UWS Summer Reading List: Help Us Crowdsource Recommendations!

We hear that every once in a while it’s worth reading something other than West Side Rag, so we’re looking for help putting together a list of books with an Upper West Side connection.

They should either be written by local authors or have scenes in the neighborhood.

We’ll start it off. The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer is a fantastic book we just picked up. It’s about six friends who meet at a summer camp in the 70’s, and the circumstances that keep them together and drive them apart over he coming decades. Parts of it take place on Central Park West, and we recently learned that Wolitzer herself lives in the neighborhood. Actually, if anyone knows her, we’d love to interview her!

Leave recommendations in the comments!

NEWS | 35 comments | permalink
    1. SNYC says:

      Moon Palace by Paul Auster – and old classic

      The Editor by Steven Rowley – Jackie O as an editor in the 90’s, fictional but so good

    2. Michael says:

      My 5 most recent enjoyable reads (I’ve read 42 books since January 1st.)

      1) Anything by local UWSer, AJ Jacobs. They are always intelligent, funny, inspiring. He’s clearly working to change the world for the better, one book at a time.
      2) The Order of Time by Carlo Rovelli – truly brilliant and beautiful explanation of the world in which we live.
      3) Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou – Amazing story of greed and the heroism demonstrated by a few individuals who understood the importance of doing what was right.
      4) Rise and Kill First: The Secret History of Israel’s Targeted Assassinations – Do the targeted killings of individuals by a government do anything to prevent an inevitable war?
      5)Bottle of Lies: The Inside Story of the Generic Drug Boom by Katherine Eban – Well researched. Incredibly disturbing. For those who believe that generic drugs are identical to brand names, Eban provides a very rude awakening.

      Other worthy reads from this year: Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande; Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman; Blood of Tyrants: George Washington & the Forging of the Presidency by Logan Beirne; The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Forgotten Colony That Shaped America by Russell Shorto

      • NYC 4 Me says:

        Re: “The Island at the Center of the World….”

        DEFINITELY! A MUST-READ for anyone who loves NYC history.

        Read it, and then stroll around lower Manhattan’s ancient streets (Water, Beaver, Pearl, Stone) and think how this area grew from a tiny trading post called Nieuw Amsterdam.

        • HARRIET says:

          I am a docent at the Museum of the City of
          New York and a 40 year UWSer. Please pick up Russell Shorto’s book The Island at the Center of the World, about Dutch NY. Then read his second book, Amsterdam, about how the 17th century philosophies of the Dutch influenced so much of what we consider to be the basis of the founding of the US. Very easily readable…not hard dry facts, great story-telling.

      • Logan Beirne says:

        I’m happy to swing by to discuss Blood of Tyrants if your group reads it. I’m a local. Best regards, Logan

      • BWC says:

        I want to join your book club, Michael. Strongly agree with all your recommendations.

        Dopesick is also very good on the opioid crisis.

        New to this thread, but has this group read ‘The Power Broker’? Excellent read for any new yorker.

    3. Ringo says:

      The Beastie Boys Book.
      If you’re in your 40s or 50s and grew up with the Beastie Boys you will thoroughly enjoy this book as it’s a love letter to music, New York City and the late great Adam Yauch. Also, Mike Diamond grew up on the UWS and there are countless references.

    4. Christine says:

      Alternate Side by Anna Quindlen

      I’d also recommend one of her memoirs, Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake. I’m almost positive Quindlen talks about walking in Riverside Park.

      & I know Nora Ephron eventually moved to the East side, but her essay about the Apthorp/living in the UWS is in I Feel Bad About My Neck. Highly recommend the collection.

    5. Joy Bergmann says:

      Really enjoyed THE FRIEND by Sigrid Nunez. It won a National Book Award for fiction in 2018.

      Loved all the themes – friendship, loss, writing, New York apartments, dogs. Some deep thoughts run through its very quick 200 pages.

    6. K8 says:

      Time and Again by Jack Finney:
      https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40526.Time_and_Again

      The Dakota features prominently, and it’s a fascinating story of a man traveling back to 1882 in NYC.

      I also second anything by AJ Jacobs, and I especially loved The Year of Living Biblically: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/495395.The_Year_of_Living_Biblically?ac=1&from_search=true

    7. MEGAN RUTHERFORD says:

      The Curse of Beauty, by James Bone, about Audrey Munson, the model for the Straus Park memorial and many other artworks around the city.

    8. Margaret says:

      Eight White Nights by Andre Aciman, the author of Call Me By your Name.

      I also loved The Folded Clock, by Heidi Julavits – even though it’s about half set at her weekend spot up in Maine.

    9. The President Is Missing, by James Patterson and Bill Clinton. Next on my night table, after I finish The Mueller Report.

    10. Jill says:

      Rules of Civility by Amor Towles – Great book – references the Beresford.

      https://www.amazon.com/Rules-Civility-Novel-Amor-Towles/dp/0143121162

    11. CCL says:

      Rules of Civility, Amor Towles

    12. Alison says:

      “Small Get Things” by Jodi Picoult
      “The Weight of Ink” by Rachel Kadish

    13. Richard says:

      Assymetry by Lisa Halliday. Much is set on UWS, and the male protagonist is based on Phillip Roth, an UWS-er. And a totally wonderful book.

    14. Betsy says:

      Time After Time by Lisa Grunwald-A magical story of love and time travel that takes place in Grand Central Station. Grunwald is an upper west sider.

    15. CCL says:

      Burning Down the House by Jane Mendelsohn has a great cover with the San Remo, yet the book is not set at all on the UWS.

      The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt has UWS family I think I remember.

    16. Jack Billings says:

      “The Coming Storm” by Mark Alpert, a West Sider. It’s a thriller about a bigoted, incompetent U.S. president who sends troops to New York City to round up illegal immigrants.

    17. Anne says:

      The recently published book “Petal and Poultice: Memories of Destiny” by Anne Květa Haack honoring WWII Czech Air Force and Royal Air Force pilot Václav Hájek’s unsung life is available for purchase through Shakespeare & Co. (www.shakeandco.com)

      It asks, “What if the history of the world is really one giant love story, echoing from the cosmic to the subatomic with the interpersonal in between?… This is a story about how paying it forward pays the past and repairs us to the present. Most of it is very much true, and the rest is heuristic if not very much true in an alternate universe. Let it seep into your soul.”

    18. MINYC says:

      Bolivar by Sean Rubin! Wonderful for all ages, not just children. The illustrations of the UWS are beautiful and whimsical.

    19. Pamela Hull says:

      SAY YES! Flying Solo After Sixty, and Moments that Mattered, both by West Side author Pamela Hull whose books have been widely acclaimed and are available on Amazon and at Shakespeare and Co. Great for all ages, genders. Pick up and immerse yourself in memory, evocative language, and elevate your life.

    20. Martha says:

      The Interestings is fantastic! And I’ll echo the recommendation for Time and Again by Jack
      Finney. A true NYC classic with archival photos too. Marjorie Morningstar by Herman Wouk. Stuffed by Patricia Volk, a great UWS memoir.

    21. Ellie says:

      I read this book a few years ago with my book club and we all really enjoyed it!

    22. Nancy Wight says:

      I recommend: Nunez’s The Friend and For Rouenna; McCourt: Teacher Man (wonderful); Roth: Everyman: Kavanaugh: Nureyev, the Life. This cannot be put down even at 700 pages. Nureyev had an apt. at the Dakota. He does not come off well, unfortunately. You could not make up a story as eventful as his life. A great dancer.

    23. adami says:

      for those unafraid to explore the horror genre and some neighborhoods outside the UWS, I HIGHLY recommend The Changeling by Columbia prof/author Victor LaValle. It starts out as a nyc love story, then ventures into some wonderfully weird territory.

    24. Linda says:

      The Parsley Thief by Ingrid Blanco — a wise and funny, topical and entertaining novel, takes place almost entirely on the Upper West Side. The jewel of the book is its heroine, Elsa, a now elderly German-Jewish émigré, whose sudden widowhood sets off a series of revelations and challenges, which she navigates with humor, honesty and her special feisty charm—you will love her!

    25. Steve Fajen says:

      For a great “only in New York read” try The Parsley Theif by Ingrid Blanco. I see I’m not the only fan. Funny, warm, an even sadly all too true survival story on the Upper West Side. I know these people. Elsa, the widowed heroine, struggles to remain “unbroken” in ways that will make you smile. This story is beautifully written.

    26. Marie D'Amico says:

      No Longer and Not Yet, set on the UWS or The Anarchist Bastard, both by UWS writer extraordinaire Joanna Clapps Herman.

    27. Cal says:

      Lock Every Door by Riley Sager just released on July 2. It is about a house sitter in a posh building between The Dakota and The San Remo. Looks a bit formulaic, but just saw an article about it.

    28. Trish Corbett says:

      I recommend a new novel, Erin’s Daughters by Michael Mannion. It set in NYC and SF, telling the story of Colleen Murphy a fiercely independent young woman determined to live free.