Books to inspire your student life in New York City


New York has almost 100 public libraries, huge bookstores, and enough books to fill multiple lifetimes. So when you’re in the city, choose books that paint a vivid picture of New York life and give you a better understanding of your new home.

When you’re a student at Columbia University, in the heart of New York City, add these great factual and fictional reads to your shelf alongside those study books.

New Yorkers: A City and Its People in Our Time by Craig Taylor

Taylor’s book tells you about modern New York through 80 interviews with the people who live there. There’s a dog walker, a therapist, a cop, a Black Lives Matter protester, a high-rise window cleaner, and a 9/11 first responder, to name just a few.

The fascinating interviews go beyond first impressions and paint a picture of the people you may pass in the street wondering what their lives are like. It’s a perfect introduction to New York today and your student life in the city.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

“I began to like New York, the racy, adventurous feel of it at night.”

See New York in the Jazz Age and read this classic 1925 novel following Nick Carraway as he moves to Long Island and meets his mysterious neighbor, Jay Gatsby. This tale of doomed love and lost dreams is one of the greatest novels of the 20th century.

The book creates an image of a city filled with lost souls and endless possibilities, when New York was a global center for manufacturing and culture, attracting immigrants from across the globe. Add to your reading experience by listening to some vintage New York jazz tunes.

The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe

This 1958 book is about young women in the city navigating work in publishing and looking for love. The novel has a definite Mad Men vibe, and it even features in the first season of the show (Don Draper reads this book in bed).

The three lead characters work in the glamorous Rockefeller Center and have Martinis at 5pm, but they share drab rooms and worry about money, sex, and their careers. Rona Jaffe interviewed 50 young working women of the time about their experiences to inspire her writing, and when the novel came out, it caused quite the stir. Today, you will find many modern parallels and it’s a great summer read about New York life for women in the late 50s.

Moon Palace by Paul Auster

Both the author and the main character, Marco Fogg, studied at Columbia University, so it seems fitting to include a book partly set in your New York college. The plot follows protagonist Marco in his search for love, as he tried to understand where he came from and what his fate will be.

You follow Marco’s college life in the 1960s, starting in a Columbia dormitory, then moving into an inherited New York apartment near campus along with 1492 books. The novel takes you back and forward in time as you follow Marcus’s journey in this beautifully written novel.