Reading New York

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In really exciting news, on May 15th 2016 I will be boarding a plane to spend four nights in New York. This will be my third trip to New York and although it’s not my favourite city I’ve ever been to, probably not even top ten, it does have a certain magic about it.

But no matter how many times I visit New York, even if I lived there, I could never understand it from as many different perspectives as it’s possible to through reading. Not just throughout history but rich and poor, local and outsider, all the different locations and cultures and backgrounds. Which is, I suppose, the magic of reading.

Until I started thinking about all the different books I’ve read set in New York it never occurred to me how many of them were going on at the same time. Valley of the Dolls, 84 Charing Cross Road, The Catcher in the Rye and Brooklyn are all 1950s New York. Eillis Lacey and Holden Caulfield could have passed in the street. Helene Hanff could have been to see Neely O’Hara perform. But the completely different tones of the books mean that I have a really hard time reconciling this. How could there be all the hedonism that’s going on in the New York of Valley of the Dolls, and to some extent The Catcher in the Rye, and at the same time the sweet simple stories of 84 Charing Cross Road and Brooklyn? How can one city contain that much diversity?

But outside of that one specific decade and the books I’ve read that feature New York are really quite limited. Excluding The New York Trilogy because I only read part one and then threw it aside, condemned as the worst book I’d ever read, the only other examples are Gossip Girl, The Luxe and The Great Gatsby. So I’ve set myself a little side project – reading as many New York themed books as possible before I make my third visit.

The list below will, I’m sure, grow a lot before I actually reach the deadline. And I’d love your suggestions of other great, New York based novels that I absolutely have to read.

  1. Breakfast at Tiffany’s – Truman Capote
  2. Invisible Man – Ralph Ellison
  3. Let the Great World Spin – Colum McCann
  4. The Best of Dorothy Parker
  5. The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
  6. The Age of Innocence – Edith Wharton
  7. Bread Givers – Anzia Yezierska
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12 thoughts on “Reading New York

  1. Question, how on earth do you plan that far in advance?
    P.S. I’m pretty jealous right now, it’s an amazing city.
    Do you have a list of things to do or things you wanted to see that you did get to do before?

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    1. Haha it’s only because my mum’s organising it – last week I started using a calendar for the first time in my life, usually I can’t plan past a fortnight!

      I definitely want to go up the Rockefeller centre as everyone says its way better than the Empire State Building but I’ve only ever done that one. And other than that just eating as many pancakes and drinking as much iced tea as possible!

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      1. Sounds amazing! I want to go up Rockerfeller too. My mum and dad went recently and the pictures they took up there are amazing. Have you heard that there is a new viewing platform in One World Trade Centre? I wonder how that compares

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        1. Yes I had heard that but I have a horrendous fear of heights. At the top of the Empire State Building I was too frightened to enjoy it at all! I’m willing to try the Rockefeller as it’s not quite so high but One World Trade Centre would definitely be more than I could cope with!

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  2. That’s great news! I’m from New York and I know you’ve been to New York but let me know if you need any tourist info. As for books, I would suggest A Tree Grows In Brooklyn and any adult book written by Meg Cabot like the Queen of Babble series or the Princess Diaries.

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    1. Of course – The Princess Diaries – how did I forget that one? Maybe because the film moved it to San Francisco so I forget it’s supposed to be in New York. I’ll definitely look into the other book too, it sounds really interesting.

      And even though I’ve been there before I’d love to get your suggestions – if you had three days in New York what would be your absolute must dos?

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      1. Well, if you like art you should go to the art museums. I suggest the Metropolitan Museum of Art since it covers all forms from Greek to modern art. The admission will say at least $20 but that is SUGGESTED donation price. You don’t have to pay that. You can pay a dollar and still get in. I also suggest the New York Botanical Garden. If your in NY on a Wednesday, it’s free but for the grounds only. There’s also the Empire State Building, and also the High Line, the elevated park. But you should visit at night, less crowded compared to the day time.

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        1. Thanks for the suggestions – The Botanical Gardens sounds interesting, I’ve never heard of that before. And I visited the High Line last time I went when it was still quite new and not very busy and loved it! Definitely be taking a trip there again

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