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25 PREMIER New York City Books (For All Interests)

best books about New York City

Throughout New York City’s 400+ year history it’s captured the hearts and minds of authors from all around the world. Inspired and motivated, they’ve written love letters, biographies, novels, and essays that all help tell the story of the Big Apple. As an avid bookworm, I’ve read more than a few of these books. I love books about New York City, and in this article I’ll give you my best recommendations.


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Best Books About New York City

Table of Contents: Best NYC Books

Humans of New York by Brandon Stanton, Best NYC books
Image Courtesy Amazon

The Best NYC Coffee Table Books

Humans of New York

Pick up your copy of Humans of New York

Humans of New York by Brandon Stanton is a renowned photographic series turned book, capturing the stories of 10,000 New Yorkers. Stanton’s empathetic approach to storytelling, showcasing the city’s diversity, has resonated globally. With millions of followers on social media, the book appeals to those fascinated by human stories, urban life, and the unique character of New York City.


best books about New York City, Pretty City New York

Pretty City New York

Pick up your copy of Pretty City New York

Siobhan Ferguson created Pretty City New York to be a visual exploration of the charming and picturesque side of the city. As the founder of @prettycitynewyork on Instagram, Ferguson highlights hidden gems and architectural wonders through the lens of her camera. The interesting coffee table book about New York City appeals to those who appreciate urban beauty and everyday charm.


best books about New York City, New York City in Stride

New York City in Stride

Pick up your copy of New York City in Stride

New York City in Stride by Jessie Kanelos Weiner is a delightfully illustrated New York City guide book that capturing the dynamic energy of the Big Apple. Weiner, a Paris-based illustrator, infuses her love for both New York and art into this vibrant book. With charming watercolor illustrations and practical walking maps, the book is designed for urban explorers, art enthusiasts, and anyone seeking a visually engaging stroll through the diverse neighborhoods of New York City.


New York in Color, Best Books about NYC
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New York in Color

Pick up your copy of New York in Color

Renowned photographer Bob Shamis presents a visually striking collection of photographs in his coffee table book, New York in Color. By capturing the vibrant essence of New York City, Shamis highlights the city’s diverse neighborhoods and iconic landmarks, offering a unique perspective on the dynamic spectrum of colors that define the urban landscape. This captivating book is tailored for photography enthusiasts and those intrigued by the diversity of colors that make the Big Apple come alive.


New York City: An Illustrated History, best books about NYC
Image Courtesy Amazon

New York: An Illustrated History

Pick up your copy of New York: An Illustrated History

Created by Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Burns, New York: An Illustrated History offers a visual journey through the city’s history. Beyond a history book, it’s a fascinating dive into the evolution of the city, perfect for history enthusiasts and anyone curious about New York’s captivating narrative. Just be sure to purchase the most recent version, since the book has been revised to include the tragic events of 9/11, the 2008 financial crisis, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bonus: Ric Burns also has a PBS series titled New York: A Documentary that the book follows.


New York in Bloom

Pick up your copy of New York in Bloom

Indulge in the beauty of the Big Apple with “New York in Bloom” by Georgianna Lane. Renowned for her floral photography, Lane transforms the city into a botanical wonderland. But this enchanting coffee table book is not just for flower enthusiasts but also for those who appreciate the delicate intersection of nature and urbanity. It’s like strolling through New York with a floral guide, capturing the city’s essence in every bloom. One thing is for certain, it’s one of the prettiest books about New York City.


Bricks & Brownstones

Pick up your copy of Bricks & Brownstones

Charles Lockwood first published Bricks & Brownstones: The New York Row House in 1972. The book explained the history behind the iconic New York City homes, and it’s become a cult favorite ever since. Not only does author Charles Lockwood dive into the architecture and design, there are also more than 250 photographs of the beloved buildings that showcase their charm.


An American Renaissance: Beaux-Arts Architecture in New York City

Pick up your copy of An American Renaissance: Beaux-Arts Architecture in New York City

Ever wondered about the stories hidden behind New York City’s stunning architecture? Well, An American Renaissance: Beaux-Arts Architecture in New York City by David G. De Long spills the beans. Imagine strolling through the city, but this time, each building has a tale to tell. De Long, an architectural historian, peels back the layers on Beaux-Arts design. If you’re into the elegance of iconic structures and want to unravel the secrets of New York’s architectural saga, consider this book your personal guided tour through the city’s stylish past.


All the Buildings in New York: That I’ve Drawn So Far

Pick up your copy of All the Buildings in New York: That I’ve Drawn So Far

James Gulliver Hancock’s colorful portrayals of New York City’s iconic buildings find a home in All the Buildings in New York: That I’ve Drawn So Far. The collection of drawings are organized, neighborhood by neighborhood and go beyond the staples of the city skyline. Although not a native New Yorker, Hancock does New York justice with his playful renditions and has gifted readers with one of the best books about New York City.


Bill Cunningham: On the Street: Five Decades of Iconic Photography, best books about NYC
Image Courtesy Barnes & Noble

Bill Cunningham: On the Street: Five Decades of Iconic Photography

Pick up your copy of Bill Cunningham: On the Street: Five Decades of Iconic Photography

Bill Cunningham was a longtime photographer for The New York Times and helped popularize the candid, fashion street photography often associated with New York City. In On the Street: Five Decades of Street Photography, readers will get to see New York fashion from the 70’s to the 2010’s, all from a maestro’s point of view. There are also photos included that were never published in The Times, making this one of the best books about New York City and its fashion.


10 Best History Books About New York City


A History of New York in 101 Objects, best books about NYC
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A History of New York in 101 Objects

Pick up your copy of A History of New York in 101 Objects

A relatively quick and easy read, A History of New York in 101 Objects is author’s Sam Roberts unique way of telling the story of NYC. By using items as obviously associated with New York (like a bagel), along with lesser-known items (like beads from the African Burial Ground), Roberts is able to tell a comprehensive but digestible history of NYC. Different vessels come together in one of the best history books about New York City to tell the story of the greatest city on earth.


Here is New York by E.B. White, best books about NYC
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Here is New York

Pick up your copy of Here is New York

Author E.B. White is perhaps best known for Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little, however his walking narration Here is New York is among the best books about New York City. In it, White captures the heart and soul of New York City and translates it to every-day readers regardless of where they find themselves. He describes the magic that makes New York, New York, and although it was published nearly 75 years ago there’s a timelessness to the spirit of New York City and its inhabitants. Although White had moved out of New York City at the time of it’s publishing, Here is New York is quite possibly the greatest love letter ever written to the City that Never Sleeps.


The New York Nobody Knows, best books about NYC
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The New York Nobody Knows

Pick up your copy of The New York Nobody Knows

In order to write the book, The New York Nobody Knows, William B. Helmreich walked more than 6,000 miles through all five boroughs over the course of four years. Being a professor of sociology he was able to gain insight on a deeper level than the common traveler, and writes it into one of the books about New York City. By scouting every nook in New York City Helmreich was able to meet New Yorkers from all different backgrounds and ethnicities, searching for the stories that make New York the epic metropolis it is.


The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York ,best books about NYC
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The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York 

Pick up your copy of The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York

Many New Yorkers don’t immediately recognize the name Robert Moses, but his fingerprints can be found all over New York City. Having held 12 official city titles at the same time, to say he was influential would be an understatement. Author Robert Caro published Moses’ biography in 1974, and its gone on to win multiple awards including a Pulitzer Prize. By telling the life story of Moses, Caro simultaneously tells the story of New York City. Readers will gain a deeper understanding of urban development, sociology, politics. This award winning biography is one of the best books about New York City and a beloved favorite to many people all around the world.


The Great Bridge, best books about NYC
Image Courtesy Amazon

The Great Bridge

Pick up your copy of The Great Bridge

If I asked Americans to name iconic structures in NYC, I wouldn’t get far before people started mentioning the Brooklyn Bridge. The Great Bridge is a bit of a biography, but instead of the subject being a person it’s the famous bridge. Author David McCullough has managed to captivate audiences by telling the story of the beloved bridge while writing one of the best books about New York City.


The Women Who Made New York, best books about NYC
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The Women Who Made New York

Pick up your copy of The Women Who Made New York

It’s easy to read all about the great things men did for New York City in a textbook, however rarely is that the full picture. Julie Scelfo has written one of the best books about New York City’s history by shining a spotlight on the women artists, engineers and icons who helped make New York the greatest city in America. Along with striking illustrations by Hallie Heald, The Women Who Made New York is an insight into not only New York City’s history, but on the women who made it what it is today.


The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Forgotten Colony that Shaped America, best books about NYC
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The Island at the Center of the World

Pick up your copy of The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Forgotten Colony that Shaped America

It’s easy to forget that before New York was an English colony, it was first a Dutch colony. The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Forgotten Colony that Shaped America is a mouthful of a title, but sums up perfectly what readers will learn about in one of the best books about New York City. In the 1960’s archivists in the New York State Library found 12,000 pages of previously unknown documents, letters and court cases from the time the Dutch ruled Manhattan. Author Russell Shorto used the pages to write a captivating narrative of New York before it actually became New York.


Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898

Pick up your copy of Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898

In an encyclopedic sized book, historians Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace take a deep dive into New York City from the time in which settlers first arrived to the late 19th century. Readers get an insight into the formative years of the Empire State and the people who lived here. The book is wonderfully written and reads like a story rather than a textbook, making this one of the best nonfiction books about New York City.


The Encyclopedia Of New York, best books about NYC
Image Courtesy the New York Magazine

The Encyclopedia of New York City

Pick up your copy of The Encyclopedia of New York City

Okay before you run off thinking I’m placing a 6 inch thick, no picture having, college textbook about New York City on your desk I want you to know this book was actually curated by the editors at The New York Magazine. In fact – it’s not a traditional “encyclopedia”. The book is about the things New York City has made (or popularized). From beaver pelts to hip-hop, New York has been in the middle of nearly every major American success and The Encyclopedia of New York City touches on that and more making this one of the best books about New York City.


Best Books about New York City Broadway: A History of New York City in Thirteen Miles, best books about NYC
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Broadway: A History of New York City in Thirteen Miles

Pick up your copy of Broadway: A History of New York City in Thirteen Miles

The street New Yorkers call Broadway was once just a muddy trail that livestock and carts used to get from point A to point B. By using the street of Broadway as a vessel, author Fran Leadon is able to tell the story of New York City in a broader sense (pun intended). There’s unique facts (like that Columbia University is built on the grounds of an insane asylum) that forever changed the way I see the famous thoroughfare! The unique perspectives provided make it one of the best books about New York City


5 Best Novels Based in New York City


Best Books about New York City the Great Gatsby
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The Great Gatsby

Pick up your copy of The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby is a staple of American literature and follows the story of millionaire Jay Gatsby and his attempts of courting Daisy Buchanan. Set in and around New York City during the roaring 20’s, readers teleport to a world of rich excess. Alcohol, jazz and beautiful women surround Gatsby and thus the reader. For nearly 100 years The Great Gatsby has been among the best books set in New York City.


Best Books about New York City The Catcher in the Rye
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The Catcher in the Rye

Pick up your copy of The Catcher in the Rye

The Catcher in the Rye follows 16 year old protagonist Holden Caulfield after he runs away from his upscale boarding school. Holden spends 3 days alone in New York City, his hometown, but chooses not to go home to avoid his parents. Through his escapades readers gain a glimpse into his, and often our own, insecurities in growing up. In The Catcher in the Rye J.D. Salinger has created a coming of age story that’s remained relatable for decades, and one of the best novels based in New York City.


Best Books about New York City, Breakfast at Tiffany's
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Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Pick up your copy of Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Audrey Hepburn’s portrayal of Holly Golightly is what most people think of when they think of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, but Truman Capote’s 1958 novella stands on its own merits as one of the best books set in New York City of all time. The book centers around a brownstone in the Upper East Side and its tenants, notably an unnamed narrator and Holly Golightly. There’s romance, lighthearted humor and a sense that’s omnipresent in New York City.


Motherless Brooklyn Best Books about New York City
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Motherless Brooklyn

Pick up your copy of Motherless Brooklyn

Jonathan Lethem has written my all-time favorite novel set in New York City, Motherless Brooklyn. In this book, readers follow an orphaned boy with Tourette syndrome who gets taken under the wing of an underworld tough guy. After his savior is killed, the boy has to play detective in his search for the person responsible. Lethem has written one of the best books set in New York City and readers are itching to follow all the clues and see how the story ends.


Best Books about New York City, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
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A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Pick up your copy of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Although it was first published in 1943, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn shines a light on themes that are still relevant today. It follows Francie Nolan, a young girl living in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and details her life. Author Betty Smith touches on family drama, political differences, and poverty all through the eyes of a young girl who’s losing her innocence and coming of age. Set in the early 20th century, readers get to enjoy one of the best and classic books set in New York City.


Best Books About New York City (Post Summary)

  • Pretty City New York
  • New York City in Stride
  • Humans of New York
  • New York in Color
  • New York: An Illustrated History
  • New York in Bloom
  • Bricks & Brownstones
  • An American Renaissance: Beaux-Arts Architecture in New York CityThe Women Who Made New York
  • All the Buildings in New York (That I’ve Drawn So Far)
  • Bill Cunningham: On the Street: Five Decades of Iconic Photography
  • A History of New York in 101 Objects
  • Here is New York
  • The New York Nobody Knows
  • The Power Broker
  • The Great Bridge
  • The Island at the Center of the World
  • Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898
  • The Encyclopedia of New York City
  • Broadway: A History of New York City in Thirteen Miles
  • The Great Gatsby
  • The Catcher in the Rye
  • Breakfast at Tiffany’s
  • Motherless Brooklyn
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

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How to Store More Books: 10+ Tips for Living in a Small New York City Apartment (How to Maximize Space)


And there it is, my friends. That was my roundup of the best books that take place in New York City. I hope you found the article useful, happy reading.

Al.

Book Lover

Tuesday 18th of April 2023

I'm so excited to read this one. It's wonderful!!

Yana Beltran

Friday 15th of July 2022

These are some great reads! I love that not all the books are super long and boring. The photography books double as great gifts!

New York Simply

Friday 15th of July 2022

We couldn't agree more. Thanks for taking the time to comment!