Four writers and one bookseller gathered over Zoom to make a list devoted to fiction in which the city is more than mere setting. The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner (CRF 2016), Native Speaker by Chang-rae Lee (DG 2019), and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon (Incoming Director’s Guest 2022) were all included. Read the full list here.
“What to say about New York? As both a place and an idea, it’s too big to be summed up or even fully known. But that hasn’t stopped countless writers from trying, often via fiction — which, like the city, lends itself to wandering. If anything, New York’s scale and complexity — the diversity of neighborhoods and industries and lives that coexist here — are what make it an inexhaustible and consistently compelling setting. There’s also the fact that it’s so closely associated with ambition, which, as any storyteller will confirm, tends to be a useful thing for a protagonist to have. And so, despite myriad differences in aims and style, the New York City novel has become its own literary category, which compiles what we’ve deemed to be the 25 most influential New York novels published between 1921 and 2021 [All of the list’s judges agreed that] there are certain books you can’t quite imagine taking place anywhere but here, in which New York becomes a character all its own.”