The best books on Post-9/11 New York City

Elizabeth Greenspan Author Of Battle for Ground Zero: Inside the Political Struggle to Rebuild the World Trade Center
By Elizabeth Greenspan

The Books I Picked & Why

The City We Became

By N.K. Jemisin

The City We Became

Why this book?

Suddenly, for reasons no one can quite explain, five ordinary New Yorkers become-slash-embody the city’s five boroughs. For example, a newcomer named Manny discovers he *is* Manhattan; he feels and sees its streets and crowds. Through telling these five people’s stories—and chronicling their efforts to save the city from a powerful evil force—Jemisin tells the story of New York. It’s sort of sci-fi, it’s very funny. It’s also a portrait of the city today through regular, non-wealthy residents.


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This Is All I Got: A New Mother's Search for Home

By Lauren Sandler

This Is All I Got: A New Mother's Search for Home

Why this book?

Sandler tells the story of Camila, a young and poor transplant, as she tries to find a place to live in New York while caring for her newborn son. It’s a riveting nonfiction narrative about how hostile New York is to those without homes and jobs, a population that has continued to grow over the past twenty years, as the city has become more and more unequal. Camila is resilient, but personal crises abound, and Sandler shows how much the city neglects so many of its inhabitants.


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Open City

By Teju Cole

Open City

Why this book?

This is a novel about a man who wanders ruminatively around New York a couple of years after the 2008 financial crisis. One of the reasons it works, I think, is because everything we see about New York, every person we meet or interaction we overhear or street we observe, is through the eyes of the story’s narrator. Getting to know him means getting to know the city, and vice versa. He has a relationship with New York, which is charged and at times deceptive, which felt true, if nothing else.


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Notes from No Man's Land: American Essays

By Eula Biss

Notes from No Man's Land: American Essays

Why this book?

This essay collection isn’t exclusively about New York, but the four essays that open the collection are, and they are excellent. Biss writes personally about race relations in the city, and the United States. Her insights still feel relevant more than a decade later. She also refreshingly tackles the myth of New York, and the way that it is, as she says, overimagined. 


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Rats: Observations on the History & Habitat of the City's Most Unwanted Inhabitants

By Robert Sullivan

Rats: Observations on the History & Habitat of the City's Most Unwanted Inhabitants

Why this book?

Sullivan’s narrative nonfiction illuminates the New York that the city’s rats have conquered, and it’s a humbling, fascinating place. One of the epicenters, for Sullivan, is Wall Street, where he began doing research a few months before 9/11, blocks from the Twin Towers. The book isn’t about the aftermath of 9/11, its sticks to rats, but at moments it does become a chronicle of the city during this shocking and disturbing time, when going underground with the rats seems like a reasonable idea.


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