5 Books, 1 City: epic reads from the Big Apple

I know I’ve said it before, and I’ll likely say it again, but I want to start blogging more regularly again. It’s just the times just now init? Lot going on and that and it’s tough enough to keep up with actual work let alone stuff like blogging. But I do enjoy it, and I do miss it, so to ease back in here’s another 5 Books, 1 City – I covered Edinburgh and Lagos last year, for the first one of 2021 let’s make it….*drum roll*….New York!

The Alienist by Caleb Carr

This is absolutely one of my favourite books (though I just can’t get into the Neflix series no matter how many times I try, and I’ve not read the sequel either). But it’s just a genuinely good story, very evocative, full of detail though brutal and horrific at times.

The year is 1896. The city is New York. Newspaper reporter John Schuyler Moore is summoned by his friend Dr. Laszlo Kreizler—a psychologist, or “alienist”—to view the horribly mutilated body of an adolescent boy abandoned on the unfinished Williamsburg Bridge. From there the two embark on a revolutionary effort in criminology: creating a psychological profile of the perpetrator based on the details of his crimes. Their dangerous quest takes them into the tortured past and twisted mind of a murderer who will kill again before their hunt is over. Fast-paced and riveting, infused with historical detail, The Alienist conjures up Gilded Age New York, with its tenements and mansions, corrupt cops and flamboyant gangsters, shining opera houses and seamy gin mills. It is an age in which questioning society’s belief that all killers are born, not made, could have unexpected and fatal consequences.

Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson

I’ve not actually read Another Brooklyn yet but it’s been on my TBR for a minute. Reminded again in re-reading the blurb why I want to read it so much…observe…

Running into a long-ago friend sets memory from the 1970s in motion for August, transporting her to a time and a place where friendship was everything—until it wasn’t. For August and her girls, sharing confidences as they ambled through neighborhood streets, Brooklyn was a place where they believed that they were beautiful, talented, brilliant—a part of a future that belonged to them. But beneath the hopeful veneer, there was another Brooklyn, a dangerous place where grown men reached for innocent girls in dark hallways, where ghosts haunted the night, where mothers disappeared. A world where madness was just a sunset away and fathers found hope in religion.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Moving onto another of my favourite books by my very favourite author – Donna Tartt. I actually like The Goldfinch best out of her three novels so far, though The Secret History fans might see that as some kind of sacrilege. I just really like coming-of-age stories with sprawling timelines. Not all of the book is set in New York but a hefty chunk of it is and it paints such a vivid picture of the city.

Theo Decker, a 13-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don’t know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by a longing for his mother, he clings to the one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into a wealthy and insular art community. As an adult, Theo moves silkily between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty labyrinth of an antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love — and at the center of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle.

Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin

Reading Rosemary’s Baby made me dream of living in a big old creepy New York apartment building – just without these specific tenants obviously. I love the feel of the dark side of the city in this novel.

Rosemary Woodhouse and her struggling actor husband Guy move into the Bramford, an old New York City apartment building with an ominous reputation and mostly elderly residents. Neighbors Roman and Minnie Castavet soon come nosing around to welcome the Woodhouses to the building, and despite Rosemary’s reservations about their eccentricity and the weird noises that she keeps hearing, her husband takes a shine to them. Shortly after Guy lands a plum Broadway role, Rosemary becomes pregnant―and the Castavets start taking a special interest in her welfare. As the sickened Rosemary becomes increasingly isolated, she begins to suspect that the Castavets’ circle is not what it seems…

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

Here’s another one that’s been on my TBR for awhile – it’s yet another coming-of-age novel (you can tell I’m a big fan of that trope huh?) and it’s such a highly regarded book.

From the moment she entered the world, Francie Nolan needed to be made of stern stuff, for growing up in the Williamsburg slums of Brooklyn, New York demanded fortitude, precocity, and strength of spirit. Often scorned by neighbors for her family’s erratic and eccentric behavior―such as her father Johnny’s taste for alcohol and Aunt Sissy’s habit of marrying serially without the formality of divorce―no one, least of all Francie, could say that the Nolans’ life lacked drama. By turns overwhelming, heartbreaking, and uplifting, the Nolans’ daily experiences are raw with honestly and tenderly threaded with family connectedness. Betty Smith has captured the joys of humble Williamsburg life―from “junk day” on Saturdays, when the children traded their weekly take for pennies, to the special excitement of holidays, bringing cause for celebration and revelry. Smith has created a work of literary art that brilliantly captures a unique time and place as well as deeply resonant moments of universal experience.

2 thoughts on “5 Books, 1 City: epic reads from the Big Apple”

  1. Great post. I enjoy your writing so much. I have The Goldfinch – not read it yet though😱 I thought The Secret History was perfection, but loved The Little Friend even more. I actually might read it again! All the books sound fab. Keep up the good work!😘


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