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The Best Books About Or Featuring The Brooklyn Neighborhood In New York City

“What are the best books about or take place in Brooklyn New York?” We looked at 48 of the top Brooklyn NY books, aggregating and ranking them so we could answer that very question!

The top 22 titles, all appearing on 2 or more “Best Brooklyn New York” book lists, are ranked below by how many lists they appear on. The remaining 20+ titles, as well as the lists we used are in alphabetical order at the bottom of the page.

Happy Scrolling!



Top 22 Brooklyn New York Books



22 .) A Walker in the City written by Alfred Kazin

A Walker in the City

Lists It Appears On:

  • CN Traveler
  • Lit Hub

Kazin’s memorable description of his life as a young man as he makes the journey from Brooklyn to “americanca”-the larger world that begins at the other end of the subway in Manhattan. A classic portrayal of the Jewish immigrant culture of the 1930s.



21 .) Brookland written by Emily Barton

Brookland

Lists It Appears On:

  • CN Traveler
  • Nu Hotel

A New York Times Book Review Notable Book of the Year A Los Angeles Times Book Review Favorite Book of the Year Since her girlhood, Prudence Winship has gazed across the tidal straits from her home in Brooklyn to the city of Manhattan and yearned to bridge the distance. Now, firmly established as the owner of an enormously successful gin distillery she inherited from her father, she can begin to realize her dream. Set in eighteenth-century Brooklyn, this is the beautifully written story of a woman with a vision: a gargantuan construction of timber and masonry to span the East River. With the help of her sisters–high-spirited Tem and silent, uncanny Pearl–Prue fires the imaginations of the people of Brooklyn and New York by promising them easy passage between their two worlds.



20 .) Brooklyn written by Colm Toibin

Brooklyn

Lists It Appears On:

  • NYPL
  • Trip Savvy

Hauntingly beautiful and heartbreaking, Colm Tóibín’s sixth novel, Brooklyn, is set in Brooklyn and Ireland in the early 1950s, when one young woman crosses the ocean to make a new life for herself. Eilis Lacey has come of age in small-town Ireland in the years following World War Two. Though skilled at bookkeeping, she cannot find a job in the miserable Irish economy. When an Irish priest from Brooklyn offers to sponsor Eilis in America–to live and work in a Brooklyn neighborhood “just like Ireland”–she decides she must go, leaving her fragile mother and her charismatic sister behind. Eilis finds work in a department store on Fulton Street, and when she least expects it, finds love. Tony, a blond Italian from a big family, slowly wins her over with patient charm. He takes Eilis to Coney Island and Ebbets Field, and home to dinner in the two-room apartment he shares with his brothers and parents. He talks of having children who are Dodgers fans. But just as Eilis begins to fall in love with Tony, devastating news from Ireland threatens the promise of her future.



19 .) Decoded written by Jay-Z

Decoded

Lists It Appears On:

  • Lit Hub
  • Newsweek

Decoded is a book like no other: a collection of lyrics and their meanings that together tell the story of a culture, an art form, a moment in history, and one of the most provocative and successful artists of our time.



18 .) Fortress of Solitude written by Jonathan Lethem

Fortress of Solitude

Lists It Appears On:

  • CN Traveler
  • Culture Trip

From the National Book Critics Circle Award-winning author of Motherless Brooklyn, comes the vividly told story of Dylan Ebdus growing up white and motherless in downtown Brooklyn in the 1970s. In a neighborhood where the entertainments include muggings along with games of stoopball, Dylan has one friend, a black teenager, also motherless, named Mingus Rude. Through the knitting and unraveling of the boys’ friendship, Lethem creates an overwhelmingly rich and emotionally gripping canvas of race and class, superheros, gentrification, funk, hip-hop, graffiti tagging, loyalty, and memory.



17 .) Friendship written by Emily Gould

Friendship

Lists It Appears On:

  • Culture Trip
  • Brokelyn

A novel about two friends learning the difference between getting older and growing up Bev Tunney and Amy Schein have been best friends for years; now, at thirty, they’re at a crossroads. Bev is a Midwestern striver still mourning a years-old romantic catastrophe. Amy is an East Coast princess whose luck and charm have too long allowed her to cruise through life. Bev is stuck in circumstances that would have barely passed for bohemian in her mid-twenties: temping, living with roommates, drowning in student-loan debt. Amy is still riding the tailwinds of her early success, but her habit of burning bridges is finally catching up to her. And now Bev is pregnant. As Bev and Amy are dragged, kicking and screaming, into real adulthood, they have to face the possibility that growing up might mean growing apart.



16 .) The Accidental Playground: Brooklyn Waterfront Narratives of the Undesigned and the Unplanned written by Daniel Campo

The Accidental Playground: Brooklyn Waterfront Narratives of the Undesigned and the Unplanned

Lists It Appears On:

  • Brick Underground
  • Upper west Side History

The Accidental Playground explores the remarkable landscape created by individuals and small groups who occupied and rebuilt an abandoned Brooklyn waterfront. While local residents, activists, garbage haulers, real estate developers, speculators, and two city administrations fought over the fate of the former Brooklyn Eastern District Terminal (BEDT), others simply took to this decaying edge, transforming it into a unique venue for leisure, creative, and everyday practices. These occupiers and do-it-yourself builders created their own waterfront parks and civic spaces absent every resource needed for successful urban development, including plans, designs, capital, professional assistance, consensus, and permission from the waterfront’s owners. Amid trash, ruins, weeds, homeless encampments, and the operation of an active garbage transfer station, they inadvertently created the “Brooklyn Riviera” and made this waterfront a destination that offered much more than its panoramic vistas of the Manhattan skyline. The terminal evolved into the home turf for unusual and sometimes spectacular recreational, social, and creative subcultures, including the skateboarders who built a short-lived but nationally renowned skatepark, a twenty-five-piece “public” marching band, fire performance troupes, artists, photographers, and filmmakers. At the same time it served the basic recreational needs of local residents.



15 .) The Brooklyn Follies written by Paul Auster

The Brooklyn Follies

Lists It Appears On:

  • NYPL
  • Trip Savvy

Nathan Glass has come to Brooklyn to die. Divorced, retired, estranged from his only daughter, the former life insurance salesman seeks only solitude and anonymity. Then Glass encounters his long-lost nephew, Tom Wood, who is working in a local bookstore—a far cry from the brilliant academic career Tom had begun when Nathan saw him last. Tom’s boss is the colorful and charismatic Harry Brightman—a.k.a. Harry Dunkel—once the owner of a Chicago art gallery, whom fate has also brought to the “ancient kingdom of Brooklyn, New York.” Through Tom and Harry, Nathan’s world gradually broadens to include a new circle of acquaintances. He soon finds himself drawn into a scam involving a forged page of The Scarlet Letter, and begins to undertake his own literary venture, The Book of Human Folly, an account of “every blunder, every pratfall, every embarrassment, every idiocy, every foible, and every inane act I have committed during my long and checkered career as a man.” The Brooklyn Follies is Paul Auster’s warmest, most exuberant novel, a moving, unforgettable hymn to the glories and mysteries of ordinary human life.



14 .) The Chosen written by Chaim Potok

The Chosen

Lists It Appears On:

  • NYPL
  • Trip Savvy

It is the now-classic story of two fathers and two sons and the pressures on all of them to pursue the religion they share in the way that is best suited to each. And as the boys grow into young men, they discover in the other a lost spiritual brother, and a link to an unexplored world that neither had ever considered before. In effect, they exchange places, and find the peace that neither will ever retreat from again. . . .



13 .) The Fortress of Solitude written by Jonathan Lethem

The Fortress of Solitude

Lists It Appears On:

  • NYPL
  • Trip Savvy

From the prize-winning author of Motherless Brooklyn, a daring, riotous, sweeping novel that spins the tale of two friends and their adventures in late 20th-century America. This is the story of two boys, Dylan Ebdus and Mingus Rude. They live in Brooklyn and are friends and neighbours; but since Dylan is white and Mingus is black, their friendship is not simple. This is the story of 1970s America, a time when the simplest decisions – what music you listen to, whether to speak to the kid in the seat next to you, whether to give up your lunch money – are laden with potential political, social and racial disaster. This is also the story of 1990s America, when nobody cared anymore. This is the story of what would happen if two teenaged boys obsessed with comic book heroes actually had superpowers: they would screw up their lives.



12 .) The Girls: Jewish Women of Brownsville Brooklyn, 1940-1995 written by Carole Bell Ford

The Girls: Jewish Women of Brownsville Brooklyn, 1940-1995

Lists It Appears On:

  • Brick Underground
  • Upper west Side History

This book tells the stories of the Jewish women who came of age in Brownsville, Brooklyn, in the 1940s and 1950s. Through in-depth interviews with more than forty women, Carole Bell Ford explores the choices these women made and the boundaries within which they made them, offering fresh insights into the culture and values of Jewish women in the postwar period. Not content to remain in the past, The Girls is also a story of women who live in the present, who lead fulfilling lives even as they struggle to adjust to changes in American society that conflict with their own values and that have profoundly affected the lives of their children and grandchildren.



11 .) The Invention of Brownstone Brooklyn: Gentrification and the Search for Authenticity in Postwar New York written by Suleiman Osman

The Invention of Brownstone Brooklyn: Gentrification and the Search for Authenticity in Postwar New York

Lists It Appears On:

  • Brick Underground
  • Upper west Side History

Considered one of the city’s most notorious industrial slums in the 1940s and 1950s, Brownstone Brooklyn by the 1980s had become a post-industrial landscape of hip bars, yoga studios, and beautifully renovated, wildly expensive townhouses. In The Invention of Brownstone Brooklyn, Suleiman Osman offers a groundbreaking history of this unexpected transformation. Challenging the conventional wisdom that New York City’s renaissance started in the 1990s, Osman locates the origins of gentrification in Brooklyn in the cultural upheavals of the 1960s and 1970s. Gentrification began as a grassroots movement led by young and idealistic white college graduates searching for “authenticity” and life outside the burgeoning suburbs. Where postwar city leaders championed slum clearance and modern architecture, “brownstoners” (as they called themselves) fought for a new romantic urban ideal that celebrated historic buildings, industrial lofts and traditional ethnic neighborhoods as a refuge from an increasingly technocratic society. Osman examines the emergence of a “slow-growth” progressive coalition as brownstoners joined with poorer residents to battle city planners and local machine politicians. But as brownstoners migrated into poorer areas, race and class tensions emerged, and by the 1980s, as newspapers parodied yuppies and anti-gentrification activists marched through increasingly expensive neighborhoods, brownstoners debated whether their search for authenticity had been a success or failure.



10 .) Leaves of Grass written by Walt Whitman

Leaves of Grass

Lists It Appears On:

  • CN Traveler
  • Lit Hub
  • Newsweek

Here, in its original and complete form, is the edition of the American masterpiece that inspired Emerson to write his famous words to Whitman: “I greet you at the beginning of a great career…”



9 .) Sophie’s Choice written by William Styron

Sophie's Choice

Lists It Appears On:

  • NYPL
  • Newsweek
  • Trip Savvy

Three stories are told: a young Southerner wants to become a writer; a turbulent love-hate affair between a brilliant Jew and a beautiful Polish woman; and of an awful wound in that woman’s past–one that impels both Sophie and Nathan toward destruction.



8 .) The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. written by Adelle Waldman

The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.

Lists It Appears On:

  • Culture Trip
  • Brokelyn
  • Trip Savvy

Writer Nate Piven’s star is rising. After several lean and striving years, he has his pick of both magazine assignments and women: Juliet, the hotshot business reporter; Elisa, his gorgeous ex-girlfriend, now friend; and Hannah, “almost universally regarded as nice and smart, or smart and nice,” who holds her own in conversation with his friends. When one relationship grows more serious, Nate is forced to consider what it is he really wants. In Nate’s 21st-century literary world, wit and conversation are not at all dead. Is romance? Novelist Adelle Waldman plunges into the psyche of a flawed, sometimes infuriating modern man–one who thinks of himself as beyond superficial judgment, yet constantly struggles with his own status anxiety, who is drawn to women, yet has a habit of letting them down in ways that may just make him an emblem of our times. The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. is a tale of one young man’s search for happiness–and an inside look at how he really thinks about women, sex and love.



7 .) Tropic of Capricorn written by Henry Miller

Tropic of Capricorn

Lists It Appears On:

  • NYPL
  • Newsweek
  • Brokelyn

Now hailed as an American classic Tropic of Cancer, Henry Miller’s masterpiece, was banned as obscene in this country for twenty-seven years after its first publication in Paris in 1934. Only a historic court ruling that changed American censorship standards, ushering in a new era of freedom and frankness in modern literature, permitted the publication of this first volume of Miller’s famed mixture of memoir and fiction, which chronicles with unapologetic gusto the bawdy adventures of a young expatriate writer, his friends, and the characters they meet in Paris in the 1930s. Tropic of Cancer is now considered, as Norman Mailer said, “one of the ten or twenty great novels of our century.”



6 .) A Meaningful Life written by L.J. Davis

A Meaningful Life

Lists It Appears On:

  • CN Traveler
  • Lit Hub
  • Nu Hotel
  • Trip Savvy

L.J. Davis’s 1971 novel, A Meaningful Life, is a blistering black comedy about the American quest for redemption through real estate and a gritty picture of New York City in collapse. Just out of college, Lowell Lake, the Western-born hero of Davis’s novel, heads to New York, where he plans to make it big as a writer. Instead he finds a job as a technical editor, at which he toils away while passion leaks out of his marriage to a nice Jewish girl. Then Lowell discovers a beautiful crumbling mansion in a crime-ridden section of Brooklyn, and against all advice, not to mention his wife’s will, sinks his every penny into buying it. He quits his job, moves in, and spends day and night on demolition and construction. At last he has a mission: he will dig up the lost history of his house; he will restore it to its past grandeur. He will make good on everything that’s gone wrong with his life, and he will even murder to do it.



5 .) The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay written by Michael Chabon

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

Lists It Appears On:

  • NYPL
  • Brokelyn
  • Trip Savvy
  • Nu Hotel

Joe Kavalier, a young Jewish artist who has also been trained in the art of Houdini-esque escape, has just smuggled himself out of Nazi-invaded Prague and landed in New York City. His Brooklyn cousin Sammy Clay is looking for a partner to create heroes, stories, and art for the latest novelty to hit America – the comic book. Drawing on their own fears and dreams, Kavalier and Clay create the Escapist, the Monitor, and Luna Moth, inspired by the beautiful Rosa Saks, who will become linked by powerful ties to both men. With exhilarating style and grace, Michael Chabon tells an unforgettable story about American romance and possibility.



4 .) Last Exit to Brooklyn written by Hubert Selby Jr.

Last Exit to Brooklyn

Lists It Appears On:

  • NYPL
  • CN Traveler
  • Lit Hub
  • Trip Savvy
  • Brokelyn

Few novels have caused as much debate as Hubert Selby Jr.’s notorious masterpiece, Last Exit to Brooklyn, and this Penguin Modern Classics edition includes an introduction by Irvine Welsh, author of Trainspotting. Described by various reviewers as hellish and obscene, Last Exit to Brooklyn tells the stories of New Yorkers who at every turn confront the worst excesses in human nature. Yet there are moments of exquisite tenderness in these troubled lives. Georgette, the transvestite who falls in love with a callous hoodlum; Tralala, the conniving prostitute who plumbs the depths of sexual degradation; and Harry, the strike leader who hides his true desires behind a boorish masculinity, are unforgettable creations. Last Exit to Brooklyn was banned by British courts in 1967, a decision that was reversed the following year with the help of a number of writers and critics including Anthony Burgess and Frank Kermode. Hubert Selby, Jr. (1928-2004) was born in Brooklyn, New York. At the age of 15, he dropped out of school and went to sea with the merchant marines. While at sea he was diagnosed with lung disease. With no other way to make a living, he decided to try writing: ‘I knew the alphabet. Maybe I could be a writer.’ In 1964 he completed his first book, Last Exit to Brooklyn, which has since become a cult classic. In 1966, it was the subject of an obscenity trial in the UK. His other books include The Room, The Demon, Requiem for a Dream, The Willow Tree and Waiting Period. In 2000, Requiem for a Dream was adapted into a film starring Jared Leto and Ellen Burstyn, and directed by Darren Aronofsky.



3 .) Brown Girl, Brownstones written by Paule Marshall

Brown Girl, Brownstones

Lists It Appears On:

  • Brick Underground
  • NYPL
  • Lit Hub
  • Brokelyn
  • Trip Savvy
  • Upper west Side History

Set in Brooklyn during the Depression and World War II, “Brown Girl, Brownstones” is the enduring story of a most extraordinary young woman. Selina Boyce, the daughter of Barbadian immigrants, is caught between the struggles of her hard-working, ambitious mother, who wants to “buy house” and educate her daughters, and her father, who longs to return to the land in Barbados. Selina seeks to define her own identity and values as she struggles to surmount the racism and poverty that surround her. Moving and powerful, “Brown Girl, Brownstones” is both a classic coming-of-age tale and a vivid portrait of one family’s struggle to achieve the American Dream.



2 .) A Tree Grows in Brooklyn written by Betty Smith

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Lists It Appears On:

  • NYPL
  • CN Traveler
  • Lit Hub
  • Newsweek
  • Brokelyn
  • Nu Hotel
  • Trip Savvy

The beloved American classic about a young girl’s coming-of-age at the turn of the century, Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a poignant and moving tale filled with compassion and cruelty, laughter and heartache, crowded with life and people and incident. The story of young, sensitive, and idealistic Francie Nolan and her bittersweet formative years in the slums of Williamsburg has enchanted and inspired millions of readers for more than sixty years. By turns overwhelming, sublime, heartbreaking, and uplifting, the daily experiences of the unforgettable Nolans are raw with honesty and tenderly threaded with family connectedness — in a work of literary art that brilliantly captures a unique time and place as well as incredibly rich moments of universal experience.



1 .) Desperate Characters written by Paula Fox

Desperate Characters

Lists It Appears On:

  • CN Traveler
  • Lit Hub
  • Culture Trip
  • Newsweek
  • Brokelyn
  • Nu Hotel
  • Trip Savvy

Otto and Sophie Bentwood live in a changing neighborhood in Brooklyn. Their stainless-steel kitchen is newly installed, and their Mercedes is parked curbside. After Sophie is bitten on the hand while trying to feed a stray, perhaps rabies-infected cat, a series of small and ominous disasters begin to plague the Bentwoods’ lives, revealing the fault lines and fractures in a marriage—and a society—wrenching itself apart.




The 20+ Additional Best Books About Or Featuring Brooklyn New York



#BooksAuthorsLists
230.4194444444Ben LernerNYPL
24
A History of Brooklyn Bridge Park: How a Community Reclaimed and Transformed New York City’s Waterfront
 
Brownstoner
25Another BrooklynJacqueline WoodsonLit Hub
26Battle for Bed-Stuy 
Brownstoner
27Brooklyn Is: Southeast of the Island: Travel NotesJames AgeeLit Hub
28Brooklyn’s Promised LandJudith WellmanNewsweek
29ClassFrancesco PacificoCulture Trip
30Dept. of SpeculationJenny OffillCulture Trip
31Ghosts CN Traveler
32Infinite HomeKathleen AlcottCulture Trip
33Little CasinoGilbert SorrentinoCulture Trip
34Modern LoversEmma StraubCulture Trip
35Motherless Brooklyn,Jonathan LethemBrokelyn
36NetherlandJoseph O’NeillNewsweek
37Prospect Park WestAmy SohnTrip Savvy
38Snow in AugustPete HamillNYPL
39The AnimatorsKayla Rae WhitakerCulture Trip
40The AstralKate ChristensenNYPL
41The Bridge CN Traveler
42
The Brooklyn Nobody Knows – An Urban Walk
 
Brownstoner
43
The Brooklyn Wars: The Stories Behind the Remaking of New York’s Most Celebrated Borough
 
Brownstoner
44The Hand That Feeds YouA.J. RichCulture Trip
45The Museum of Extraordinary ThingsAlice HoffmanNYPL
46The Outside WorldTova MirvisTrip Savvy
47The Sisters WeissNaomi ReganTrip Savvy
48What’s Important Is FeelingAdam WilsonCulture Trip


11 Best Brooklyn New York Book Sources/Lists



SourceArticle
CN Traveler 10 Essential Books About Brooklyn
Lit Hub 10 Iconic Brooklyn Books…
Culture Trip 12 Must-Read Books Set in Brooklyn
Newsweek 8 Books That Reveal Brooklyn’s Spirit in All Its Odd Glory
Brokelyn 9 great novels set in Brooklyn, and where to read them
Nu Hotel Best Novels Ever Set in Brooklyn
Brownstoner Brooklyn Books: Four New Nonfiction Books Explain Brooklyn
Trip Savvy Fifteen Novels Set in Brooklyn
Brick Underground The 25 best books about the history of New York City’s boroughs
NYPL The Best New York City Novels by Neighborhood
Upper west Side History The 25 best books about the history of New York City’s boroughs and neighborhoods

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