New York City is the perfect place to write in – and write about. Meg Leder, who has done both, picks her favourite books set in the Big Apple
Growing up, I always wanted to write books, but it wasnt until I moved to New York City in my late 20s that I was able to find the drive to make it happen. Something about living here finally kicked my creativity into gear. Maybe it was working as an editor, where I was immersed in all things books, all the time. Or maybe it was constantly being surrounded by so many peopleon the subway, in my neighbourhood, at bars and coffee shops, in China Town and Coney Islanda dramatic change from growing up in Cincinnati, Ohio. Or maybe it was how once I moved here, I started to listen to the constant humming pulse around mehow at any given moment, so many stories are constantly unfolding around you.
Whatever the magic formula, this city is perfect to write in, and not so surprisingly, perfect to write about as well. In my first novel, The Museum of Heartbreak, as my heroine Penelope tries to navigate growing up and first love, New York City is a just as much of a character as her best friends. And Im not alone in incorporating the city into my book. Each of these books also spend time in a city as diverse and vibrant as they are
1. Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
The marvellous story of a disagreeable 11-year-old tomboy and self-professed spy who lives on the Upper East Side. Harriet spends most of her days skulking around being nosy, and then recording her less-than-charitable observations in her private notebook. I love how Harriet is so much like New York: brassy, bold, and often rude, but always true to herself.
2. Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins
This book starts with the New York I want to find myself in: youre sitting in a diner when the cute boy of your dreams comes in. Buoyed by the sense of possibility NYC embodies, you finally, finally flirt with him. A whimsical and swoony look at falling in love in a city Im in love with myself.
3. The Diviners by Libba Bray
Set in Jazz Age New York City, this sprawling novel (the first in a series) introduces readers to Evie ONeil, a teen flapper with a talent for divining information from objects. In reading it, you can get to experience the city in all its 1920s gloryZiegfeld girls, jazz concerts in Harlem, secret speakeasies, and more.
4. Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold
Based on the authors 1988 story quilt, this breathtaking picture book is the story of a young girl who imagines flying above the roof of her apartment and over 1939 Harlem. She dreams of the George Washington Bridge becoming her necklace and of giving her father the union building hes never been allowed to join. As you spend time with the stunning pages, you can feel yourself flying right along with her.
5. Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older
I didnt fall in love with street art until I moved to Brooklyn, and then it was a head-over-heels freefall, which is how I felt about this book. In it, teenager Sierra discovers shes a shadowshaper, able to infuse magic into artwhich for her, happens to be street murals. And she needs as much power as she can get in order to fight the outside forces threatening her communityfrom corpses and other supernatural threats, to gentrification and police violencein this gorgeous dream of a novel.
6. Like No Other by Una LaMarche
A star-crossed love story that starts in a stalled elevator in a storm. Even though they live in the same Brooklyn neighborhood, Devorah and Jaxon come from different worlds. A charming look at what it means to fall in love with someone youre not supposed to, and a brilliant glimpse at all the different worlds that exist alongside each other in the boroughs.
7. Missing Angel Juan by Francesca Lia Block
My favorite of all the Weetzie Bat books finds Witch Baby going to New York to find her love Angel Juan. Full of surreal imaginings and magical characters (including the ghost of Witch Babys almost grandfather), this modern fairy tale comes to life largely because it takes place in New Yorkthe perfect setting for a modern day epic quest.