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Our 7 Favorite NYC Reading Spots (and the Best Books to Bring With)

by  | August 21
New York City sunset

When those same four walls start closing in, and your reading nook feels more like a cell, it’s time to go for a walk and explore new places to read. For the New Yorkers out there, we’ve got a few suggestions on where to head to next around the city. And for non–New Yorkers, be sure to jot down these spots for future reference on your next trip. Because any good bookworm should have a lengthy reading destination bucket list started!

Kings County

Kings County

by David Goodwillie

Morgan’s Pick #1 Fort Greene Park

Everyone has their favorite Brooklyn park, but I’m here to tell you that Fort Greene Park is the best of the best. A perfect amount of green space, an abundance of babies and dogs, and a wealth of bars and coffee shops just steps away. So bring your best picnic blanket and curl up for the entire day with THE Brooklyn novel: Kings County by David Goodwillie. This incredibly immersive story will throw you onto the streets of NYC in the 2000s, from the protests of Occupy Wall Street to the parties of Bushwick, Brooklyn. Audrey Benton arrives in New York City on a bus from nowhere, but she soon finds a home for herself amid the burgeoning indie rock scene. She also finds an unlikely match in Theo Gorski, a shy but idealistic mill-town kid who’s struggling to establish himself in the world of publishing. But when a secret emerges from Audrey’s past, it threatens to tear down everything she and Theo have created together. It’s gritty, it’s hopeful, it’s a NYC love story at its best.

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Perfect Tunes

Perfect Tunes

by Emily Gould

Morgan’s Pick #2: Any bar on Avenue C

Plop yourself down on any stool at a bar on Avenue C (when it’s safe to do so) and pull out a book, and you will have found true happiness. A personal favorite is Lois Bar, and I recommend pairing that with Perfect Tunes by Emily Gould, a novel about a young songwriter who moves to NYC in the hopes of pursuing a music career, but soon finds herself pregnant by another rock star at just 23. The first half is very NYC music scene—a little gritty, a little dangerous, a little sexy. Think Daisy Jones and the Six. The second half is like Gilmore Girls meets Brooklyn Heights—flashing into the future and exploring the relationship of our songwriter with her daughter. It’s a story of music and motherhood and sacrifice and love and mental health, and it’s intensely readable.

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Older

Older

by Pamela Redmond

Emily’s Pick #1: Bryant Park

Younger, and its TV Land adaptation, presents NYC in quite the romantic light. In the book’s sequel, Older, coming out September 8, Liza’s novel gets picked up by a TV studio and, after flying to LA with Kelsey to create the pilot, she finds herself torn between the two cities—and two love interests. In my opinion, the ideal NYC place to read this book is Bryant Park. In the time of social distancing, Bryant Park is less busy than usual—everyone still wears masks—so there’ll always be a number of seats to choose from. Plus, in parts of Bryant Park, it’s easy to imagine you’re in LA’s popular outdoor shopping complexes of Americana at Brand or the Grove, so you can put yourself in Liza’s shoes for an even more immersive reading experience. If you want the option of straddling the two cities, pick a chair closer to the Carousel or the Fountain to be nearest to NYC’s hustle and bustle, and thus most reminiscent of LA’s glamorous outdoor shopping destinations.

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My Friend Anna

My Friend Anna

by Rachel DeLoache Williams

Saimah’s Pick: Le Coucou (or any Manhattan restaurant that’s open)

When Rachel DeLoache Williams met Anna “Delvey” Sorokin through mutual friends, she had no idea the mess she was stepping into. Now infamously known as the “SoHo grifter,” Anna Sorokin conned Rachel and many others by claiming she was a German heiress named Anna Delvey. Shortly after the two girls met, Anna began inviting Rachel to go with her to all the New York hot spots, to her personal training sessions with a celebrity trainer, and more. Rachel was a photo editor at Vanity Fair at the time and didn’t have the means to pay for all the extravagance that Anna was so accustomed to. So when Anna extended an invite to Rachel to join her on an all-expenses-paid luxury trip to Morocco, Rachel couldn’t resist the incredible offer…but that’s when everything started to crumble. My Friend Anna shares Rachel’s side of the story and how she helped uncover Anna’s real identity.

The majority of this story takes place in New York City, so you can read this book pretty much anywhere in Manhattan and let it take you on a wild ride. I love visiting the places where the story unfolds in books set in New York City. Take a page out of my book and map the various locations that were the setting of this story. Spend a day with Anna and Rachel (note: you may need to have a financial backer of your own for this adventure—Anna did not do things on the cheap). $$$$ option: Head to Le Coucou for brunch (when it’s open) while observing the scene and reading the ways that Anna captured everyone into her web of lies. $$ option: Knock back a drink or two at Whiskey Tavern or the Frying Pan.

There is already dueling interest from HBO and Netflix to create true-crime documentaries about the story, and they are both racing to bring this tale to the screen.

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Alexander Hamilton

Alexander Hamilton

by Ron Chernow

Heather’s Pick #1:  The Morris-Jumel Mansion

I used to live right next door to the Morris-Jumel Mansion and spent many a happy afternoon either wandering the house on a tour or, more often, reading in the beautiful gardens. Since my Washington Heights apartment didn’t have an outdoor space of its own, I secretly considered the grounds an extension of my home. Rumor has it that Hamilton creator and star Lin-Manuel Miranda has also spent a lot of time there. Why? Because onetime owner Eliza Jumel’s second husband was none other than Aaron Burr, whose bedroom on the second floor apparently made for an idyllic place for Miranda to write some of the songs we know and love today. All of this is to say that there’s no doubt in my mind that the best book to read in this lovely NYC spot, especially if you’re a Hamilton fan, is Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton, the biography that inspired the musical. It’s a chunky book, but that just means you’ll have plenty of reasons to make a day of it, whenever the mansion and park are open to the public.

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Ask Again, Yes

Ask Again, Yes

by Mary Beth Keane

Heather’s Pick #2: Down by the Verrazzano Bridge


I still remember the pleasant jolt that ran through me when I started reading Mary Beth Keane’s Ask Again, Yes, only to realize the story began in my own neighborhood of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. The action quickly moves upstate to Westchester County, but eh, details. I’m going to claim it anyway and confirm that an excellent place to enjoy this touching novel is on a bench on the Shore Road walkway, down by the Verrazzano Bridge. Its views of the bridge and waters of the New York Bay make a picturesque backdrop for Ask Again, Yes, which is about two NYPD officers, Francis Gleeson and Brian Stanhope, whose families end up living next door to each other in the 1970s. As the years pass and their children grow up together, the two families’ lives become inextricably linked, for better and for worse, in ways they never could have predicted.

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The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

by Michael Chabon

Emily’s Pick #2: Prospect Park

Judging by the cover, you might think my answer is the top of the Empire State Building, but think again! I read bits of this book on a summer afternoon in Prospect Park and it was the perfect pairing of book and locale. As Kavalier and Clay set off on their own amazing adventures through the comic book industry, encountering all sorts of creatives out and about in NYC, all I had to do was glance up to view a different new adventure going on right before my eyes. A kickboxing class in action? Check! A lover’s quarrel? You got it! Plus, when Kavalier and Clay first begin bonding and dreaming up their superhero comics, they do so in a tiny corner of Brooklyn, so as you read you can imagine the two cousins scribbling and dreaming in a nearby apartment.

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