13 inspiring books to read for your trip to New York City


Do you know what is so great? Visiting New York and reading stories about it or reading stories about it before you visit. Either way, you can dig deep into a place the more you read about it. The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger, Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote or The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald are probably the classic tales that made you want to visit New York City (ever since you first read these).

13 inspiring books to read for your trip to New York City

It holds a certain fascination to read a story about New York City,
be it fictional or autobiographic if you visited. You can see New York City through the author's eyes. There are all these moments when you think, ah well, this is exactly where so and so walked along in the sixties. Or, in case you read a book after you visited New York City, it will be like, ah well, I know exactly what she is talking about. And then there are all these eye-opening moments, ah well, that is why it is like this and that. It makes you rethink stuff and situations you experienced on your travels. It extends your trip really. In case you can't travel to New York City just yet but are desperate to do so, you can go on armchair travels and read these stories, essays, and historical facts.

What I find to be exciting about New York City is that I regularly saw people reading books, as in actual paper books, in public. Not sure what and when it happened that reading a book became rather unusual. Look around you, most often people passionately stare onto their mobile phone screens as if they would get paid for it. Not so much in New York City. People here read books waiting for the subway, they read books riding the subway, and they read books while sitting in cafés. Hopes are high that this will become popular in more places all over the world. Trends often happen in the US first. Crossing fingers. The more people read, the more we know and think, the better.

Passengers seen through the window of a silver coloured subway train in NYC

Either way, you are going to enjoy reading these books. All books are tried and tested and were bought either at bookshops in Berlin in Germany or on location in New York City at independent bookshops. I oppose buying books at online retailers, I wholeheartedly support local shops since they are meeting points and the heart of a community.

I am sure that there are many more books I could have read before or on my New York City trip. It is a dilemma, so many books, never enough time, so I recommend only the ones I read so far. And of course, yes, I also read The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger, Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote and The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

13 inspiring books to read for your trip to New York City

1. Just Kids by Patti Smith

About Just Kids, from the publishing house:

In Just Kids, Patti Smith’s first book of prose, the legendary American artist offers a never-before-seen glimpse of her remarkable relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe in the epochal days of New York City and the Chelsea Hotel in the late sixties and seventies. An honest and moving story of youth and friendship, Smith brings the same unique, lyrical quality to Just Kids as she has to the rest of her formidable body of work—from her influential 1975 album Horses to her visual art and poetry.” (from Harper Collins)


Book cover Just Kids Patti Smith

2. M Train by Patti Smith

About M Train, from the publishing house:

From the National Book Award-winning author of Just Kids: an unforgettable odyssey into the mind of this legendary artist, told through the prism of cafés and haunts she has visited and worked in around the world.

M Train is a journey through seventeen "stations." It begins in the tiny Greenwich Village café where Smith goes every morning for black coffee, ruminates on the world as it is and the world as it was, and writes in her notebook. We then travel, through prose that shifts fluidly between dreams and reality, past and present, across a landscape of creative aspirations and inspirations: from Frida Kahlo's Casa Azul in Mexico, to a meeting of an Arctic explorer's society in Berlin; from the ramshackle seaside bungalow in New York's Far Rockaway that Smith buys just before Hurricane Sandy hits, to the graves of Genet, Plath, Rimbaud, and Mishima. Woven throughout are reflections on the writer's craft and on artistic creation, alongside signature memories, including of her life in Michigan with her husband, guitarist Fred Sonic Smith, whose untimely death was an irremediable loss. For it is loss, as well as the consolation we might salvage from it, that lies at the heart of this exquisitely told memoir, one augmented by stunning black-and-white Polaroids taken by Smith herself. M Train is a meditation on endings and on beginnings: a poetic tour de force by one of the most brilliant, multi-platform artists at work today.

Book cover M Train Patti Smith

3. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

About The Goldfinch, from the publishing house:

Aged thirteen, Theo Decker, son of a devoted mother and a reckless, largely absent father, survives an accident that otherwise tears his life apart. Alone and rudderless in New York, he is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. He is tormented by an unbearable longing for his mother, and down the years clings to the thing that most reminds him of her: a small, strangely captivating painting that ultimately draws him into the criminal underworld. As he grows up, Theo learns to glide between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love – and his talisman, the painting, places him at the centre of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle.

The Goldfinch is a haunted odyssey through present-day America and a drama of enthralling power. Combining unforgettably vivid characters and thrilling suspense, it is a beautiful, addictive triumph – a sweeping story of loss and obsession, of survival and self-invention, of the deepest mysteries of love, identity and fate.

Book cover The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

4. A Freewheelin’ Time by Suze Rotolo

About A Freewheelin’ Time, from the publishing house:

Suze Rotolo chronicles her coming of age in Greenwich Village during the 1960s and the early days of the folk music explosion, when Bob Dylan was finding his voice and she was his muse.

Book cover A Freewheelin' by Time Suze Rotolo

5. The Stories of John Cheever by John Cheever

About The Stories of John Cheever, from the publishing house:

When The Stories of John Cheever was originally published, it became an immediate national bestseller and won the Pulitzer Prize. In the years since, it has become a classic. Vintage Books is proud to reintroduce this magnificent collection.

Here are sixty-one stories that chronicle the lives of what has been called “the greatest generation.”  From the early wonder and disillusionment of city life in “The Enormous Radio” to the surprising discoveries and common mysteries of suburbia in “The Housebreaker of Shady Hill” and “The Swimmer,” Cheever tells us everything we need to know about “the pain and sweetness of life.

Book cover The Stories of John Cheever by John Cheever

6. Kitchen Confidential, Updated Edition by Anthony Bourdain

About Kitchen Confidential, from the publishing house:

An updated and revised edition of Anthony Bourdain's mega-bestselling Kitchen Confidential, with new material from the original edition.

Almost two decades ago, the New Yorker published a now infamous article, “Don’t Eat before You Read This,” by then little-known chef Anthony Bourdain. Bourdain spared no one’s appetite as he revealed what happens behind the kitchen door. The article was a sensation, and the book it spawned, the now classic Kitchen Confidential, became an even bigger sensation, a megabestseller with over one million copies in print. Frankly confessional, addictively acerbic, and utterly unsparing, Bourdain pulls no punches in this memoir of his years in the restaurant business.

Fans will love to return to this deliciously funny, delectably shocking banquet of wild-but-true tales of life in the culinary trade from Chef Anthony Bourdain, laying out his more than a quarter-century of drugs, sex, and haute cuisine—this time with never-before-published material.

Book cover Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

7. The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger

About The Devil Wears Prada, from the publishing house:

A delightfully dishy novel about the all-time most impossible boss in the history of impossible bosses and the basis for the major motion picture starring Anne Hathaway and Meryl Streep.

Andrea Sachs, a small-town girl fresh out of college, lands the job “a million girls would die for.” Hired as the assistant to Miranda Priestly, the high-profile, fabulously successful editor of Runway magazine, Andrea finds herself in an office that shouts Prada! Armani! Versace! at every turn, a world populated by impossibly thin, heart-wrenchingly stylish women and beautiful men clad in fine-ribbed turtlenecks and tight leather pants that show off their lifelong dedication to the gym. With breathtaking ease, Miranda can turn each and every one of these hip sophisticates into a scared, whimpering child.

The Devil Wears Prada gives a rich and hilarious new meaning to complaints about “The Boss from Hell.” Narrated in Andrea’s smart, refreshingly disarming voice, it traces a deep, dark, devilish view of life at the top only hinted at in gossip columns and over Cosmopolitans at the trendiest cocktail parties. From sending the latest, not-yet-in-stores Harry Potter to Miranda’s children in Paris by private jet, to locating an unnamed antique store where Miranda had at some point admired a vintage dresser, to serving lattes to Miranda at precisely the piping hot temperature she prefers, Andrea is sorely tested each and every day—and often late into the night with orders barked over the phone. She puts up with it all by keeping her eyes on the prize: a recommendation from Miranda that will get Andrea a top job at any magazine of her choosing. As things escalate from the merely unacceptable to the downright outrageous, however, Andrea begins to realize that the job a million girls would die for may just kill her. And even if she survives, she has to decide whether or not the job is worth the price of her soul.

Book cover The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger

8. Ask again, yes by Mary Beth Keane

About Ask again, yes, from the publishing house:

A gripping and compassionate drama of two families linked by chance, love and tragedy.

Gillam, upstate New York: a town of ordinary, big-lawned suburban houses. The Gleesons have recently moved there and soon welcome the Stanhopes as their new neighbours.

Lonely Lena Gleeson wants a friend but Anne Stanhope - cold, elegant, unstable - wants to be left alone.

It's left to their children - Lena's youngest, Kate, and Anne's only child, Peter - to find their way to one another. To form a friendship whose resilience and love will be almost broken by the fault line dividing both families, and by the terrible tragedy that will engulf them all.

A tragedy whose true origins only become clear many years later . . .

A story of love and redemption, faith and forgiveness, Ask Again, Yes reveals the way childhood memories change when viewed from the distance of adulthood - villains lose their menace, and those who appeared innocent seem less so.

A story of how, if we're lucky, the violence lurking beneath everyday life can be vanquished by the power of love.

Book cover Ask again, yes by Mary Beth Keane

9. New York Stories by Edited by Diana Secker Tesdell

About New York Stories, from the publishing house:

An irresistible anthology of classic tales of New York in the tradition of Christmas Stories, Love Stories, and Stories of the Sea.

Writers have always been enthralled and inspired by New York City, and their vibrant and varied stories provide a kaleidoscopic vision of the city’s high life, low life, nightlife, and everything in between. From the wisecracking Broadway guys and dolls of Damon Runyon to the glittering ballrooms of Edith Wharton, from the jazz- soaked nightspots of Jack Kerouac and James Baldwin to the starry- eyed tourists in John Cheever and Shirley Jackson to the ambitious immigrants conjured by Edwidge Danticat and Junot Diaz— this is New York in all its grittiness and glamour. Here is the hectic, dazzling chaos of Times Square and the elegant calm of galleries in the Met; we meet Yiddish matchmakers in the Bronx, Haitian nannies in Central Park, starving artists, and hedonistic yuppies—a host of vivid characters nursing their dreams in the tiny apartments, the lonely cafés, and the bustling streets of the city that never sleeps.

Book cover New York Stories Edited by Diana Secker Tesdell

10. New York Stories - Landmark Writing from Four Decades of New York Magazine Editors of New York Magazine  Editors of New York Magazine

About New York Stories - Landmark Writing from Four Decades of New York Magazine Editors of New York Magazine, from the publishing house:

The magazine that is the city that is the world

Just in time for its fortieth anniversary, New York magazine presents a stunning collection of some of its best and most influential articles, stories that captured the spectacle, the turbulence, and the cultural realignments of the past four decades.

Covering subjects from “Radical Chic” to Gawker.com, written by some of the country’s most renowned authors, here are works that broke news, perfectly captured the moment, or set trends in motion. In New York Stories, Gloria Steinem (whose Ms. Magazine was introduced in New York) broaches the subject of women’s liberation; Tom Wolfe coins “The Me Decade”; and Steve Fishman piercingly portrays the unwanted martyrdom of the 9/11 widows. Cutting edge features that invented terms like “brat pack” and “grup”; profiles of defining cultural figures including Joe Namath, Truman Capote, and long-shot presidential candidate Bill Clinton; and reports that inspired the acclaimed movies Saturday Night Fever, GoodFellas, and Grey Gardens–all are included in this one-of-a-kind compilation.

The writers who chronicled the times that began with Nixon’s campaign and end with Obama’s are at their best in New York Stories. It’s an irresistible anthology from a magazine that, like the city itself, is still making stars, setting standards, and going strong.

Book cover New York Stories by New York Magazine

11. I never knew that about New York by Christopher Winn

About I never knew that about New York, from the publishing house:

In I Never Knew That About New York Christopher Winn digs beneath the gleaming towers and mean streets of New York and discovers its secrets and its hidden treasures. Learn about the extraordinary people who built New York into one of the world's great cities in just 400 years. New York is one of the most photographed and talked about cities in the world but Winn unearths much that is unexpected and unremembered in this fast moving, ever changing metropolis where history is made on a daily basis!

Book cover I never knew that about New York by Christopher Winn

12. The Masterpiece by Fiona Davies

About The Masterpiece, from the publishing house:

In this captivating novel, national bestselling author Fiona Davis takes readers into the glamorous lost art school within Grand Central Terminal, where two very different women, fifty years apart, strive to make their mark on a world set against them.

For most New Yorkers, Grand Central Terminal is a crown jewel, a masterpiece of design. But for Clara Darden and Virginia Clay, it represents something quite different.

For Clara, the terminal is the stepping stone to her future. It is 1928, and Clara is teaching at the lauded Grand Central School of Art. Though not even the prestige of the school can override the public’s disdain for a “woman artist,” fiery Clara is single-minded in her quest to achieve every creative success—even while juggling the affections of two very different men. But she and her bohemian friends have no idea that they’ll soon be blindsided by the looming Great Depression…and that even poverty and hunger will do little to prepare Clara for the greater tragedy yet to come.

By 1974, the terminal has declined almost as sharply as Virginia Clay’s life. Dilapidated and dangerous, Grand Central is at the center of a fierce lawsuit: Is the once-grand building a landmark to be preserved, or a cancer to be demolished? For Virginia, it is simply her last resort. Recently divorced, she has just accepted a job in the information booth in order to support herself and her college-age daughter, Ruby. But when Virginia stumbles upon an abandoned art school within the terminal and discovers a striking watercolor, her eyes are opened to the elegance beneath the decay. She embarks on a quest to find the artist of the unsigned masterpiece—an impassioned chase that draws Virginia not only into the battle to save Grand Central but deep into the mystery of Clara Darden, the famed 1920s illustrator who disappeared from history in 1931.

Book cover The Masterpiece by Fiona Davis

13. Goodbye to all that – Writers on Loving and Leaving New York, Edited by Sari Botton

About Goodbye to all that – Writers on Loving and Leaving New York, from the publishing house:

From Roxane Gay to Cheryl Strayed, 28 groundbreaking writers share their visceral, heart-bending stories about the everlasting magic-and unavoidable misery-of living in New York City

In 1967, Joan Didion wrote an essay called Goodbye to All That, a work of such candid and penetrating prose that it soon became the gold standard for personal essays. Like no other story before it, Didion’s tale of loving and leaving New York captured the mesmerizing allure Manhattan has always had for writers, poets, and wandering spirits.

In this captivating collection, 28 writers take up Didion’s literary legacy by sharing their own New York stories. Their essays often begin as love stories do, with the passion of something newly discovered-the crush of subway crowds, the streets filled with manic energy, and the certainty that this is the only place on Earth where one can become exactly who she is meant to be.

They also share the grief that comes when the metropolis loses its magic and the pressures of New York’s frenetic life wear thin on even the most fervent dwellers. As friends move away, rents soar, and love-still- remains just out of reach, each writer’s goodbye to New York is singular and universal, like New York itself.

With Cheryl Strayed, Dani Shapiro, Emma Straub, Ann Hood, and more.

Book cover Goodbye to all that – Writers on Loving and Leaving New York, Edited by Sari Botton


Make sure you are not responsible for the death of your local bookshop

Please buy all books from local bookshops. No one wants to live in a town centre without independent shops. It is in our hands; we can vote with our purse. There is no need to support online giants when every one of us can support their own community. You will not find any links in this article to online shops. This article is purely written out of love for reading and travelling and understanding different cultures. Make sure you are not responsible for the death of your local bookshop. It sounds drastic, but let us face it, it is true.

From Berlin with love