Great Travel Reads: Inspired by New York

By: Maxine Sheppard

July 13, 2018

New York Skyline at sunset © Shutterstock

The summer holidays are almost upon us. If you’re counting down the days until a trip to New York City, turn up the anticipation by losing yourself in a Big Apple-based book.

New York has been the subject of countless novels, with every neighbourhood, social class, immigrant group and era represented. If you’re looking for a little inspiration, we’ve selected ten of our favourite NYC reads, spanning more than a century of tumultuous change…

  • Another Country by James Baldwin

James Baldwin’s 1962 masterpiece – which took him more than a decade to complete – is an intense and restless novel of love, race, politics and passion in 1950s New York, set against the liberal backdrop of bohemian Greenwich Village and Harlem.

  • Here is New York by E.B. White

Better known for his children’s books Stuart Little and Charlotte’s Web, E.B. White’s succinct treatise is a nostalgic and wittily observant love letter to NYC. Written during a steamy summer in the late 1940s while holed up in the Algonquin Hotel, this slim volume was hailed by The New Yorker as one of the most perceptive essays ever written about the city.

  • The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe

This bombastic behemoth of a novel tells the tale of Sherman McCoy, an elite, power-hungry Wall Street trader who lives a charmed existence until one fateful night sends his life on a downward spiral. It’s a coruscating American satire that brilliantly captures the essence and excess of 1980s New York.

  • To Reach the Clouds by Philippe Petit

Frenchman Philippe Petit’s extraordinary memoir is an account of the day in 1974 when he illegally walked across a tightrope between the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers, and the years of secret of planning he undertook to make it happen. Subject of the Oscar-winning documentary Man on Wire.

  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

This classic and hugely successful novel tells the story of young Irish-American Francie Nolan’s coming-of-age in the slums of Williamsburg, Brooklyn at the turn of the twentieth century.

Manhattan Bridge from Brooklyn © Shutterstock

  • Manhattan ’45 by Jan Morris

Celebrated travel writer Jan Morris immortalises the glory of post-war New York, leading us through Chinatown, Little Italy, Central Park, Hell’s Kitchen, Greenwich Village and the Lower East Side to capture the city at this pivotal point in its history.

  • The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

Edith Wharton was born into a wealthy New York family during the American Civil War. As a writer, she chronicled the pampered lives and social conventions of fashionable city society, never more evocatively than in this Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.

  • Netherland by Joseph O’Neill

In the emotional aftermath of the World Trade Center attacks, the life of Dutch banker Hans begins to unravel when his wife moves back to Europe with their child. Lost and unmoored, he strikes up an unlikely friendship and discovers a previously unseen side of the city. A poignant meditation on post-9/11 New York as told through the eyes of an outsider.

  • One Fifth Avenue by Candace Bushnell

In One Fifth Avenue, the author who gave us Sex in the City tells the deliciously gossipy tale of a different set of female Manhattanites who live out their hopes, dreams and fantasies in the historic Art Deco tower of this upscale landmark apartment building.

  • The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

The growing pains of Holden Caulfield continue to resonate with generations of teenagers and college students, as do his drunken shenanigans across New York City. The coming-of-age story by which all others are judged.

NYC © Shutterstock

Virgin Atlantic operates daily flights to New York from London and four times a week from Manchester.


Maxine Sheppard

Maxine is the co-editor of the Virgin Atlantic blog. Travel and music are her joint first loves, and despite having written for Virgin for more years than she cares to remember she still loves nothing more than jumping on a plane in search of new sights and new sounds.

Categories: Our Experience