Ten Books for People Who Love New York City

New York City is one of the world’s major cultural centers. It’s dense population and iconic sites, such as the Statue of Liberty and Central Park, are the perfect backdrop to its colorful history and people. This list of books—as diverse as the Big Apple itself—might contain the last-minute gift you need for the New Yorker at heart.

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1. On Bicycles: A 200-Year History of Bicycling in New York City

By Evan Friss

“Witty and wise, engaged and engaging, surprising, fun and fabulous—I’m running out of adjectives to describe Evan Friss’s wondrous new book. Move over Amsterdam: New York City is a bicycling city too, though with fits and starts, grunts and guffaws, and more than a handful of bike haters (some in high places). A great way to learn about the history of the city that never sleeps—and has never stopped arguing about its bicycles and bicyclists.”

—David Nasaw, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. Professor of History, CUNY Graduate Center

city of workers, city of struggle

2. City of Workers, City of Struggle

Edited by Joshua B. Freeman

“Written by some of the country’s most talented historians, this lavishly illustrated and impressively argued book inverts the usual pattern of viewing New York City’s history from the point of view of the rich and powerful. It makes clear that the struggles of workers—artisans and domestic laborers, sailors and garment workers, public employees and men and women in health care—were essential to making New York a bastion of progressivism. No account of history could be more relevant to our current moment.”

—Eric Foner, Professor Emeritus at Columbia University

3. When Did the Statue of Liberty Turn Green?

Compiled by The Staff of the New-York Historical Society Library

“This compendium of both popular and more obscure questions and answers is filled with colorful, quirky historical threads that combine to create an extraordinary tapestry depicting New York’s story…. An almost addictive read.”

—Library Journal

4. Lust on Trial: Censorship and the Rise of American Obscenity in the Age of Anthony Comstock

By Amy Werbel

“In this vibrant history, Amy Werbel explores the legal and cultural battles surrounding the censorship of “obscene” materials in late nineteenth and early twentieth century New York. Lust on Trial not only mines the history of censorship and repression in a modernizing America, but also sheds light on its legacy for current debates.”

—Nadine Strossen, author of HATE: Why We Should Resist It with Free Speech, Not Censorship and immediate past president, American Civil Liberties Union (1991–2008)

5. Eric Walrond: A Life in the Harlem Renaissance and the Transatlantic Caribbean

By James Davis

“Davis has given us a rich portrait of the writer who may be the greatest conundrum of the Harlem Renaissance: Eric Walrond. He not only situates the ‘sepulchral’ brilliance of Walrond’s best-known book, Tropic Death, but also recovers a much larger corpus of fugitive articles and stories. As peripatetic (with stops in Barbados, Panama, the United States, Haiti, France, and England) as it was ultimately tragic, Walrond’s life may be the single most resonant record of the transnational contours of black culture in the period.”

Brent Hayes Edwards, author of
The Practiceof Diaspora

6.“Do You Have a Band?”

By Daniel Kane

“Daniel Kane’s incisive study confirms what poets have known for years: that punk rock was spawned by the New York School. Meticulously researched, “Do You Have a Band?” is a must-read for any literature buff, poet, or punk rock fan. This book seamlessly blends historical analysis with literary critique, pop culture, and just the right amount of dirt.”

—Gillian McCain, coauthor of
Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk

7.  In Pursuit of Privilege: A History of New York City’s Upper Class and the Making of a Metropolis

By Clifton Hood

“Every city has a social and economic elite. But as Hood shows, the New York elite has always been larger, wealthier, more fluid, and more powerful than in other places, enabling it to simultaneously perpetuate class inequality and create cultural institutions that are world-class in every field. Groundbreaking and comprehensive, The Pursuit of Privilege illuminates three centuries of the New York City elite’s power and influence on city building. Bravo to Hood.”

Kenneth T. Jackson, editor of
The Encyclopedia of New York City

8.The Greater New York Sports Chronology

By Jeffery Kroessler

Jeffrey A. Kroessler’s comprehensive and entertaining timeline stretches from the pastoral entertainments of the Dutch to the corporate captivity of professional sports. He chronicles events ranging from the truly heroic to the heartbreaking, from moments of municipal greatness to inescapable social change. Through it all he plants the world of sport at the very center of New York’s story. 

“Highly recommended.” 


9. International Express: New Yorkers on The 7 Train

By Stéphane Tonnelat and William Kornblum

“A wonderful journey on the 7 train with Tonnelat and Kornblum providing a detailed picture of the subway community in transit. Filled with fascinating stories and analyses of gender relations, ethnic diversity, and social order underground, this well-written and insightful book will be a delight for anyone who rides or is curious about the world of the New York City subway.”

—Nancy Foner, editor of One Out of Three: Immigrant New York in the Twenty-First Century

10. Smarter New York City: How City Agencies Innovate

Edited by André Corrêa d’Almeida

“This book will be invaluable to those looking to understand the complexities of life as a public servant, and to anyone striving to become the champion of innovation that urban administrations in modern societies require among their ranks. The case studies illustrate how strategies for interconnected networks among city agencies, NGOs, individuals, and technology would dramatically improve life within New York City’s ‘gorgeous mosaic.’” 

—David N. Dinkins, 106th mayor of the
City of New York

Save 30% on this or any of our  books about New York City this holiday season when you order from our website by using coupon code: Holiday2019 at checkout. Sale ends December 31 2019.

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