Holiday Gift Guide 2023: Best Set-In Or About New York City Books

New York City is full of countless stories. While guidebooks offer a good introduction to this major destination, many other books that speak volumes about NYC’s history, neighborhoods, people, cultures, architecture, sports teams and many other aspects. Some titles may be works of fiction but Gotham is their setting.

This holiday season, give someone who loves or wants to visit New York City some solid reading material. Here is a selection of some great books set in or about New York City.

Amid the rise of global pandemic, Send Chinatown Love, an NYC nonprofit volunteer group, formed to provide relief for the city’s Asian-owned small businesses. Their self-published cookbook lists 60-plus recipes sourced from over 40 restaurants and food businesses throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens. Collectively, they represent the regional cuisines and food traditions of more than 18 cultures. A “Where To Buy Your Ingredients” section points home-cooks in the right direction.

William B. Helmreich has penned walking guides to Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and The Bronx, along with an overall guide to New York City. Inspired by a childhood transit game that he played with his dad, Helmreich made a goal of walking every block in New York City, completing an impressive 6,000 miles by setting foot in each of the city’s boroughs. Each guide in this series goes into different neighborhoods and highlights interesting people, places and things.

Young and Meyers are the co-hosts of “The Bowery Boys,” a city-centric podcast with informative banter about NYC’s diverse and often surprising history. In this book, this duo takes through the backstories of different eras of the city amid its once gas-lit back alleyways and cobblestone streets. It also incorporates guides to various parts of NYC, including Hell’s Kitchen, Columbus Circle, Astor Place, Tribeca and Little Italy.

2023 marks the centenary of this museum based in Manhattan’s East Harlem neighborhood. This book, which was released three years before the museum’s birthday year, takes readers on an incredible timeline of NYC – from its time as the land that the Lenape occupied to today’s bustling metropolis. This tour is illustrated by some 250 objects from the Museum of The City of New York’s collection, which spans to paintings, drawings, photographs, manuscripts, decorative arts and artifacts.

Kids can enjoy this famous Fifth Avenue museum, which holds artwork spanning over 5,000 years and from around the world. This children’s book brings together significant highlights of The Met’s massive collection including Egyptian amulets, Medieval tapestries, Renaissance suits of armor, and modern-day baseball cards. Young readers can follow along on this special visit, while also learning about the people from different ages who left these objects behind.

With a forward by writer Pete Hamill, author Sam Roberts penned a rich and entertaining history of this landmark commuter rail terminal. From its opening in the winter of 1913, Roberts celebrates the terminal both only as a major transportation hub but also a New York City institution. The book, shown here in paperback, includes interesting anecdotes, behind the scenes details and some trivia tidbits.

Photographer and historian emerita Sara Cedar Miller provides a thorough introduction to New York City’s iconic park through this updated guide with new photography and revised text. This hardcover release is full of picturesque imagery, taking readers all around Central Park, and to areas within the park such as The Ramble, Belvedere Castle and the Obelisk.

Authored by Julie Scelfo and illustrated by Hallie Heald, this NYC history book puts ladies first by profiling women whose contributions and achievements have helped to make the city what it is today. For example, Emily Warren Roebling took on chief engineer duties in the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge when her engineer husband become too ill to continue his work. Other notable names include Zora Neale Hurston, Audre Lorde, Fran Lebowitz and Grace Jones.

This novel by two-time Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winning author Colson Whitehead is set within in a lovingly remade New York City of the early 1960s. Ultimately a love letter to Harlem, this work of fiction incorporates a family saga masquerading as a crime novel, a hilarious morality play, and a social novel about race and power.

Bill Hayes, winner of the New York City Book Award, provides a poignant and profound tribute to NYC amid its going into lockdown in March 2020 against the rise of the global pandemic. Hayes, a writer and photographer, hit the streets of Manhattan to try to document—through words and pictures—how the city was changing overnight. “How We Live Nowrecords those first 100 days of the pandemic in real time, up to and including the Blacks Lives Matter demonstrations following the death of George Floyd.

In his book, Jesse Rifkin tells how real estate, gentrification, community and New York City’s ups and downs have all shaped the city’s communal music scenes (from folk to house to punk rock). This writer and tour guide painstakingly has drawn upon more than 100 exclusive interviews with musicians, DJs and scenesters linked to those artistic scenes. Collectively, readers will learn how these scenes came together and then fell apart.

Author Jack Curry was there on the night that the 1998 Yankees team won their 24th World Series title against the San Diego Padres, witnessing their celebration within the visiting clubhouse. Twenty-five years later, Curry revisits that season focusing on the question of if that Yankees lineup was the best team ever. His book features new interviews with more than 25 players, coaches and executives, who shared their thoughts about this historic squad and some behind-the-stories about this team’s 125-win journey.

The editors of New York Magazine have compiled this A-to-Z compendium of just about every fact and tidbit about New York City. From its founding in 1624 up through the present day, this reference guide has entries pertaining not only to NYC history but also fun and surprising information on its technological, social, and cultural innovations that are still seen, heard and felt today. For example, did you know that Scrabble was invented in the Queens neighborhood of Jackson Heights? If not, now you do.

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