6 Books That Capture the Spirit of NYC

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Change is part of New York City’s DNA. It’s what makes it one of the most exciting places to be in the world. No matter the era, this town has managed to inspire countless minds, from the named to the nameless, the known to the unknown. Visually compelling and pulsating with life, the Big Apple has found itself the subject of novels, films, art, essays, songs. In short: it’s the perfect muse. The following books manage to capture that something special that has drawn creatives to this island, decade in and decade out.


Lower East Side. Photo courtesy of Robert Herman.

The New Yorkers 

Robert Herman’s The New Yorkers efforts to immortalize neighborhoods on the verge of transformation. Through bold compositions and vibrant colors, Herman represents moments of vulnerability and strength that New Yorkers have long held within them. Pro tip: Take this with you on a walking tour of the Lower East Side just to see how much everything has changed.

Josephine Baker

Josephine Baker, 1950. Photograph courtesy of Eve Arnold.

Harlem: A Century in Images

Over the years, Harlem has served as the epicenter for some of the greatest art, literature, culture, and politics New York City has ever produced. Through a sweeping photographic journey captured by some of the preeminent talents in art and photography, Harlem: A Century in Images tells the story of a place and its extraordinary inhabitants.


Carnegie Deli. Photo courtesy of James T. and Karla L. Murray.

New York Nights

If you want to see how the night owls take to these city streets but don’t have the willpower to stay up until dawn, New York Nights is the book for you. Let photographers James and Karla Murray take you on a tour of darkened streets and shining neon lights. Their speciality: shots of New York City’s most historically significant bars, restaurants, music venues, and shops–all taken after the sun goes down.


Atlantic Avenue. Photo courtesy of Marcia Reiss.

Lost Brooklyn

If the streets of Brooklyn could talk, they would tell the story of how a leading center of industry turned into one of the most popular boroughs in New York City. Lost Brooklyn illuminates that transition. If you’re a diehard Brooklynite with a taste for history, we highly recommend adding this to your shelf.


Coney Island, 1949. Photo courtesy of Homer Page.

Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861–2008

Once called “America’s Playground,” Coney Island immediately established itself as a cultural symbol of beachside enchantment and electrifying thrills. From its inception as a seaside resort to its life as an iconic mecca of entertainment, this tome illustrates Coney Island throughout the ages. Just in time for summer, Visions of an American Dreamland is the perfect addition to your library.


New York City. Image courtesy of James Gulliver Hancock.

All the Buildings in New York: That I’ve Drawn So Far

This pictorial adventure by illustrator James Gulliver Hancock’s focusses on the city’s varied architectural styles and cityscapes. Like a visual love letter to the city, these colorful images, organized by neighborhood, are filled with details to delight any New Yorke aficionado, no matter the age.

Jennifer Deppe Parker

Jennifer Deppe Parker

As an artist, Jennifer's recent work explores the sensory elements of a visual experience and presenting light on different levels through various canvas preparations and mixed media applications. As a writer and consultant, she loves to creatively explore modern art at all levels.