10 Books That Live The NYC Dream

Photo: Courtesy of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Call it narcissism, but there’s nothing we New Yorkers love more than seeing our fair city depicted on-screen and on the page. Think about every time you were watching Girls, spotted your local coffee shop in the scene, and were immediately flooded with the knowledge that you, too, are a part of this huge, crazy city and its vibrant cultural history.
In an attempt to bottle that magical feeling, we rounded up our favorite NYC stories: 10 books that let the city play itself — inspiration, destruction, badass-itude, and all. From memoirs to short stories to novels, from Manhattan to Brooklyn and back again, these are the titles you need to add to your collection.
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Photo: Courtesy of Harper Perennial.
Though memoirs by 30-somethings rarely feel earned, Carlene Bauer’s account of her religious upbringing in New Jersey and subsequent soul-searching in NYC will strike a chord with anyone who’s ever been labeled a “good girl.” Landing in Manhattan at 23 as “a teacher’s pet and a virgin,” Bauer takes it upon herself to move beyond the chastity that had previously defined her. Through crappy publishing jobs, freewheeling friends, and eye-opening relationships, Bauer tries to balance her love for the city with her attachment to her diminishing Christian faith. It’s a "bible" for late bloomers everywhere.
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Photo: Courtesy of Henry Holt and Co.
In her debut novel, Adelle Waldman fearlessly explores the psyche of a modern-day Brooklyn dude: the titular Nathaniel P. (a.k.a. Nate). Nate's a young, literary hotshot riding the success of having sold his first book after years of struggling as a writer. You know his career is on the upswing: He upgrades to a two-bedroom in a gentrifying neighborhood, gets invited to intellectual-literati dinner parties, and hooks up with various liberal-minded women who work in the publishing industry. Basically, he unabashedly (and self-absorbedly) plays the field while trying to make sense of his burgeoning, sex-fueled love life.
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Photo: Courtesy of Penguin Books.
Before Lorrie Moore and Alice Munro, there was Grace Paley. The storytelling icon published this first collection of short fiction in 1959. From her perch in the overcrowded culture-clash of downtown’s immigrant influx, Paley makes biting observations about sex and gender while name-checking the streets and avenues you likely walked down today.
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Photo: Courtesy of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
When you've lived in NYC for a long time, there's always a moment when you wonder what life would be like elsewhere. In Emily Gould's Friendship, a character acts on that question, leaving behind her city (and best friend) for Madison, WI. (Talk about a culture shock!) After a breakup, she moves back to an unforgiving NYC to presumably start all over again. Through relentless tough times, these two 30-year-old friends must consciously decide whether to stick together or drift apart due to circumstances they can't seem to control: getting older.

Farrar, Straus and Giroux Friendship by Emily Gould, out July 1, 2014.
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Photo: Courtesy of Little A/New Harvest.
In her debut collection of short stories, Gillian Linden depicts post-grad life in the city with all its quiet tensions. The freedom and excitement of young adulthood rubs up against the uncertainty of this transitional period as her characters cram themselves into tiny apartments and take long, thought-filled rides on the subway. Linden reveals herself to be a master of the small-yet-crucial details that fill these interior, urban spaces.
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Photo: Courtesy of Picador.
When a young, genius mathematician gets paid to predict a natural disaster, he is thrown into a bender of self-doubt regarding ethics, corporate irresponsibility, fame, and even romance. Author Nathaniel Rich utilizes Manhattan's eclectic landscape and turns it into the ultimate obstacle course as rising tides take over the island. This of-the-moment novel reads like a thrilling action movie that's packed with well-researched elements of science and politics, plus plunges into the depths of dark humor.
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Photo: Courtesy of HarperCollins.
Though Choire Sicha never specifies which "Large City" his subtitle refers to, he does mention bad-guy "One Percenters" and summer escapes to Fire Island. So, its safe to infer that the inspiration for this tumultuous, memoir-ish novel was, in fact, New York City. The story follows a group of young, underpaid, gay 20-somethings through the financial trenches of 2009. They're still looking to have fun and get laid — while the rest of the city is getting laid off.
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Photo: Courtesy of Anchor.
Claudia Steiner, 29, works at a job she hates, lives in a crummy apartment, and habitually blows her paychecks on whiskey and takeout. If this sounds eerily familiar, then you’re sure to appreciate Kate Christensen’s 1999 debut depicting the life of a downtown-dwelling young professional. In what could be a literary precursor to Girls, Christensen examines what happens when her '90s Hannah Horvath approaches 30.
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Photo: Courtesy of Ecco.
From art-school Brooklyn to the Chelsea hotel, Patti Smith paints the tale of her early years in the Big Apple in this quintessentially New York memoir. Her crazy-detailed prose takes you right along with her: onstage (for the first time!) at St. Mark’s Church; grabbing a bite with Alan Ginsberg; and taking the train to Coney Island with her lover/muse/lifelong-friend, Robert Mapplethorpe.
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Photo: Courtesy of Little A/New Harvest.
If you've ever been curious about how anonymous bloggers get unexpectedly Internet-famous, this book will tell you in great, hyper-aware detail. Shapiro's semi-autobiographical tale shows how his Tumblr, Pitchfork Reviews Reviews, caused a disruption within his circle of young media professionals in NYC. From small-time blogging about indie bands to getting profiled in the big-time (The New York Times), Shapiro's novel follows quite a journey. Plus, it reads like a "Who's Who of NYC" — complete with lit-mag staffers, Sasha Frere-Jones, and even the POTUS himself.

Little A/New Harvest You're Not Must Use to Anyone by David Shapiro, out July 22, 2014.
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