Required City Reading: 25 New Books for New York, New York
What follows is a list of exciting books published in 2010 that involve New York City as a prominent setting. In various manifestations, the city appears as the culmination of creative success, a troubled dystopia, the place of theatrical dreams, a crime scene, a sports venue, or in the case of the last five books, a really good place to start a restaurant.
• Michael Cunningham, By Nightfall: A Novel (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010). 256 pages. The author of The Hours has set his new novel in contemporary New York - SoHo, to be exact, with a story of an art dealer and an editor whose lives are interrupted by a beautiful nephew.
• Paul Auster. Sunset Park. (Henry Holt and Co., 2010), 320 pages. One of the mainstays of New York fiction brings us a new tale of twenty-something artists searching for connection in Brooklyn's Sunset Park neighborhood.
• Steve Martin, An Object of Beauty (Grand Central Publishing, November 23, 2010), 304 pages. The talented funnyman and writer takes on the insanity of the New York art world, with a novel relishing in unflattering portraits of its protagonists. (Note to reviewers: Detecting a theme here, the first three books in this list could be appraised together.)
• Gary Shteyngart, Super Sad True Love Story: A Novel (Random House, 2010), 352 pages. This satire of middle aged angst and love is set in a dytopic New York future. The novel, published in July, has already made several "best of" lists.
• Adam Langer, The Thieves of Manhattan: A Novel (Spiegel & Grau, 2010). 272 pages. If it's not the art world, another easy target of contemporary satire is the publishing industry. The protagonist in this intriguing novel works as an employee of a New York diner who becomes embroiled in his own literary fictions.
• Stefanie Pintoff, A Curtain Falls (Minotaur Books, 2010), 400 pages. A talent in historical detective fiction, Pintoff has been compared to Caleb Carr (The Alienist). Her new book finds a serial killer amidst the Broadway world of the early twentieth century.
• Reggie Nadelson, Blood Count: An Artie Cohen Mystery ( Walker, 2010), 352 pages. Nadelson's mystery, featuring her Russian emigré NYPD detective, unfolds within the walls of a Harlem apartment building. Contemporary Harlem is represented by its tenants who may, or may not, have something to do with the crime.
• Cyrus R. K. Patell and Bryan Waterman, editors, The Cambridge Companion to the Literature of New York (Cambridge University Press, 2010), 282 pages. NYU professors Patell and Waterman teach a popular course on New York, and they have a smart blog, too. Here, they've edited a collection of insightful essays on themes of the city's literature, including Dutch New York, poets of the East Village, the voice of Brooklyn, and more.
• Paul McDonough, and Susan Kismaric, contributor, Paul McDonough: New York Photographs 1968-1978 (Umbrage Editions, November 30, 2010). 90 pages. (concurrent exhibit at Sasha Wolf Gallery in Chelsea from November 4 to January 8). New York in black and white and at an extraordinary time as seen by a master of spontaneous street photography.
• Alex Corporan, Andre Razo, and Ivory Serra. Full Bleed: New York City Skateboard Photography (powerHouse Books, 2010). 304 pages. One of the best skating cities meets the best images from 40 photographers over the last 30 years. Skateboarding in New York is highly photogenic.
• Bonnie Yochelson. Alfred Stieglitz New York (Skira Rizzoli, 2010). 96 pages. A look at one of the great image-makers of the city. Many know his images - the Flatiron Building, the Steerage, views of the Shelton (where he lived with George O'Keeffe), and many more. Art historian Yochelson sets the context of the photographs within the changing metropolis.
• Patti LuPone: A Memoir (Crown, 2010). 336 pages. Currently at Lincoln Center Theater in the musical version of Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, the Long Island native tells the story of her rise as a preeminent diva of musical theater (Evita, Sunset Boulevard, Sweeney Todd, Gypsy) and dishes on her fellow stars.
• Stephen Sondheim, Finishing the Hat: Collected Lyrics (Knopf, 2010). 480 pages. For many fans, Sondheim's lyrics constitute some of the most profound statements about human relationships ever penned. Collected here by Sondheim, along with remembrances and images.
• Sam Irvin. Kay Thompson: From Funny Face to Eloise (Simon & Schuster, 2010) 432 pages. The story of a legendary nightclub singer and the creator, along with illustrator Hilary Knight, of the charming girl at the Plaza. Thompson was also an important force behind the scenes, coaching Bette Davis and Lucille Ball, among others.
• Wendy Goodman, with a foreword by Anderson Cooper. The World of Gloria Vanderbilt (Abrams, 2010). 224 pages. Do you remember the day when you learned that CNN's Anderson Cooper was the son of Gloria Vanderbilt? I know I do. I was visiting a friend in Athens, Georgia, and we were looking at an exhibit of Diane Arbus photographs. There was a picture of baby Anderson, and my friend told me he was Gloria's little boy. Like Kay Thompson, Gloria wears many hats - in this case, painter, socialite, writer, jeans designer, among others.
• Ethan Mordden, The Guest List: How Manhattan Defined American Sophistication---from the Algonquin Round Table to Truman Capote's Ball (St. Martin's Press, 2010). 336 pages. The author has written many entertaining books on the world of Broadway, and with this book he brings on the glamorous world of mid-century New York and its players - Truman Capote, Cole Porter, Dorothy Parker, the Lunts, Leonard Bernstein, etc., all of whom we miss so much.
• Matt Long and Charles Butler, The Long Run: A New York City Firefighter's Triumphant Comeback from Crash Victim to Elite Athlete. The story of how a NYC firefighter and marathon runner came back from a terrifying accident to run the 2008 NYC Marathon and to start a foundation helping other trauma survivors.
• Jane Leavy, The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America's Childhood (Harper, 2010) 480 pages. The author interviews friends and family of the New York Yankees #7 to tell a compassionate story of how an Oklahoma kid became a popular but often naive man and one of the biggest baseball heroes of all time.
• Nancy Berner and Susan Lowry, Garden Guide: New York City, Revised Edition (W. W. Norton, 2010), 424 pages. Many visitors, conditioned to seeing the city in its gritty concrete on television, are surprised by the city's greenery. In this revised guide, the authors reveal the glories of 100 gardens, including the new High Line and lesser known spots across the city.
For younger people:
• Adam Gopnik, with illustrations by Bruce Mccall, The Steps Across the Water (Hyperion Book CH, November 23, 2010) 304 pages, for ages 9-12. Gopnik, one of the best writers on the subject of cities in general (Paris, as well as NYC), writes a fantasy adventure about a child who stumbles upon our city's alternative secret universe, a place called U Nork. With illustrations by fellow New Yorker contributor, Bruce McCall.
• Christoph Niemann, Subway (Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins, 2010), 40 pages, for ages 2-5. A father and two children spend a day riding the subway.
Based on a post originally appearing in the author's New York Times blog, Abstract City.
Home cooking, New York style:
• Haley Fox and Lauren Fox, Alice's Tea Cup: Delectable Recipes for Scones, Cakes, Sandwiches, and More from New York's Most Whimsical Tea Spot (William Morrow Cookbooks, 2010) 240 pages. From the charming land of the Upper West Side, 102 W. 73rd St., the edible stuff inside Wonderland.
• Patricia Helding, Fat Witch Brownies: Brownies, Blondies, and Bars from New York's Legendary Fat Witch Bakery (Rodale Books, 2010) 176 pages. Now, in the privacy of your own home, bake all the Fat Witches, Blonde Witches, Red Witches, Snow Witches, etc., that you could ever want.
• DeDe Lahman and Neil Kleinberg, with photographs by Michael Harlan Turkell. Clinton St. Baking Company Cookbook: Breakfast, Brunch & Beyond from New York's Favorite Neighborhood Restaurant (Little, Brown and Company, 2010) 224 pages. Walking toward the Lower East Side, I've been stopped by at least four separate groups of out-of-towners asking directions to Clinton St. Baking Company (4 Clinton Street, between E. Houston and Stanton). It's safe to say that the word is out.
• Sarabeth Levine and Rick Rodgers, with photographs by Quentin Bacon, Sarabeth's Bakery: From My Hands to Yours (Rizzoli, 2010) 306 pages. I can't get to sleep if I think I might be running out of Sarabeth's Orange Apricot Marmalade for the next morning.
• Melissa Vaughan, Brendan Vaughan, and Michael Harlan Turkell, The New Brooklyn Cookbook: Recipes and Stories from 31 Restaurants That Put Brooklyn on the Culinary Map (William Morrow Cookbooks, 2010) 272 pages. To be honest with you, I think most of contemporary New York can be explained by what is happening in the restaurant kitchens in Brooklyn.
Wait! There's more. Read 20 (More) New Books for New York, New York.