Can you feel it? Pumpkin Spice is in the air, fellow booklovers!
‘Tis the season for cozying up on the couch with a few of your favorites and leaving the text messages unread. You’ve got pages to flip and you will not be bothered!
As temperatures taper off to more reasonable degrees, bookworms far and wide pack up their beloved beach reads and begin the search for stories that leave them with that warm feeling. Autumn has arrived, and rumor has it that when you’re in New York City, no season can compare. In this edition of Have Books, Will Travel, we take a look at a few good books set in the Big Apple.
Here Is New York by E.B. White
E.B. White had quite a thing for New York. Yes, that E.B. White. The esteemed author of Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little loved the city so much, that he penned a short essay declaring his adoration. He took a stroll around Manhattan smack dab in the middle of Summer 1949 and was taken aback by its beauty and character. The musings from his experience are all present and accounted for in Here Is New York, including his innate frustration with the city’s inconveniences as well as his eerily accurate perception of how easily its allure would be challenged should the signature skyscrapers crumble in the event of a plane crash…55 years before September 11.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote
Breakfast at Tiffany’s brought us one of the most beloved New York City residents to ever grace literature…or the screen for that matter. Before Carrie and Big, before Rachel and Ross, there was Truman Capote’s Holly Golightly and her neighbor with no name. The two befriend one another as tenants in a lively brownstone in Manhattan’s Upper East Side and No-Name Neighbor becomes smitten with Holly in spite of the fact that she has an affinity for only seeking the attention wealthy men. No-Name’s profession? Struggling writer. Man, if I had a nickel for every struggling writer in New York. Anywho, will Holly leave her high society ways behind for the boy next door? No spoilers here. Warm up a fresh cup of apple cider and find out for yourself.
Another Country by James Baldwin
The role that New York played in providing the framework for James Baldwin’s cultural and political commentary is undeniable. A Manhattan native, most of his fiction work is set somewhere along the five boroughs. Another Country tells the story of jazz drummer Rufus Scott and the evolving relationship of his circle of friends as they cope with grief in the aftermath of his suicide. While certainly a bit on the heavy side, the book holds true to Baldwin’s signature style of breaking relationships wide open and holding the shattered pieces to the light, allowing readers to consider (or rather reconsider) the many nuances of the human experience.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
Betty Smith’s semi-autobiographical novel takes its cue from the Tree of Heaven, a deciduous tree known for its ability to resprout vigorously under even the most dire of circumstances. Published in 1943, the book focuses on the journey of an ambitious young girl as she struggles to bring her dreams to fruition while living in poverty in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Much like the Tree of Heaven, she flourishes in the face of her father’s alcoholism, her mother’s indifference and the dismal state of the country’s economy. Lauded as one of the greatest coming-of-age stories ever told, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is the perfect New York read for anyone looking for a little help finding the silver lining.
Jazz by Toni Morrison
We would be remiss in discussing the Big Apple without bringing up Harlem. A melting pot of all things jazz, dance and art-related in the ‘20s, it is the chosen neighborhood backdrop for Jazz, the second book from Toni Morrison’s African-American history trilogy which features Beloved and Paradise. The novel explores the fallout from the adulterous behavior of salesman Joe Trace. Morrison’s writing style in this particular work proves to be just as lyrical as any jazz standard, with each character’s perspective playing out in a call and response that mirrors the arrangement style so often seen in the music genre. If you’re in need for a good scandalous read, this one definitely fits the bill and it’s best read with a generously poured hot toddy. You’ll need it to deal with Violet Trace’s reaction at the funeral of her husband’s not-so-secret lover. Whew.
Whether you’re headed to New York for work or pleasure, these books are guaranteed to help you feel right at home in the Concrete Jungle. What books are you looking forward to reading this fall? We’ll gladly take any and all recommendations that pair perfectly with hot cocoa and comfy socks.