Our Collection

Recent Books on New York City Selected by our New York City Book Awards Jury

For 25 years, the jury for our New York City Book Awards has reviewed hundreds of books annually about the city we call home, searching for "books of literary quality or historical importance that evoke the spirit or enhance appreciation of New York City....[T]he city must play an essential role beyond that of the setting." Inevitably, after much debate and with enthuiastic advocates on the jury, very fine books get left behind. You can see the winners of the 2019-2020 awards here. Below is a short list of excellent books that didn't win an NYC Book Award but that jurors considered exceptional, memorable candidates. 

Warren Wechsler

Taina by Ernesto Quinonez 

This novel, set in uptown Manhattan’s Ecuadorian community, mixes magical realism and pulsing street speech to tell the story of a foul-mouthed 14-year-old pregnant Madonna who swears she’s still a virgin. Apart from being an enigma, she’s inexplicably won the narrator’s heart. The besotted Julio does everything he can to placate Taina but kindness and devotion can’t extinguish her unrelenting fury, which stems more from temperament than her immediate predicament. The author’s poetic language expresses Julio’s love of his ghetto whose violent conflicts and decaying buildings are, nevertheless, a world he knows well enough to navigate with some confidence. Taina bursts with life, truth and originality.

A History of New York in 27 Buildings: The 400-Year Untold Story of an American Metropolis by Sam Roberts (ebook)

Delivering a trove of information and eloquently displaying a keen sense of municipal development and human nature, Sam Roberts reveals what happened in 27 still-standing buildings where New York’s history, high and low, played out. The pragmatism, tolerance and vision that sustain the city’s economic and cultural vitality are evident throughout. Some examples: The Flushing Remonstrance, signed in 1657 in Queens’ John Bowne House, was a petition asserting Quakers’ right to meet pointing the way toward religious freedom. Grand Central Station, arguably the city’s most splendid public space, opened in 1913, inaugurating an era of luxurious, safe rail travel and establishing midtown Manhattan as an elite business district. After finally winning their first world championship in 1955, the Dodgers held their victory party in Brooklyn’s Hotel Bossert. Ten years earlier, only four blocks away, Branch Rickey defied an entrenched injustice by signing Jackie Robinson, the first African-American major leaguer, to play for the Dodgers organization.

Win Clevenger

A Wild And Precious Life by Edie Windsor with Joshua Lyon 

In this posthumous memoir meets oral history, Edie Windsor’s pivotal role in the legalization of gay marriage is the culmination of a life lived to the fullest. The window it gives into the pre-Stonewall New York lesbian world is vividly compelling, and Windsor’s voice personalizes gay liberation with charm and a truly winning lust for life.

I’ve Seen The Future And I’m Not Going by Peter McGough (ebook)

The New York art world of the 1980s laid bare by an artist who, in partnership with David McDermott, rose very high and then fell hard, living la vie boheme in a very eccentric high, but also hardscrabble, style. Very touching at times, especially when McGough writes about the AIDS crisis and the loyalty of his friends when he was in need.

Tracy Quan

Oh, Rats by Tor Seidler

Imagine Beatrix Potter’s Squirrel Nutkin cremated then reborn, arising from the ashes.  Phoenix, a New Jersey squirrel, lands in New York City, never having planned or wished for it. He finds himself organizing with a clan of West Side wharf rats who must defend their established home. Allowing events to shape his life, Phoenix becomes a New Yorker.

East Harlem: The Post War Years by Leo Goldstein; introduction by A.D. Coleman; preface by Juan Gonzalez 

Leo Goldstein’s photographs of East Harlem street life circa 1950 are accompanied by three nourishing, informative essays. We learn about the blacklisted Workers Camera League, resistance to US involvement in the Korean War (our first Cold War military conflict) and everyday clothing worn by East Harlem kids. Intriguing combinations of comfort and form reflect the welcoming streets.

Nikhil Iyengar

Feast Your Eyes by Myla Goldberg

Feast Your Eyes is a beautifully written, innovatively structured literary treat. It is a multi-layered tale that's a portrait of an artist and a slice of New York history. It's both a notable New York book and a notable photography book, and remarkably achieves the latter without the aid of a single actual photo, painting pictures not with light and shadow but with vivid, imaginative prose.

A History of New York in 27 Buildings: The 400-Year Untold Story of an American Metropolis by Sam Roberts (ebook)

An entertaining and illuminating read. The city that never sleeps also apparently never ceases to inspire fresh, original and fascinating histories. The next time you pass one of the buildings mentioned in this book, you'll look at them in quite a new light! 

A Booklover's Guide to New York by Cleo Le-Tan, with drawings by Pierre Le-Tan

A delightful addition to any book lover's collection. Brisk, engaging vignettes brought to life in a pleasant, conversational style. Readers will find new places to add to their literary map of New York, and learn more about the favorites they've been visiting all these years.

East Harlem: The Post War Years by Leo Goldstein; introduction by A.D. Coleman; preface by Juan Gonzalez

The sheer quality of the photographs in this collection - page after page of striking black-and-white images, each one telling a vivid story - would alone qualify it as a book of distinction. But two things make this book even more unique: it brings to life and preserves a time and place in the city's history that has not been widely documented before, and no negatives exist of the photographs.