorsky...titled "Stop Here." People working at a diner, friendship between the women, parents and children and what that brings up. The characters are unforgettable


message 14: by Patricia (new)

Patricia Houston I also love The Bell Jar and The Best of Everything. I know the latter is dated but I don't care. And for non-fiction read the trilogy by Mary Cantwell. Sorry, I don't remember the title.


message 15: by Marie (new)

Marie Howland I loved Let The Great World Spin by Colum McCann


message 16: by Nancy (new)

Nancy I love the list and would add one of my new favorites: The Goldfinch.


message 17: by Mel (new)

Mel Ostrov Let's not overlook the revered older books that are unfamiliar to the younger generation, like To Brooklyn With Love by Gerald Green.


message 18: by Sheera (new)

Sheera what about Body and Soul by Frank Conroy?
pianos, cabs, and early NY


message 19: by Hadis (new)

Hadis I love your ideas..


message 20: by Nicolette (new)

Nicolette Seidl If you are in the Chicago area on Thursday, March 6, Alice Hoffman will be signing copies of The Museum of Extraordinary Things at 7 pm at the Evergreen Park Public Library, 9400 S Troy. www.evergreenparklibrary.org


message 21: by Penny (new)

Penny Shukan Read a million years ago -- A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.


message 22: by Vincent (new)

Vincent For nonfiction I recommend Pete Hamill's Downtown: My Manhattan.
Enjoyed Jack Finney's time travel books, and want to reread Catcher in the Rye.


message 23: by Hadis (new)

Hadis I love your suggests...


message 24: by Tripfiction (new)

Tripfiction Such a great list - and they all evoke the city so well!


message 25: by Jim (new)

Jim I would like to suggest Pete Hamill's "A Drinking Life." It captures the experience of the Irish in that time and place.


message 26: by Pamfrommd (new)

Pamfrommd Jim wrote: "I would like to suggest Pete Hamill's "A Drinking Life." It captures the experience of the Irish in that time and place."

Yes! Thanks for reminding me of this wonderful book. Another Pete Hamill New York-centric is Forever.


message 27: by Diana (new)

Diana Freemantle What about a master of the New York story, Paul Auster... Brooklyn Follies one of my all time favourites.


message 28: by Kathryn (new)

Kathryn The Goldfinch, The Flamethrowers, Netherland, The Emperor's Children . . .


message 29: by Susan (new)

Susan I have a recently release, The Golem and the Jinni. A carpet ride through turn of the century NYC. Great book. Also someone mentioned Pete Hamill. Here's one from I read called, Snow in August. Both of the novels are set in NYC, and both are NYC is character.


message 30: by Susan (new)

Susan Kathryn wrote: "The Goldfinch, The Flamethrowers, Netherland, The Emperor's Children . . ."

I have wanted to read, Netherland, I was not interested in Flamethrower because of the cover. But,now I will have to check it out. It terrible I looks at book covers to judge if I read or not.


message 31: by Liz (new)

Liz "Love Is The Higher Law" by David Levithan is a good one. Set around 9/11.


message 32: by LK (new)

LK Hunsaker Of Kings and Planets by Ethan Canin - a NYC emerging actor befriends a Missouri emerging dentist


message 33: by Stephen (new)

Stephen Witt The Street Singer: A Tale of Sex, Money & Power in a Changing Brooklyn. It's a political satire mixing subway music, and life under Billionaire former Mayor Bloomberg.


message 34: by Sharon (new)

Sharon The Age of Innocence!


message 35: by robyn (new)

robyn forever by pete hamill (i think all pete hamill's books are set in new york), the mixed up files of mrs basil e frankweiler, the golem and the jinni.


message 36: by Clarissa (new)

Clarissa Simmens Chronic City by Jonathan Lethem, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, and I'm risking the disdain of readers but must suggest a poem that represents the seedier side of NY: Allen Ginsberg's Howl...


message 37: by Erma (new)

Erma The Chosen, by Chaim Potok. Go Tell It On the Mountain, by James Baldwin. Girl in Translation, by Jean Kwok. Looking for Mr. Goodbar, by Judith Rosner. (And many listed by others as well!)


message 38: by Rosalinda (new)

Rosalinda Morgan I love New York by Edward Rutherfurd,a sweeping saga from the early years when it was New Amsterdam up to 9-11 attack on the World Trade Center. Great historical fiction.


message 39: by Jean (new)

Jean One of my favorites is Pete Hamill's Forever.


message 40: by José (new)

José Carlos And about John dos Passos?


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