I don’t know about you, but I have definitely been looking at a screen for too long since being stuck at home. And my eyes are feeling it… so I decided to start reading. And I was missing New York so much that I decided to read something set in this exciting city, to practise my English skills from home. If I cannot walk around its streets, I might at least discover its secrets through its stories!
I have put together an amazing list of books to read while stuck at home to fall in love with New York city. And there is one for every level, so don’t be afraid of not understanding 🙂
Follow along for some literary inspiration that will make you fall in love with this city…
Author: Betty Smith
English level: Intermediate
Williamsburg, Brooklyn, 1912. The story focuses on Francie Nolan, a 11 year old that lives in Williamsburg. The place is presented as a coming place for immigrants through Ellis Island. The story follows her until she is 17, while she struggles to fulfill her dreams as a sensitive and creative young person in a harsh and often brutal environment. Her imagination and intelligence are beautifully revealed while she moves towards adulthood. This is a perfect book for teenagers, but also for adults interested in the history of Brooklyn. It is also pretty easy to understand!
Author: J. D. Salinger
Genre: Young adult fiction, classic
English level: Intermediate, but some tricky words and vulgar slang
Set in the 50s, this classic novel by Salinger follows Holden, a teenager, on his wanderings around New York, the city where he was born. After being expelled from different schools, he decides to hide in the city and explore its secrets. This is the perfect depiction of teenage years. The language is also pretty easy and realistic, which will also help you understand slang better and get into the mind of an American teenager, exploring topics such as hypocrisy, superficiality and growth.
Author: Mario Puzo
English level: Upper-Intermediate
After World War II, this novel focuses on the Corleone family, one of the 4 most famous Mafia families in New York city and its problems. The novel follows Michael, Corleone’s youngest son, who is trying to relocate the family’s power base to Las Vegas, after getting rid of their rivals in the city. If you like crime and classics, this is your series. And if you are looking for something longer, have a look at the following 4 novels!
Author: Colm Tóibín
Genre: Romance/historical fiction
English level: Pre Intermediate
Discover the story of Eilis, a young Irish girl that comes to Brooklyn in search of a better life in the 1950s. Follow her studying and love life in the city… will she return to Ireland? Will she stay in Brooklyn…? Let’s find out. If your level is not that high, you might consider watching the film before reading the book to get a better idea of what is happening.
Author: Paul Auster
Genre: Psychological Fiction
English level: Upper-intermediate
60-year-old Nathan Glass returns to Brooklyn after his wife has left him. While he recovers from lung cancer, he is looking for a nice and quiet place to die. In Brooklyn he meets his nephew, Tom, whom he has not seen in several years. They develop a close friendship, entertaining each other in their misery, as they both try to avoid taking part in real life. Definitely an interesting and surprising novel.
Author: Jacqueline Woodson
Genre: Domestic fiction
English level: Upper-intermediate
August, a 35 anthropologist, goes back to Bushwick to bury her father while remembering all her past. Explore 1970s Brooklyn from a young black girl’s eyes. This is a complex and beautifully written novel, which will definitely help you improve your English if you are already high level. It will also include a lot of New York and black community slang.
Author: Walt Whitman
English level: Elementary-Advanced
This is one of the most beautifully written poetry collections in American culture. Whitman is without a doubt, one of the most famous poets in the US, and he is from Brooklyn! And you have 389 poems to choose from! If you believe in change and enjoy beautifully written verses, this is for you. Discover one of the most innovative voices of American literature.
Author: Adam Wilson
Genre: Youth/Short stories
English level: Pre-intermediate
Dwell into these 12 short fierce and harsh stories about life. Not recommended for people younger than 16. Wilson is the perfect example of eloquent writing and a coming of age feeling. Definitely worth it if you want to explore New York from different perspectives and understand its people.
All the links are to Amazon, but remember to check your independent library first and support small businesses in these hard times!
And if you are looking for more, check this!
For a different way of entertainment, check our updated calendar of events happening online in New York…