New York, NY
I have a soft spot in my heart for books that take place in NYC. Maybe it’s because I was born there and then lived in New York for a large part of my life. It’s fun to recognize and remember the places that are mentioned, and it always seems as if there is something about the characters that make them distinctly New Yorkers. In the last few months I’ve read three books that take place in NYC, and although each of them is very different from the others, any one of them would make a good choice for a book group.
Set in 1930’s New York, Rules of Civility is a debut novel written by Amor Towles. Mr. Towles, an investment banker in New York City, has captured the post Jazz age as he follows the fortune of Katey Kontent, a young secretary trying to make it in the big city. A chance encounter on New Year’s Eve with a wealthy banker sets Katey on a course that will change her life. Well written characters and witty dialogue contribute to the success of what is, essentially, a portrait of Manhattan in 1938.
The Submission, by Amy Waldman, also uses New York City as its setting. Appearing on many of last years’ best book lists, it is the story of what happens when the designer of a 9/11 memorial turns out to be a Muslim American. Former NY Times journalist Waldman has written a political novel that deals with many of the issues that have torn this country apart in the last ten years. The Submission is Ms. Waldman’s first novel and she has successfully portrayed a number of unique New York characters dealing with prejudice, grief, guilt and anger. This is a powerful book that should generate lots of discussion for book clubs.
A few days ago I read a short novel that also takes place in New York City, This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman. The story involves a teenage boy and a quick, bad decision that leads to a very unfortunate outcome. When a female student sends him a sexually explicit video of herself, he is shocked,but then quickly forwards it to a friend. When the video goes viral, the consequences of his lapse in judgment end up having a life altering effect on him and his family. Helen Schulman depicts the privileged crowd that populates the private schools in New York City perfectly. Lots of hot button social issues and some complex characters all make for another good discussion book. Be sure to hear Ms. Schulman discuss her book on Wednesday, Feb. 8th at noon, when she will speak at the Westport Public Library.