Our favourite New York books for kids and adults

I am a big reader. Always have been. At school I used to climb up trees with a paperback stuck down the back of my dreadful ginger-brown cords to read during lunchbreaks. So when we found out about The Big Move, I started to read up on New York. I put a call out for recommendations on this blog and on Facebook, and started ploughing my way through them.

Here are some of my personal favourite books about New York.

For adults:

  1. New York: A Novel’, by Edward Rutherford. By far and away my favourite book about NYC. It’s a brilliant book, following the lives of one merchant family down the generations, from Dutch Beaver skin traders through to 9/11. It gives a fantastic grounding in the city’s history and position in the world. I also found it a v useful overview of American history, as it covers the War of Independence, slavery, the Civil War, immigration and the stock market. It is over 800 pages long, so it’s not exactly a quick read, but if you’re moving here then this is a great introduction to your new home.

New York books - Edward Rutherfurd

  1. The Goldfinch’ by Donna Tartt – another v long novel, but absolutely worth its Pulitzer Prize. It’s about thirteen year old Theo Decker, who survives a (fictitious) bombing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art that kills his single mother. He stumbles out of the blast zone clutching a tiny painting, which eventually drags him into the art underworld. It’s a fantastic read, and much of it is set in New York.

 

  1. Love Story’, by Erich Segal – I must have read this ten times since I first picked it up as a school girl. It’s such a gem, and makes me weep without fail. A little over 200 pages, you can whizz through it on the plane over here (**she types optimistically, as if anyone with young kids could ever possibly pick up a book on a plane. But we can hope**)

 

  1. The Catcher in the Rye‘, by J.D. Salinger – another old favourite of mine from school. Famously found on John Lennon’s assassin, this book is told by 17 year old Holden Caulfield, who is exhausted and dispirited by all the ‘phoniness’ he sees around him. Expelled from school yet again, he spends a weekend in New York postponing facing his parents. It’s an interesting view of New York from a disenchanted local.

New York books - J.D. Salinger

  1. Netherland’, by Joseph O’Neill – I was in two minds about including this one on the list, because I didn’t warm to the protagonist and there’s an awful lot about cricket. But it gives a v good insight into the lives of New Yorkers in the months immediately after 9/11, so for that reason I’m keeping it in here.

Still on my list to read are E.B. White’s ‘Here Is New York‘, and Betty Smith’s ‘A Tree Grows in Brooklyn‘, but if I waited to finish every book on my list, this article would never get written.

For kids:

Some of our favourite NY children's books - New York books
Some of our favourite NY children’s books

 

  1. This is New York’, by Miroslav Sasek –Written in 1960, this is a classic. The illustrations are brilliant. At the back there’s a page giving the latest statistics, it’s interesting to see how things have changed in the past five decades. http://www.miroslavsasek.com/books/thisis/newyork.html
Bridges in 'This Is New York'  - New York books -
Bridges in ‘This Is New York’
  1. Library Lion‘, by Michelle Knudsen– One day a lion walks into the library to listen to story time. No one knows what to do. There are no rules about lions in the library. He quickly makes himself indispensable, dusting encyclopedias with his tail and helping children reach the high shelves.This reminds us of the wonderful stone lions that guard the New York Public Library, so we really enjoy snuggling up to read this.
Listening to story time - New York books -The Library Lion
‘Soon it was time for story hour. There weren’t any rules about lions at story hour, either…’
  1. The Philharmonic Gets Dressed‘, by Karla Kuskin– The book follows one hundred and five people who are getting dressed to go to work at the Philharmonic. This is an excellent counting book, because the numbers are woven into the plot, rather than the plot fitting neatly into 1,2,3 (which bores me).  ‘Forty-five men stand up to get into their pants. Forty-seven sit down. The men zip up zippers and button a button or two.’
New York books - Two men and three women run bubblebaths, and one man reads in the tub while the cat watches...
‘All the men shave except for three, who have beards. Two trim…’
  1. The ‘Eloise’ books, by Kay Thompson– ‘Eloise’ is a bit of an institution here, a little girl who lives in the Plaza Hotel in New York, supervised by a nanny. C dislikes these books because Eloise is such a brat. But I think that’s part of the appeal, sometimes I get so bored by all the goody two shoes characters in modern children’s books and TV programmes.
Eloise being Eloise  New York books -
Getting bored is not allowed…

This week’s Highs & Lows:

Highs:

– It’s still got to be the weather. In the mid-20s each day with no humidity. In your face, sleet, hail, slush and snow storms. Don’t you love the smell of suncream?

– T innocently shaming a typically bad tempered NYC yellow cab driver, who screamed at her favourite doorman when he knocked on the roof of the cab. T spent the whole journey asking me why he’d shouted at the doorman, was it bad to touch a taxi, why weren’t they friends? The driver’s shoulders slumped lower and lower. Eventually he turned round and apologised for losing his temper in front of a child. And it gets better – when we got home, the doorman told us the driver had gone back afterwards to apologise to him! In a city of drivers on short fuses, this is pretty good.

Low:

– Am almost too embarrassed to share this. After a particularly long, hot, 14km walk up the esplanade on the Western edge of Manhattan this weekend, I decided to share a bubble bath with the girls. B’s potty training is still in the early stages, and she did a wee in the bath. And I still got in it anyway.

Author: Alex

Hello. Toddling Round New York is my own little blog of our family’s experience of moving young kids from London to New York… And of having a baby out here. They are my own baby steps of exploring this incredible city. I lived in five countries in four continents growing up, so you’d think I’d be good at this by now.

Here you’ll find stories and photographs of our adventures, the highs and the lows of expat parenthood, and some ideas I hope you’ll find useful if you’re in New York with young kids.

2 thoughts on “Our favourite New York books for kids and adults”

  1. Hilarious! I would have got in the bath too

    Just finished the Goldfinch which I enjoyed very much. Also finished Look Who’s Back-about Hitler time travelling to present day. Really enjoyed it!

    Just started Sophie’s choice which I think I may regret…..

    Love reading your blog!

  2. Love everything about this post. Great recommendations, both for kids and adults. Can’t wait to dig in to some I/we haven’t read yet. The bonus story about the cab driver/ doorman/ kiddo interaction is absolutely priceless… And that last anecdote is a gem. Love!

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