Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Top Five Favorite Books :: Set in New York City

I recently finished a book called The Object of My Affection by Stephen McCauley, which was the inspiration of the 1998 movie of the same name, starring Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd (in his first big role after Clueless.) The movie was one of my favorites during my high school and college years, but I can’t really tell you why. It wasn’t a movie starring any teens, and it wasn’t written for teens, but my VHS copy was worn down with consistent use; in fact, that VHS has survived half a dozen moves and is still at my house today… and I watched it about six months ago.

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When I realized the movie was actually based on a book written a decade prior, I quickly ordered it without another thought. And while I enjoyed the book as much as the movie (although there are MAJOR plot differences), what really struck me as I read it was just how many novels I’ve finished that are set in New York City. Manhattan is by far one of my favorite places in the world, and while I have decided many times over that I don’t think I could actually live there permanently, I still get a crazy rush anytime I visit. I suppose reading books that are set in New York allows me to mentally pop in and out as I please.

So, without further ado, here are my top five favorite books set in New York City:

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5) The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
For the Downton Abbey-loving crowd, The Age of Innocence is a great read, although it's set almost 50 years prior. The story centers on a couple about to be married and the delicate unravelling of their relationship once the bride-to-be’s cousin shows up. If subtle satire is your thing, give this book a try. Despite the publish date, I sped through it. 

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4) The Ghost of Greenwich Village by Lorna Graham
I bought this paperback at Target a few years ago for very superficial reasons; I liked the cover and the story sounded mildly interesting. In a nutshell, the protagonist (Eve) moves to NYC to follow in the footsteps of her mother, who lived there during the 1960s. Her apartment is haunted by a ghost from the same era, but by no means is this a scary story. This book is not going to win any awards, but I love the way it weaves in and out of present and past. 

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3) An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin
I know virtually nothing about the art world, but this book written by Steve Martin (yes, that Steve Martin) is a love letter to paintings wrapped up in the chronicle of a young woman named Lacey living in Manhattan in the 1990s and early 2000s. What’s most intriguing about the story is that it’s told in first person through the eyes of Lacey’s friend; he teeters back and forth between loving and hating her; and as the reader, I did the same.

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2) A Cup of Tea by Amy Ephron
This novel is based on a 1922 short story of the same name by Katherine Mansfield. You can likely read the book in two hours or less, and the term “literary irony” doesn’t do the tale justice. A love triangle set during World War I, A Cup of Tea explores how one small decision can change the course of a person’s life forever. 

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1)      The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. by Adelle Waldman
Similar to An Object of Beauty, the lead character in this story is often unlikable. Nate is a writer who has just recently hit his professional stride and finds his love life gaining a boost in the process. Of all the books I’ve listed, this is the only one that takes place solely in present day, and I found Nate and his girlfriend, Hannah, to be written so unbelievably accurate as urban 20-somethings. If I was going to create a time capsule of this decade, I would add this book as a reflection of what dating is often like for young adults.

Any other New York City-based fiction I should check out?