New York City , city of writers, has been the subject of or setting for innumerable essays, biographies, memoirs, histories, guidebooks, poems, and novels. Here are but a few:
Auster, Paul. The New York Trilogy: City of Glass, Ghosts, the Locked Room. New York, NY: Penguin Books, 1994. Dark humor, suspense, mind games, and film noir in a modern classic about New York City.
Capote, Truman. Breakfast at Tiffany’s. New York, NY: Vintage, 1993. The moving story of a glamorous madcap adrift on the Upper East Side  in the 1950s.
Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man. New York, NY: Vintage, 1995. The classic 1952 novel follows a nameless protagonist from his home in the Deep South to the basements of Harlem . A masterpiece of African American literature that chronicles the effects of bigotry on victims and perpetrators alike.
Finney, Jack. Time and Again. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1970. A cult classic that time-travels back and forth between the present and the 1880s, when New York was little more than an overgrown small town.
Hamill, Pete. Forever. New York, NY: Back Bay Books, 2003. A lark through history (helped by a bit of suspension of belief at times) following Irish-Jewish Cormac O’Connor from 1741 Ireland to New York where he becomes cursed, and blessed, to live “forever” so long as he never leaves the island of Manhattan .
Hijuelos, Oscar. The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love. New York, NY: Perennial Classics, 2000. A rich and deeply resonant novel that re-creates the world of immigrant Cuban musicians living in New York post–World War II.
James, Henry. Washington Square. New York, NY: Modern Library, 2000. One of James’s shorter and more accessible novels, Washington Square is an engrossing tale of the manners and mores of upper-crust 19th-century New York.
Luper, Eric. Bug Boy. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009. Jack “Shabby” Walsh, an apprentice jockey at the Saratoga Race Track in 1934 introduces readers to the fascinating and hard-edged world of horse racing and reality of Saratoga life in the Depression.
McInerney, Jay. Bright Lights, Big City. New York, NY: Vintage Contemporaries, 1984. A young man immerses himself in the excesses of 1980s New York—the clubs, the drugs, the after-hour hot spots—until brought to an abrupt reckoning.
Paley, Grace. Enormous Changes at the Last Minute. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1985. Quirky, funny, sad, combative, vulnerable Paley, who grew up in immigrant New York in the 1920s and ‘30s, captures the soul of New York in one of her best collections of stories.
Parker, Dorothy. The Portable Dorothy Parker. New York, NY: Penguin Books, 1991. Poems, stories, articles, and reviews by that most quotable of New Yorker writers.
Wharton, Edith. The Age of Innocence. New York, NY: Modern Library, 1999. The first book written by a woman to win the Pulitzer Prize is a subtle, elegant portrait of desire and betrayal in moneyed Old New York. Among Wharton’s other books set in the city are The House of Mirth, A Backward Glance, and Old New York.
Caro, Robert A. The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York. New York, NY: Vintage, 1975. Much more than a biography, this Pulitzer Prize–winning tome tells the fascinating and often scandalous story behind the shaping of 20th-century New York. Though over 1,000 pages, the book is a compelling page-turner.
Fitzpatrick, Kevin C. A Journey into Dorothy Parker’s New York. New York, NY: Roaring Forties Press, 2005. A biographical guide to Dorothy Parker’s favorite bars, salons, homes and offices using archival personal photographs to illustrate her fascinating life and her love of 1920-30’s New York City .
Johnson, James Weldon. Black Manhattan. New York, NY: Da Capo Press, 1991. First published in 1930, this classic work paints one of the earliest portraits of the lives of African Americans in New York City. Much more than a history, the book also illuminates the Harlem Renaissance, of which Johnson was a part.
Kazin, Alfred. A Walker in the City. New York, NY: Harvest/HBJ, 1969. This is the perambulatory memoir of a distinguished literary critic who grew up in immigrant Brownsville. Kazin’s sojourns into other neighborhoods and boroughs exposed him to new worlds.
Magnum Photographers, with introduction by David Halberstam. New York September 11. New York, NY: powerHouse Books, 2001. A moving tribute to the city, its emergency workers, the World Trade Center, and the victims of the terrorist attack.
Mitchell, Joseph. Up in the Old Hotel. New York, NY: Vintage, 1993. A reprint of four classics penned by the deadpan New Yorker chronicler of city life. “McSorley’s Wonderful Salon,” “Old Mr. Flood,” “The Bottom of the Harbor,” and “Joe Gould’s Secret” are included.
Sante, Luc. Low Life. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2003. A highly original and literate book that delves into the underbelly—opium dens, brothels, sweatshops—of old New York.
Among the many poets who have written extensively on New York City  are Djuna Barnes, Hart Crane, Allen Ginsberg, Langston Hughes, Frank O’Hara, and Walt Whitman.
Federal Writers’ Project. The WPA Guide to New York City. New York, NY: New Press, 1995. First published in 1939 and since reissued, the classic guidebook remains remarkably on target. It provides long and evocative descriptions of everything from Ebbetts Field to the then-new Empire State Building .
Frank, Gerry. Gerry Frank’s Where to Find It, Buy It, Eat It in New York. Portland, OR: Gerry’s Frankly Speaking, 2003. A monumental, nearly 600-page, reference manual on where to find everything from bridal gowns to massage therapists.
White, Norval, and Elliot Willensky, eds. AIA Guide to New York City. Three Rivers, MI: Three Rivers Press, 2000. The most important and entertaining book on New York architecture, organized as a series of walking tours. An urban classic, with over 2,000 photos and 100 maps.