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

“What are the best books about or taking place in Queens New York?” We looked at 27 of the top Queens NY books, aggregating and ranking them so we could answer that very question!

The top 17 titles, all appearing on 2 or more “Best Queens New York” book lists, are ranked below by how many lists they appear on. The remaining 10 titles, as well as the lists we used are in alphabetical order at the bottom of the page.

Happy Scrolling!



Top 17 Best Books About Queens New York



17 .) A Good Fall written by Ha Jin

A Good Fall

Lists It Appears On:

  • Goodreads
  • Brown Stoner

In his first book of stories since The Bridegroom was published in 2000 (“Finely wrought . . . Every story here is cut like a stone.”—Chicago Sun-Times), National Book Award–winning Ha Jin gives us a collection that delves into the experience of Chinese immigrants in America. With the same profound attention to detail that is a hallmark of his previous acclaimed works of fiction, Ha Jin depicts here the full spectrum of immigrant life and the daily struggles—some minute, some grand—faced by these intriguing individuals. A lonely composer takes comfort in the antics of his girlfriend’s parakeet; young children decide to change their names so that they might sound more “American,” unaware of how deeply this will hurt their grandparents; a Chinese professor of English attempts to defect with the help of a reluctant former student. All of Ha Jin’s characters struggle in situations that stir within them a desire to remain attached to be loyal to their homeland and its traditions as they explore and avail themselves of the freedom that life in a new country offers. In these stark, deeply moving, acutely insightful, and often strikingly humorous stories, we are reminded once again of the storytelling prowess of this superb writer.



16 .) A Modern Arcadia: Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. and the Plan for Forest Hills Gardens written by Susan Klaus

A Modern Arcadia: Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. and the Plan for Forest Hills Gardens

Lists It Appears On:

  • Brick Underground
  • Upper west Side History

“Bright, cheerful houses, well arranged, well trimmed lawns, hedging carefully cut… distinctly joyous,” wrote architectural critic Herbert Croly in 1914 about the Forest Hills Gardens community in Queens, New York. The New York Tribune agreed, reporting that the place was a “modern Garden of Eden, a fairy tale too good to be true.” Conceived as an experiment that would apply the new “science” of city planning to a suburban setting, Forest Hills Gardens was created by the Russell Sage Foundation to provide housing for middle-class commuters as an alternative to cramped flats in New York City. Although it has long been recognized as one of the most influential planned communities in the United States, this is the first time Forest Hills Gardens has been the subject of a book. Susan L. Klaus’s fully illustrated history chronicles the creation of the 142-acre development from its inception in 1909 through its first two decades, offering critical insights into American planning history, landscape architecture, and the social and economic forces that shaped housing in the Progressive Era. Klaus focuses particularly on the creative genius of Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., who served as planner and landscape architect for the project. Drawing on his father’s visionary ideas but developing his own perspective, the younger Olmsted redefined planning for the modern era and became one of the founders of the profession of city planning in the United States.



15 .) Cartwheels in a Sari: A Memoir of Growing Up Cult written by Jayanti Tamm

Cartwheels in a Sari: A Memoir of Growing Up Cult

Lists It Appears On:

  • Goodreads
  • Brown Stoner

In this colorful, eye-opening memoir, Jayanti Tamm offers an unforgettable glimpse into the hidden world of growing up cult in mainstream America. Through Jayanti’s fascinating story, the first book to chronicle Sri Chinmoy, she unmasks a leader who convinces thousands of disciples to follow him, scores of nations to dedicate monuments to him, and throngs of celebrities (Sting, Pope John Paul II, Nelson Mandela) to extol him. When the short, bald man in flowing robes prophesizes Jayanti to be the Chosen One, her life is forever entwined with the charismatic guru Sri Chinmoy, who declares himself a living god. A god who performs sit-ups and push-ups in front of thousands as holy ritual protects himself with a platoon of bodyguards, and bans books, TV, and sex. Jayanti’s unusual and increasingly bizarre childhood is spent shuttling between the ashram in Queens, New York, and her family’s outpost as Connecticut missionaries. On the path to enlightenment decreed by Guru, Jayanti scrubs animal cages in his illegal basement zoo cheerleads as he weight lifts an elephant in her front yard, and trails him around the world as he pursues celebrities such as Princess Diana and Mother Teresa. But, when her need for enlightenment is derailed by her need for boys, Jayanti risks losing everything that she has ever known, including the person that she was ordained to be. With tenderness, insight, and humor, Jayanti explores the triumphs and trauma of an insider who longs to be an outsider, her hard-won decision to finally break free, and the unique challenges she confronts as she builds a new life.



14 .) Dogfight, A Love Story written by Matt Burgess

Dogfight, A Love Story

Lists It Appears On:

  • Goodreads
  • Brown Stoner

What Jonathan Lethem did for Brooklyn, Matt Burgess does for Queens in this exuberant and brilliant debut novel about a young drug dealer having a very bad weekend. Alfredo Batista has some worries. Okay, a lot of worries. His older brother, Jose—sorry, Tariq—is returning from a stretch in prison after an unsuccessful robbery, a burglary that Alfredo was supposed to be part of. So now everyone thinks Alfredo snitched on his brother, which may have something to do with the fact that Alfredo is now dating Tariq’s ex-girlfriend, Isabel, who is eight months pregnant. Tariq’s violent streak is probably the #1 worry on Alfredo’s list. Also, he needs to steal a pit bull. For the homecoming dogfight. Burgess brings to life the rich and vivid milieu of his hometown native Queens in all its glorious variety. Here is the real New York, a place where Pakistanis, Puerto Ricans, Haitians, An­glos, African Americans, and West Indians scrap and mingle and love. But the real star here is Burgess’s incredible ear for language—the voices of his characters leap off the page in riotous, spot-on dialogue. The outer boroughs have their own language, where a polite greeting is fraught with menace, and an insult can be the expression of the most tender love. With a story as intricately plotted as a Shakespearean comedy—or revenge tragedy, for that matter—and an electrically colloquial prose style, Dogfight, a Love Story establishes Matt Burgess as an exuberant new voice in contemporary literature. The great Queens novel has arrived.



13 .) Forgotten Borough: Writers Come to Terms with Queens written by Nicole Steinberg

Forgotten Borough: Writers Come to Terms with Queens

Lists It Appears On:

  • Goodreads
  • Brown Stoner

The stories, poems, and essays in Forgotten Borough offer twenty-four takes on New York City’s biggest underdog: Queens. From the immigrant communities of Forest Hills to the unsung heroes of Maspeth and the bustling crowds of Flushing, Queens is the most diverse county in the United States, but unlike the iconic boroughs of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Staten Island, and the Bronx, it’s neither as well known in other parts of the country nor as well traveled by New Yorkers (at least those who don’t need to take the 7 Train to get home). Featuring writers who hail from the borough as well as those who have moved there and come to call it home, Forgotten Borough uncovers the New York stories that most of us don’t get to hear, tales that reflect not only upon contemporary life in Queens but also its humble history and its evolution to the multicultural community–the community of communities–it is today. Taken together, they offer a vivid, layered portrait of Queens as a microcosm of America, where race, ethnicity, class, and industrial growth all influence our collective past, as well as our present and future.



12 .) Good Neighbors written by Ryan David Jahn

Good Neighbors

Lists It Appears On:

  • Goodreads
  • Brown Stoner

A compulsively readable debut crime novel inspired by the legendary real-life murder of Kitty Genovese At 4:00 A.M. on March 13, 1964, a young woman returning home from her shift at a local bar is attacked in the courtyard of her Queens apartment building. Her neighbors hear her cries; no one calls for help. Unfolding over the course of two hours, Good Neighbors is the story of the woman’s last night. It is also the story of her neighbors, the bystanders who kept to themselves: the anxious Vietnam draftee; the former soldier planning suicide; the woman who thinks she’s killed a child and her husband, who will risk everything for her. Revealing a fascinating cross-section of American society in expertly interlocking plotlines, Good Neighbors calls to mind the Oscar-winning movie Crash, and its suspense and profound sense of urban menace rank it with Hitchcock’s Rear Window and the gritty crime novels of Dennis Lehane, Richard Price, and James Ellroy.



11 .) Park Lane South, Queen written by Mary Anne Kelly

Park Lane South, Queen

Lists It Appears On:

  • Goodreads
  • Brown Stoner

Home for the first time in a decade, a photographer is sucked into a murder investigation Claire dozes in the hammock on the front porch of her family home in Queens, baking in the early morning heat, and hardly glances up when a car drives by. Ten years ago, she lost her brother, a rookie cop who made the mistake of trying to reason with a mugger, and she left home to travel the world. Now she is back, camera in hand. The children of the Breslinsky household—a cop, a photographer, a journalist, and a strange little boy—live in a state of carefully controlled chaos. But something is about to throw the whole neighborhood into complete disarray, the Breslinskys included. The body of a young boy is found in the woods, molested, beaten, and murdered. Claire may have seen the killer driving away, and her search for him will put her family directly in the line of fire.



10 .) Patchwork of Dreams: Voices from the Heart of the New America written by Morty Sklar

Patchwork of Dreams: Voices from the Heart of the New America

Lists It Appears On:

  • Goodreads
  • Brown Stoner

Stories, poems, essays, drama, photographs and interviews from the heart of the most ethnically diverse area in the U.S.A. and the world–the borough of Queens, New York City, where thirty-six percent of the population of two million is foreign born.



9 .) Queens Noir written by Robert Knightly

Queens Noir

Lists It Appears On:

  • Goodreads
  • Brown Stoner

Brand-new stories by: Denis Hamill, Malachy McCourt, Maggie Estep, Megan Abbott, Robert Knightly, Liz Martínez, Jill Eisenstadt, Mary Byrne, Tori Carrington, Shailly P. Agnihotri, K.J.A. Wishnia, Victoria Eng, Alan Gordon, Beverly Farley, Joe Guglielmelli, and Glenville Lovell. Includes the story “Bucker’s Error,” winner of the 2009 Edgar Award (Robert L. Fish Memorial Award) Robert Knightly is a trial lawyer in the Criminal Defense Division of the Queens Legal Aid Society. In another life, he was a lieutenant in the New York City Police Department. President of the New York chapter of Mystery Writers of America, he was born and raised in New York City and lives in Queens.



8 .) The Ask written by Sam Lipsyte

The Ask

Lists It Appears On:

  • Goodreads
  • NYPL

Milo Burke, a development officer at a third-tier university, has “not been developing”: after a run-in with a well-connected undergrad, he finds himself among the burgeoning class of the newly unemployed. Grasping after odd jobs to support his wife and child, Milo is offered one last chance by his former employer: he must reel in a potential donor—a major “ask”—who, mysteriously, has requested Milo’s involvement. But it turns out that the ask is Milo’s sinister college classmate Purdy Stuart. And the “give” won’t come cheap. Probing many themes— or, perhaps, anxieties—including work, war, sex, class, child rearing, romantic comedies, Benjamin Franklin, cooking shows on death row, and the eroticization of chicken wire, The Ask is a burst of genius by a young American master who has already demonstrated that the truly provocative and important fictions are often the funniest ones.



7 .) The Devil in Silver written by Victor LaValle

The Devil in Silver

Lists It Appears On:

  • Goodreads
  • Brown Stoner

The Washington Post • Publishers Weekly New Hyde Hospital’s psychiatric ward has a new resident. It also has a very, very old one. Pepper is a rambunctious big man, minor-league troublemaker, working-class hero (in his own mind), and, suddenly, the surprised inmate of a budget-strapped mental institution in Queens, New York. He’s not mentally ill, but that doesn’t seem to matter. He is accused of a crime he can’t quite square with his memory. In the darkness of his room on his first night, he’s visited by a terrifying creature with the body of an old man and the head of a bison who nearly kills him before being hustled away by the hospital staff. It’s no delusion: The other patients confirm that a hungry devil roams the hallways when the sun goes down. Pepper rallies three other inmates in a plot to fight back: Dorry, an octogenarian schizophrenic who’s been on the ward for decades and knows all its secrets; Coffee, an African immigrant with severe OCD, who tries desperately to send alarms to the outside world; and Loochie, a bipolar teenage girl who acts as the group’s enforcer. Battling the pill-pushing staff, one another, and their own minds, they try to kill the monster that’s stalking them. But can the Devil die? The Devil in Silver brilliantly brings together the compelling themes that spark all of Victor LaValle’s radiant fiction: faith, race, class, madness, and our relationship with the unseen and the uncanny. More than that, it’s a thrillingly suspenseful work of literary horror about friendship, love, and the courage to slay our own demons.



6 .) The Ecstatic written by Victor LaValle

The Ecstatic

Lists It Appears On:

  • Goodreads
  • Brown Stoner

Anthony James weighs 315 pounds, is possibly schizophrenic, and he’s just been kicked out of college. He’s rescued by his mother, sister, and grandmother, but they may not be altogether sane themselves. Living in the basement of their home in Queens, New York, Anthony is armed with nothing but wicked sarcasm and a few well-cut suits. He intends to make horror movies but takes the jobs he can handle, cleaning homes and factories, and keeps crossing paths with a Japanese political prisoner, a mysterious loan shark named Ishkabibble, and packs of feral dogs. When his invincible 13-year old sister enters yet another beauty pageant—this one for virgins—the combustible Jameses pile into their car and head South for the competition. Will Anthony’s family stick together or explode? With electrifying prose, LaValle ushers us into four troubled but very funny lives.



5 .) The Future of Us All written by Roger Sanjek

The Future of Us All

Lists It Appears On:

  • Brick Underground
  • Upper west Side History

Before the next century is out, Americans of African, Asian, and Latin American ancestry will outnumber those of European origin. In the Elmhurst-Corona neighborhood of Queens, New York City, the transition occurred during the 1970s, and the area’s two-decade experience of multiracial diversity offers us an early look at the future of urban America. The result of more than a dozen years’ work, this remarkable book immerses us in Elmhurst-Corona’s social and political life from the 1960s through the 1990s. First settled in 1652, Elmhurst-Corona by 1960 housed a mix of Germans, Irish, Italians, and other “white ethnics.” In 1990 this population made up less than a fifth of its residents; Latin American and Asian immigrants and African Americans comprised the majority. The Future of Us All focuses on the combined impact of racial change, immigrant settlement, governmental decentralization, and assaults on local quality of life which stemmed from the city’s 1975 fiscal crisis and the policies of its last three mayors. The book examines the ways in which residents–in everyday interactions, block and tenant associations, houses of worship, small business coalitions, civic rituals, incidents of ethnic and racial hostility, and political struggles against overdevelopment, for more schools, and for youth programs–have forged and tested alliances across lines of race, ethnicity, and language. From the telling local details of daily life to the larger economic and regional frameworks, this account of a neighborhood’s transformation illuminates the issues that American communities will be grappling with in the coming decades.



4 .) The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York written by Robert Caro

The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York

Lists It Appears On:

  • Brick Underground
  • Upper west Side History

One of the most acclaimed books of our time, winner of both the Pulitzer and the Francis Parkman prizes, The Power Broker tells the hidden story behind the shaping (and mis-shaping) of twentieth-century New York (city and state) and makes public what few have known: that Robert Moses was, for almost half a century, the single most powerful man of our time in New York, the shaper not only of the city’s politics but of its physical structure and the problems of urban decline that plague us today. In revealing how Moses did it–how he developed his public authorities into a political machine that was virtually a fourth branch of government, one that could bring to their knees Governors and Mayors (from La Guardia to Lindsay) by mobilizing banks, contractors, labor unions, insurance firms, even the press and the Church, into an irresistible economic force–Robert Caro reveals how power works in all the cities of the United States. Moses built an empire and lived like an emperor. He personally conceived and completed public works costing 27 billion dollars–the greatest builder America (and probably the world) has ever known. Without ever having been elected to office, he dominated the men who were–even his most bitter enemy, Franklin D. Roosevelt, could not control him–until he finally encountered, in Nelson Rockefeller, the only man whose power (and ruthlessness in wielding it) equalled his own.



3 .) Walking Queens: 30 Tours for Discovering the Diverse Communities, Historic Places, and Natural Treasures of New York City’s Largest Borough written by Adrienne Onofri

Walking Queens: 30 Tours for Discovering the Diverse Communities, Historic Places, and Natural Treasures of New York City’s Largest Borough

Lists It Appears On:

  • Brick Underground
  • Upper west Side History

Home to more than 2.3 million people who speak at least 150 different languages, Queens is heralded as the most multicultural place on Earth. People go there to watch Major League Baseball or the U.S. Open. Perhaps they venture just across the river from New York City to check out a trendy new restaurant, bar, or performance space in Long Island City or Astoria, or ride the train all the way out to the beach on a summer’s day.



2 .) What Happened to Anna K. written by Irina Reyn

What Happened to Anna K.

Lists It Appears On:

  • Goodreads
  • Brown Stoner

A mesmerizing debut novel that reimagines Tolstoy’s classic tragedy, “Anna Karenina, ” for our timeVivacious thirty-seven-year-old Anna K. is comfortably married to Alex, an older, prominent businessman from her tight-knit Russian-Jewish immigrant community in Queens. But a longing for freedom is reignited in this bookish, overly romantic, and imperious woman when she meets her cousin Katia Zavurov’s boyfriend, an outsider and aspiring young writer on whom she pins her hopes for escape. As they begin a reckless affair, Anna enters into a tailspin that alienates her from her husband, family, and entire world. In nearby Rego Park’s Bukharian-Jewish community, twenty-seven-year-old pharmacist Lev Gavrilov harbors two secret passions: French movies and the lovely Katia. Lev’s restless longing to test the boundaries of his sheltered life powerfully collides with Anna’s. But will Lev’s quest result in life’s affirmation rather than its destruction? Exploring struggles of identity, fidelity, and community, “What Happened to Anna K.” is a remarkable retelling of the Anna Karenina story brought vividly to life by an exciting young writer.



1 .) Native Speaker written by Chang-Rae Lee

Native Speaker

Lists It Appears On:

  • Goodreads
  • Brown Stoner
  • NYPL

In Native Speaker, author Chang-rae Lee introduces readers to Henry Park. Park has spent his entire life trying to become a true American—a native speaker. But even as the essence of his adopted country continues to elude him, his Korean heritage seems to drift further and further away. Park’s harsh Korean upbringing has taught him to hide his emotions, to remember everything he learns, and most of all to feel an overwhelming sense of alienation. In other words, it has shaped him as a natural spy. But the very attributes that help him to excel in his profession put a strain on his marriage to his American wife and stand in the way of his coming to terms with his young son’s death. When he is assigned to spy on a rising Korean-American politician, his very identity is tested, and he must figure out who he is amid not only the conflicts within himself but also within the ethnic and political tensions of the New York City streets. Native Speaker is a story of cultural alienation. It is about fathers and sons, about the desire to connect with the world rather than stand apart from it, about loyalty and betrayal, about the alien in all of us and who we finally are.




The 10 Additional Best Books Taking Place In Queens New York



#BooksAuthorsLists
18Bella FortunaRosanna ChiofaloGoodreads
19
Commando: The Autobiography of Johnny Ramone
 
Brown Stoner
20CoronaBushra RehmanGoodreads
21Crossing the BLVD: Strangers, Neighbors, Aliens in a New AmericaWarren LehrerGoodreads
22Dissident GardensJonathan LethemNYPL
23Enter WhiningFran Drescher
Brown Stoner
24From Pieces to Weight: Once upon a Time in Southside Queens50 Cent with Kris Ex
Brown Stoner
25Preparation for the Next LifeAtticus LishNYPL
26RockawayTara IsonNYPL
27We Are Not OurselvesMatthew ThomasNYPL


5 Best Queens New York Book Sources/Lists



SourceArticle
Goodreads Books Set in Queens, NY
Brown Stoner Books that take place in Queens
Brick Underground The 25 best books about the history of New York City’s borough
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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