Thankful for achingly beautiful and observant prose, poetry and images, fiction or fact but all true to the human experience and written by New Yorkers, we share a few of the books on New York Maker’s November reading list -- including some you may have read before and want to discover again:
1. Richard Russo - Nobody’s Fool
Richard Russo, born in Johnstown, N.Y. and raised in Gloversville, N.Y., brings his special brand of humor and pathos to his main character, the fictional Sully, who is struggling with a multitude of life themes in a fictitious, small, upstate town.
2. Brandon Stanton - Humans of New York
In 2010 Brandon Stanton, a New York transplant born in Marietta, G.A., undertook a blog-based project to photograph 10,000 New Yorkers on the street. It became a phenomenon and gave birth to, among other things, this remarkable, bestselling coffee table book that tells a story with each picture.
3. Andrew Solomon - Far from the Tree
A native Manhattanite who splits his time between New York and London, Andrew Solomon writes on a broad range of subjects -- ranging from psychology, politics and sexual inclusion -- and their intersections. Far from the Tree, a widely praised work that immediately became a classic, plums the ways families appreciate and accommodate children with disabilities and differences, whether physical, mental or social.
4. E.B. White - Here Is New York
EB White’s often-quoted ode to New York, an essay first published in 1949, makes an ideal short read for those who love, or are seeking to understand the soul of New York City. White talked the talk and walked the walk: he was born in Mount Vernon, N.Y. and is buried in Brooklyn.
5. Sarah Hopkins Bradford - Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman
Harriet Tubman, who escaped from slavery in Maryland to freedom in New York, is known not just for attaining her own freedom in 1849 but also serving hundreds of others as their “conductor” on the Underground Railroad, a system of secret safe houses comprising the route to freedom. Sarah Hopkins Bradford, a New Yorker who broke ground as one of the first writers to detail the African-American experience, interviewed Tubman extensively for the book, which was first published in 1901. The proceeds from sales went to support Tubman and her family.
6. Walt Whitman - Leaves of Grass
Born in the Long Island town of Huntington and spending over half of his life in various New York locations, Walt Whitman lived an itinerant life due to fluctuating family circumstances, frequently changing jobs, to the general economic collapse of the day and to effects of the Civil War, that ultimately lead him out of New York. In between this upheaval, Walt Whitman wrote poetry. He self-published Leaves of Grass in 1855 and continued to revise it until his death in 1892 at age 72. The work, which is known for its free verse style, created controversy due to its sexual themes yet has endured to become a hallmark of American literature.
7. Eloise: A Book for Precocious Grown Ups
Writer, singer, actress, composer and the gal who pushed the bounds of women wearing pants (then sold her exclusive line at Saks), Kay Thompson most famously created the much-beloved, incorrigible character of Eloise who lived at The Plaza Hotel in New York City (as Thompson did), in a series of children’s books. Although said to have been inspired by Thompson’s goddaughter Liza Minnelli, the character was actually based on Thompson's own childhood imaginary friend named Eloise. A (re)visit to one of New York's most glamorous hotel, as led by Eloise, is always a delight.
8. Nella Larsen - Passing
Passing is one of the most beautifully written, powerful novels you might not know about by an author you also might not know about. Republished in 1996 after languishing in disregard since its first publication in 1929, Larsen’s second novel plumbs issues of race and gender, particularly living a marginalized life of one who can “pass” as white, but cannot live freely among whites, and is not fully embraced in the black community. A Harlem Renaissance writer of novels and short stories, Larsen was born in 1891 and grew up in Chicago, the daughter of a Danish mother and West Indian father at a time when interracial couples were far from common.
9. Betty Smith - A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
Born in Brooklyn to poor German immigrant parents in the late 1800’s, Betty Smith wrote a novel, published in 1943, based on her experiences growing up that became a classic Bildungsroman.